This homemade dark chocolate is simple to make and very easy to customize and make it exactly the way you want it, from sweeteners to flavorful add-ins. With constant research showing the many health benefits of dark chocolate, this is one indulgence I plan to never give up. A food that is not only good for your soul, but your mind and body as well?! Yes please. In fact new research has even reported that certain bacteria in the stomach gobble the chocolate and ferment it into anti-inflammatory compounds that are good for the heart 1https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140318154725.htm.
Sadly, not all dark chocolate is created equally. So many of the bars at the store contain soy lecithin, a ridiculous amount of refined sugar, vegetable oils, “natural flavors”, corn syrup and other unnecessary ingredients. Conventional chocolate bars filled with lots of additives will not have the same benefits as clean dark chocolate and are likely to do more harm than good! The closer your cocoa is to its natural raw unrefined state, the higher its nutritional value.
Dark Chocolate Benefits:
- Cacao’s benefits are related to naturally occurring compounds in the bean, including epicatechin (a flavonoid) and resveratrol, which has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and is thought to help shield your nerve cells from damage.2http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/02/08/amazing-health-benefits-dark-chocolate.aspx
- Chocolate contains rich concentrations of beneficial antioxidants and polyphenol known to offer benefits for your heart, blood vessels, brain, nervous system, help in combatting diabetes and other conditions rooted in inflammation.
- Small amounts of dark chocolate can cut your risk of heart attack because of chocolate’s biochemical effect that reduces the clumping of platelets, which cause blood to clot.3https://scienceblog.com/12011/chocolate-offenders-teach-science-a-sweet-lesson/ Platelet clumping can be fatal if a clot forms and blocks a blood vessel, causing a heart attack.
- Researchers also discovered that the compound in dark chocolate, called epicatechin (a flavonoid), may protect your brain after a stroke by increasing cellular signals that shield nerve cells from damage.4https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20442725 A stroke is similar to a heart attack, but occurs when the blood supply to your brain becomes blocked or reduced, as opposed to blocking the blood supply to your heart.
- Chocolate is a great source of minerals including potassium, phosphorus, copper, iron, zinc, and magnesium.
- Another meta-analysis found that cocoa/chocolate lowered insulin resistance, reduced blood pressure, increased blood vessel elasticity, and slightly reduced LDL.5https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22301923 In one study, patients consuming 100 grams of flavanol-rich dark chocolate for 15 days showed decreased insulin resistance.6https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18716168
According to a paper published in the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, cocoa polyphenols may have specific benefits for cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases, metabolic disorders, and cancer prevention. The authors note that:
“Cocoa contains about 380 known chemicals, 10 of which are psychoactive compounds … Cocoa has more phenolics and higher antioxidant capacity than green tea, black tea, or red wine … The phenolics from cocoa may … protect against diseases in which oxidative stress is implicated as a causal or contributing factor, such as cancer.
They also have antiproliferative, antimutagenic, and chemoprotective effects, in addition to their anticariogenic effects.” 7https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2012/906252/8https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15548587
Dark chocolate is superior to milk chocolate in so many ways, but one of the most important being that the milk added to milk chocolate can also interfere with your body’s ability to absorb the beneficial antioxidants (polyphenols) in the chocolate.
Cocoa Butter vs Coconut Oil
Many homemade dark chocolate recipes use coconut oil, which I have made myself on occasion and it works beautifully, but if I am being fully honest, even as a lover of coconut oil I find that most times the coconut flavor overpowers the beautiful, subtleties of the chocolate, and it’s not as traditional of a flavor or texture. Coconut oil can also result in bars that that can be just a little too melty, so they must be stored in the fridge and they make for messy hands. You can absolutely swap in coconut oil for the cocoa butter here or opt for a combination and you will get beautiful bars, but I strongly prefer and recommend straight cocoa butter myself, it’s much creamier and richer.
Make it Your Own
This recipe and tutorial, like many of the others on this website, offers the steps and the formula to follow and as always, you can easily adapt the recipe to your tastes. Both in sweetener preferences and in flavor add-ins. You can add just about anything here, nuts, shredded coconut, orange extract and zest, crisped rice cereal, bacon, chili flakes, cinnamon, maca, coffee, ginger, the list goes on and on and on.
I like very very dark chocolate. when I am buying we’re talking a minimum of 85% dark and sometimes I just go straight for 95% or 100% dark. DARK! So I personally go with a combination of a very small amount of raw honey and just a few drops of liquid stevia. Feel free to use just honey or maple syrup, coconut nectar or coconut sugar and add as much as you’d like, up to a 1/2 cup, depending on your desired level of sweetness. You can also use just stevia, erythritol, monk fruit, or other natural sweeteners or sugar alcohols. Or if you’d like, leave out the sweetener and go with a straight dark bar, get it girl!! (or boy.)
Here’s the thing about this homemade dark chocolate, it’s not hard to make, in the least, it takes just a few ingredients and only a couple steps, but being mindful of the temperature is key to the perfect bar with the proper texture and look! If you add the cacao or cocoa while the cocoa butter is too hot, you will end up with a cloudier, less glossy chocolate, it will still taste fantastic, but it just won’t look the part. It may also have a grainier texture. If the chocolate begins to cool too quickly, before you pour to set it, you have to carefully get it back up to temperature (PS a hair dryer works beautifully for this).
You always hear bakers, pastry chefs and chocolatiers say things like “you just start to feel it, you know when it’s right” when it comes to their craft. I hate hearing that, but I have to tell you, after several several rounds of making this homemade chocolate, this is exactly true here. The more you do it, the more you just feel it and know when it’s right. Each time I made it, it got better and better. Having a candy thermometer is key for exactness.
It’s a very quick process once things get melting, with the chance that things can seize up on you, so without an extra pair of hands in the kitchen, we have no step by step photos this time around (maybe I will update in the future and add some) but just follow my instructions and watch your temperature and you cannot go wrong.
These homemade dark chocolate bars feature healthy fats, and there’s no added sugar, this treat will not stimulate your insulin release like most commercial candy bars will, even those with higher cacao content. So you get the best of both worlds — a chocolate treat with plenty of health benefits and none of the bad stuff you get with most sweet treats.
What You’ll Need:
Box Grater (or use the grater attachment on your food processor to make it even easier)
Silicon Candy Mold (I like these break apart bar molds)
- 1 cup organic cocoa butter, grated and tightly packed (120 grams)
- ¾ cup unprocessed organic raw cacao or cocoa (92 grams)
- 1 tablespoon honey and approx 5 drops of liquid stevia*
- 1 teaspoon unsweetened vanilla paste (vanilla powder or vanilla extract)
- pinch sea salt
- maple syrup, coconut sugar or nectar, erythritol, monk fruit
- nuts, seeds, shredded coconut, orange extract and/or zest, crisped rice cereal, bacon, chili flakes, cinnamon, maca, coffee/espresso, ginger, the list goes on and on and on.
- Melt the grated cocoa butter in a double boiler or a glass bowl on top of a small pan with an inch of water (make sure water isn't touching bowl) over medium heat. Heat until melted and try to keep it at or under 115ºF.
- Remove the pan or bowl with the melted cocoa butter from the heat and let it cool to 95ºF. Once cooled to 95ºF, add the cacao (or cocoa), sweetener of your choice, vanilla paste (or extract) and pinch of sea salt.
- Make sure all ingredients are very well incorporated and that the mixture is very smooth and glossy. I start with a whisk and switch to a rubber spatula. Work quickly.* Be very careful that no water or liquid gets in to the melted chocolate mixture or in the molds, as it can cause it to seize up or it will, at the very least, it will affect the texture of the chocolate.
- Allow the melted chocolate temperature to drop to 88-90ºF before you pour it into the molds. I first place the molds on a cookie sheet, so they are on a flat, level, moveable surface. Let set for several hours at room temperature until hardened and then remove from molds.
- You can also place the chocolate into the fridge to harden more quickly but I prefer the slower, room temperature method for the best texture.
You can use cocoa or raw cacao for your bars. Either works beautifully. Raw cacao has more health benefits but it is definitely a more intense/strong flavor. I like that, but for a bit less bitter, go with cocoa.
If the temperature drops too quickly, once you add the cacao and other ingredients, you can heat gently with a hair dryer, to bring the temperature back up with control.
On your first time making, taste the melted chocolate mixture after you add the sweetener and adjust to your own preferences. I would say, based on my own tastes, this recipe results in what is similar to an 85% dark commercially produced chocolate bar.
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