Chocolate is a divine, celestial drink, the sweat of the stars, the vital seed, divine nectar, the drink of the gods, panacea and universal medicine. – Geronimo Piperni, quoted by Antonio Lavedán, Spanish army surgeon,1796
Our love affair with cacao is epic, but like any longstanding relationship we need to continue to nurture the connection and find new ways to spice things up.
Luckily we have the culinary passions of Matthew Kenney and Meredith Baird to help us discover new techniques, explore exotic flavours and remain steadfastly loyal in our devotion to chocolate, through their new book Raw Chocolate.
Matthew is a renowned pioneer in the raw food scene. His book Raw Food Real World marked my first foray into creating upscale menus based on all raw, whole food ingredients. In the last few years my collection of his releases has grown to include Everyday Raw, Entertaining in the Raw, Everyday Raw Desserts and Everyday Raw Express. With each publication he pushes the envelope, entertains new possibilities and introduces inventive flavour profiles that excite your palate and encourage innovation in your own creations.
During the month I spent at the Matthew Kenney Academy I learned a lot about the environment that fosters this kind of creativity. It is an investment in play.
Not that Matthew and Meredith don’t take their work incredibly seriously – you don’t produce artful tomes of awe-inspiring recipes without a lot of hard work – but there remains an element of whimsy that allows Tiramisu Buttercups to emerge.
In Raw Chocolate, Matthew and Meredith introduce techniques for creating our much adored confections using only raw ingredients. As you stock up to prepare the bars, truffles, bonbons, fudges, beverages & buttercups the investment is apparent. These are not cheap ingredients but the quality and health promoting properties come through in the flavour and enjoyment of each treat.
As with all of Matthew’s previous books, the photography in Raw Chocolate is stunning. The simple elegance of each shot will have you yearning to recreate a similar scene – to share the sense of decadence with fantastic friends or your someone special.
I started my chocolate-fueled journey with Coconut Haystacks, a rich combination of cacao powder, caco nibs, coconut sugar and coconut flakes all rolled to create a intense chocolate-caramel-coconut flavour. I meant to share these…but I did not.
Next a chance to indulge in chocolate for breakfast led me to create a batch of Chunky Monkey Granola. If I ever open a B&B this will be on the menu. I loved the combination of chocolate and spices with the base of bananas and buckwheat.
Speaking of buckwheat, an ingredient so easily transformed but whose potential I tend to forget. This recipe for Buckwheat Nib Crispies reminded me of how much I love the crispy crunch of a big bowl of cereal-like flakes and strawberries. The chocolate is more subtle in this dish making the texture truly the star.
Don’t worry, I followed up with a big batch of Cookies and Cream Buttercups, which in utter contrast to the crispies are intensely chocolately, balanced by a luscious cream layer. Oh. My. Chocolate. These are good.
Finally I finished this week’s foray by filling my leaf chocolate mold with the magical Mesquite, Maple, Walnut combination. This creamy concoction has a caramel flavour with a subtle smokiness. I loved it. I loved it so much that I have decided to make a few hundred of these for the favours at my brother’s wedding this fall.
Although I don’t see myself turning to Raw Chocolate when meal planning, this beautiful book is full of amazing ideas for gifts, parties and special occasions (including rainy Mondays) when you want to celebrate the delicious wonders of life.
Since you’ve probably heard “You don’t win friends with salad” (my first Simpson’s reference on this blog) it makes sense to learn how to create few fantastic sweets, full of super powered ingredients, to share with the people you love.
In my own attempt to pass on a little food affection, tomorrow I’m teaching a Raw Dessert Class for Meghan Telpner.
And because I believe in balance, I’m also participated in Angela’s Salad A Day Challenge for June. I’m pining my pictures daily and invite you all to join in. I’m hoping to come up with a signature salad this summer…I’ll keep you posted on the results.
I hope you all partake in a little something special this weekend be it a chocolate truffle, a long walk in the sunshine or a squeeze from someone you like.