by Daphne Lambert
Cacao, (Theobroma cacao) also called cocoa is a tree native to the tropical rainforest of Central and South America To the Mayans, whose culture flourished nearly 2000 years cocoa was the food of the gods and was an important sacred plant.. The Mayan priests made a rich, thick, bitter beverage from cocoa beans. The roast cocoa nibs were crushed to form a powder and mixed with ground maize meal, vanilla, chilli, honey and flowers and consumed at all ceremonies.
The Spanish explorer Cortes brought cocoa beans to Spain in 1528 and gradually the custom of drinking chocolate spread across Europe reaching England in the 1650’s
The first chocolate Easter eggs were likely crafted in Germany & France near the beginning of the 19th century. These were made of dark chocolate and were usually bitter-tasting; because there was no process at this time for moulding chocolate, they were also solid and hard new methods of processing allowed, in 1873 the first hollow eggs to be made in Bristol, by chocolatier JS Fry & Son.
There are lots of other ways of enjoying chocolate over Easter (or at any time) here are a few of my favourite recipes
Spring Chocolate Cake
350g soft butter + extra
350g rapadura sugar
225g ground almonds
55g rice flour
55g cocoa powder
350g dark chocolate
175g soft butter
Spring flowers (violets, primrose, comfrey)
Butter & line a 25cm (10”) round cake tin with parchment paper.
Beat the butter, sugar, eggs, almonds, rice flour and cocoa powder together until very light. Very easy with an electric mixer. Put the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 40 mins on 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 or until firm.
Turn out and cool
Melt the chocolate in a medium bowl set over (but not in) a saucepan of simmering water, stirring often, until melted. Cool slightly then beat in the soft butter.
Pour over the cake
Decorate with the spring flowers just before serving so they are really fresh
CHOCOLATE – HONEY HEARTS
makes about 10/12
2 egg yolks
200g rice flour
120g ground almonds
1 teaspoon gluten free baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
200g bitter chocolate
Very gently heat the honey to make it runny. Beat in all the other ingredients except the chocolate. Turn onto a working surface and gently knead into a smooth dough. Wrap up well in greaseproof paper and chill in the fridge overnight.
Remove the dough from the fridge and preheat the oven 170C/gas mark 3.
Dust the dough with rice flour place between 2 sheets of baking parchment and roll out to thickness of 1.5cm. Peel of the top sheet of paper and cut out heart shapes repeat to use up the dough.
Place the hearts on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Bake for approx 12 minutes. Remove and cool on a wire tray.
Gently melt the chocolate. Using a wooden skewer pierced into the biscuit lower the biscuit into the chocolate (you could use a fork) submerge in the chocolate, you may have to tip the container to totally coat the biscuit; remove, let any excess chocolate drip off then carefully place on parchment paper remove skewer and leave to set.
Chocolate hemp sorbet
100g bitter dark chocolate
250 ml water
60g raw cacao powder
100ml hemp milk (strained for smoothness)
Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and dissolve over a low heat, bring to the boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, cool slightly then stir in the chocolate and dissolve. Whisk the cacao powder into the hemp milk then add to the syrup mixture. Place the mixture in a container suitable for freezing and freeze until slushy. Remove the mixture from the freezer and whisk until smooth Place back into the freezer and repeat the process 2 more times then freeze until ready to use. Alternatively if you have an ice-cream maker, churn and then freeze until ready to use.
8 small servings
4oz (110g) cashew soaked an drained
6 soaked dates
2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
rose-hip, crab-apple or damson syrup
Blend all together until creamy, divide between 8 shot glasses and chill. Put a teaspoon of damson syrup on each one before serving.
1 cup shelled hemp
3 cups water
1 teaspoon raw cacao powder
Blend well. Store in fridge for up to 3 days
SPIKED & SPICY HOT CHOCOLATE
1 cup milk
2 oz. milk chocolate
1 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
1 tbsp. light brown sugar
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 oz. spiced rum
Marshmallows for garnish
Directions: Add the milk, sugar and chocolate to a small pot and cook on a low heat, stirring constantly, until the chocolate and sugar have dissolved. Whisk in the spices. Remove from the heat, stir in the rum and pour into a mug or glass.