Mother’s Day isn’t usually a big event in our house as it generally falls pretty close to my birthday. Some years it’s even fallen on my birthday.
This year I turn the big four-oh and I am being treated to a whole host of dinners and parties, which started last weekend with Saturday lunch at the outstanding Ethicurean and then pampering followed by tapas at the Lido in Bristol on Sunday. My other half is cooking us a fabulous Middle Eastern feast for us tomorrow (my actual birthday), as well as baking his infamous carrot cake. And then next weekend there will be a gathering of family and friends at the Thali Cafe in Southville, and who knows we might even venture out to a club on Saturday night – partly to prove I’ve still got the stamina despite my advancing years.
So this year I really don’t expect much on Mother’s Day. My family has organised quite enough for me already!
Isn’t the sight (and smell) of melted chocolate one of the most beautiful things on the planet? When I see melted chocolate, I want to jump right in, just like Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!
In case it you hadn’t heard, here in the UK it is Chocolate Week (8 – 14 October 2012). And in preparation for this, I successfully spent much of the weekend in blissful chocolate heaven.
We had a rare lie-in on Saturday morning as Miss Bangers has had a bit of a cough all week so we didn’t want to chance her with her 9am ballet lesson. In celebration we breakfasted on pain au chocolat, dunked into hot chocolate.
The kids had their usual stuff from the supermarket but J and I went forFiery Raw Hot Chocolatefrom Elements for Life. It’s a very grown up hot chocolate, with a tasty kick to it. Despite the name, it’s not overly hot. I love it as an occasional alternative to my morning coffee. So, as you can see, a rather indulgent start to the day.
Once we’d got our Saturday chores out of the way, we headed over to the wonderful Lipsmacking Pop Up Chocolate Shop in Frome, open all this week until Sunday 14 October from 10am to 6pm. The Pop Up Shop in Frome’s Paul Street is a great little venue, and has been home to all kinds of in businesses in recent months, including a tapas bar and a children’s arts and craft workshop.
As well as selling all things cacao, the Chocolate Pop Up Shop is running a number of chocolate-themed events, from chocolate making workshops (see below) to meeting chocolatiers and even creating chocolate-inspired jewellery!
The Pop Up shop is very much a precursor to the Lipsmacking Chocolate Festival in Frome on Sunday 18 November 2012, which as you can imagine I am looking forward to. A lot!
The children enjoyed chocolate milkshakes, while J and I indulged in yet more hot chocolate – this time a warming spiced number featuring cardamom, definitely my spice of the moment.
But the main reason we were there was to meet up with Paula from Elements for Lifefor a lesson in making raw chocolate.
Based just over the border in Wiltshire, Paula and Dan, the lovely husband and wife team behind Elements for Life, produce a wide range of handmade raw chocolate products. They are all dairy, gluten and wheat free, free from refined sugar, with no artificial additives, and packed full of goodness.
According to Paula and Dan, raw chocolate is much better for you than normal chocolate in so many ways, and having tried a number of their products I can certainly vouch for the fact that it tastes incredible.
With normal chocolate, the cacao bean is roasted, destroying much of its nutritional value. Add to that all the refined sugar, fat and the myriad of other things added to it and you end up with something that’s bad for you. Raw chocolate on the other hand is actually said to be good for you. It is one of the richest sources of magnesium, essential for a healthy heart and clear mind, and contains much higher levels of anti-oxidants than either green tea or red wine. It’s packed full of essential amino acids, feel good chemicals and vitamins, and what’s more it is an appetite suppressant!
But health benefits aside, it tastes fantastic and that is essentially why I jumped at the offer to find out more about making my own.
What surprised me most was just how easy raw chocolate is to make, particularly since, unlike normal chocolate, there is no fiddly tempering required. It’s simply a case of melting the raw cacao butter, mixing in the raw cacao powder, and sweetening with a low GI fruit sweetener.
Once the melted chocolate has been poured into the silicone mould, you simply place it in the fridge for an hour and a half, or in the freezer if you can’t wait that long. Paula’s tip was to pour it into a small jug before attempting to pour into the mould, otherwise it can get very messy indeed. But then when you’re cooking with my children, nothing you do can prevent the mess!
Making raw chocolate would be the perfect activity for a children’s party, or even next time you have your friends over for a couple of glasses of wine. Or as Paula suggested, how about serving the melted chocolate in a hollowed out pumpkin for a Halloween fondue?
Paula shared with us all some chocolates she had prepared earlier and the end result is really very, very good. It’s ever so smooth and creamy, and despite being a dark chocolate, it isn’t nearly as bitter as most dark chocolates I’ve had before.
Paula’s demo made it all look very easy. Question was though, would I be able to recreate the same quality chocolate experience back at home with the kids? That was to be our challenge for Sunday morning.
So on Sunday, once we’d got breakfast and homework and Christmas card making (I know! our school PTA is über organised!) out of the way, our adventures in chocolate making began as we put the Elements for Life starter kit to the test. Simply grating the cacao butter filled the kitchen with the sumptuous aroma of pure chocolate.
The scent increased to even headier heights when we started to melt it.
Holding the little ones back from immersing themselves in the melted chocolate was the only tricky bit!
With one of Elements for Life’s raw chocolate making starter kits, I can categorically say that making your own chocolate is child’s play. It took us less than half an hour to make, and just over an hour later we were scoffing these little beauties:
I added a little sprinkle of confectioner’s glitter to the moulds before pouring in the chocolate. Pretty eh? As we had some leftover chocolate in the jug, I poured the rest out in a metal tray lined with greaseproof paper and sprinkled with some chopped nuts and currants to create my own chocolate slab. Isn’t that such a great word? Slab. Love it!
So there you have it. If I can make raw chocolate, then anyone can. As I mentioned before, raw chocolate isn’t as bitter as the normal stuff, and the other good thing is you don’t need so much either. Just a couple of mouthfuls and you’re satisfied. And coming from me, that says a lot. I can usually eat chocolate until I make myself sick. Trust me, this is good stuff. The kids loved it too, but for them the best bit was licking out the bowl. Isn’t it always?
While the kits themselves would make an excellent gift for the chocaholic in your life, my personal plan is to experiment a little with additional ingredients (such as more nuts and fruit) and give the chocolates themselves as Christmas presents.
During Chocolate Week (8-14 October 2012), Elements for Life is offering 10% off every product bought via their website, so now is a great time to stock up.
Win a raw chocolate making kit from Elements for Life
Now it’s your chance to win a raw chocolate making starter kit from Elements for Life worth £14.99. The kit includes everything you need to make a batch of gorgeous chocolates (and an extra slab too if you like!):
100g raw cacao powder
120g raw cacao butter
300ml bottle of Sweet Freedom, low GI natural sweetener
reusable heart-shaped silicone mould
information and recipe card.
To be in with a chance of winning, all you need to do is provide a comment below saying why you’d like to get your mitts on an Elements for Life chocolate making starter kit.
Double your chances by tweeting about this competition, linking through to this post and including the hash tag #MakeRawChoc and my Twitter name @bangermashchat. I’ll keep an eye out for your tweets but make sure yours doesn’t slip through the net by also mentioning you’ve tweeted in your comment.
The closing date for competition entries is midnight on Sunday 4 November. The winner will be the first name randomly drawn after the closing date.
Please note: this competition is only open to UK residents due to shipping costs and there is no cash or other product alternative.
Disclosure: I was provided with two complimentary raw chocolate making kits by Elements for Life; one for review and one for a competition prize. No money has exchanged hands, but honestly – would you expect me to want to be paid to review chocolate?