Here’s a little recipe that I came up with in order to get more fat into my diet in a way that was both palatable and nourishing. These bars get about 95% (or more) of their food energy from a blend of monounsaturated and saturated fats. The raw whole cacao beans and roasted coconut flakes give them a great complex flavour that blends well with the creamy melt-in-your-mouth feel of the butter, cacao and coconut fats. You will need a few metal bowls for melting or softening up the fats that we will be using. You will also need a good quality food processor to chop up the dry ingredients and mix in the fats. You might be able to get away with a high power blender with lots of fiddling around and manual mixing of the ingredients.
Since this is not baking, the quantities in this recipe are quite variable and you can adjust the amounts to suit your personal preferences. I would suggest starting with equal volumes of each of the ingredients (use the one you have the least of as the limiting factor).
You will start with a big chunk of raw cacao butter. In order to make the bars, you need to get the cacao butter liquified. You can do this by placing the amount you wish to use in a metal bowl and floating the bowl in a sink of hot tap water. Be careful not to get any water in your bowl. Depending on the temperature of the tap water and the amount of cacao butter you are working with, this may take up to 30 minutes.
When it’s melted it should look like this:
Cacao butter is key in this recipe. Since there is no starch or sugar to hold the ingredients together, you have to use a highly saturated fat to bind everything. I made these bars on a day when the temperature in my apartment was hovering around 27ºC, the coconut fat was totally liquid and the butter was nice and soft but the cacao butter was still hard as a rock. That is the property that will make the bars hold together at room temperature.
The next ingredient in your list will be raw coconut oil. I’ve tried some of expeller pressed or regular commercial varieties and they have often left a very raspy aftertaste in the back of my throat. I now stick with one of the following brands that I have found around Montréal : Artisana, Dr Brenner’s, Maison Orphée or Nutiva. If you can’t specifically find one of these brands, look for cold pressed extra-virgin or cold centrifuged extra-virgin brands in glass bottles.
Since it was really hot in my kitchen when I made this batch, my coconut oil was totally liquid. If you decide to make these in the middle of the winter in Montréal or anywhere where the ambient temperature is below 17ºC, you may have to add a step to melt the coconut fat & soften the butter before processing.
You will need organic butter, ideally from a producer that produces dairy from grass-fed cows. In the Montréal area, I’ve found La Beurrerie du Patrimoine who produce such a quality butter. Take the butter out at the beginning of the recipe to soften it up before dropping it into the food processor. Be sure to choose unsalted butter, or else your bars will come out tasting a bit weird.
To give the bars some crunch and to make their flavour more complex I like to use raw whole cacao beans.These beans come with the husk still on them and they have a great fermented cacao flavour. If you ever wondered why chocolate and alcohols such as porto or scotch were such great taste pairings – this is why. The aromatic compounds developed during the initial fermentation of the cacao beans in the cacao pod create these beautiful volatile compounds that are shared with the big family of wines and spirits and also show up in many ripe fruits (think strawberries). The addition of the husks in the recipe also give the bars a bit of fibre and adds to the filling feel of the fats in order to cut hunger fast and effectively.
You will measure out your cacao beans into the food processor and pulse them down unto evenly sized bits. You want to avoid pulverizing them totally as they will lose their crunch and there are still a few processing steps to go.
The first processing of the cacao beans should look like this when you are done:
Now you can add your flaked, unsweetened organic coconut. If you can find roasted organic flakes these can add a special little something to the final product. Just pulse them into the cacao in the food processor until you get a pretty homogeneous mixture of tiny pieces.
Leaving the pieces too big makes the already delicate bars have even less structural strength. Don’t overdo it or you’ll start extracting the oil from the cacao beans and you’ll be left with mush. It only takes a few seconds of pulsing to bring the already shredded coconut down to the size of the cacao bits. You should end up with an intermediate step looking like this:
Once you have your coconut and cacao processed to the desired consistency, you can add additional (optional) flavouring ingredients. Dried chillies or cayenne powder can give the bars a little zing. Nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, dried powdered maca, ground vanilla beans or mesquite powder can bring a smoother but still intriguing taste to the final product. Go easy on the additional ingredients as you don’t want to create a flavour conflict with the cacao.
In this step I add a pinch of salt and a tiny bit of honey (about 1 teaspoon) – not enough to taste either one in the final product, but just enough to stimulate more taste receptors and enhance the punch of the main ingredients. When you spend enough time studying food chemistry, the sensations of taste and smell and the tricks used by the food industry to hook us into buying more junk food, sometimes you learn something useful…
In the final food processor step, add the fats (cacao butter, coconut oil and butter) into the mix through the feed tube as the processor spins. Process for an additional 15 seconds or until the mixture is smooth. If it is really chunky, add more fats. It should be relatively liquid at this stage as all the fats are melted.
Pour the entire mixture into a silicone baking dish. Here I’ve used a rectangular dish, but you can also use shallow muffin trays. You want the mixture to be about 2cm deep throughout. Making a thinner layer will make the final product brittle and unstable and pouring it thicker will make cutting without fracturing difficult.
Put the tray into the freezer on a level platform for about 1 hour or until the mixture is solid. Once the mixture is solid, remove the baking dish and cut the form into even pieces. You can store the pieces in the freezer, stacked in a container with sheets of wax paper between each layer. you can eat the straight out of the freezer or let them thaw in the fridge to soften the up. These bars don’t hold up well in high heat, so they are not appropriate as snacks on long running or bike excursions in the direct sunlight. They would however, be an ideal food source for winter hiking or cross-country skiing – as the coconut fat has a special property of cross-chain linking, creating a mild thermogenic (heat producing) effect that could come in handy in winter weather.
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