February 13, 2011

Carob Fruit and Nut Bark

Though I'm still full of my typical end of winter griping about dark days and slippery roads, I am noticing that February has been flying by. Tomorrow is Valentine's Day and I'm still trying to lay off sugar and wheat and grains in general. But that's a topic for another post, which I'm too scatterbrained to write at the moment, so here's a recipe I've been working on.

John and I have been upping the ante with our chocolate lately. I've long been a fan of the dark stuff and look for at least 70% cocoa (the bare minimum) but with my current dietary changes I'm even finding things like these brownies too sweet. So we search for darker chocolate for snacking and that results in eventually even liking unsweetened chocolate, if combined with fruit and nuts. The trouble is that chocolate has caffeine and though my tolerance is way higher than John's a little too much snacking ends with me up all night.

So John suggested carob (yes honey, I'm actually giving you credit) and at first I scoffed. Have you ever had those carob covered nuts from the bulk section? Or a carob bar? They are so insipid and gross with a weird chewy quality but John likes them anyway. I remembered seeing carob powder, also called carob flour, at the co-op so I agreed to give that a try. I had some cocoa butter around to try and make homemade dairy-free white chocolate and thought, "Hey I could make carob chocolate and it wouldn't be an oxymoron!"

For my first attempt I went completely sugar free and it was wonderful! Of course you have to be used to eating very low sugar/high cocoa chocolate but if you are the kind of person who can snack on cocoa nibs than you might really love this and it won't keep you up at night. Plus, carob may have other health benefits and it's much less bitter and therefore requires less sweetness to be delicious. I've played with the recipe further, added a little dried fruit for a smidgen more sweetness and a little coconut oil so that I don't have to worry about tempering the cocoa butter. The variations are endless but I like this Chunky bar homage with raisins and almonds.

Carob Fruit and Nut Bark

This is for super low sugar chocolate lovers. If you can't handle nibbling on cocoa nibs or 90% chocolate then either use a higher percentage of dried fruit or try adding a little stevia. 
Makes about a pound

3 oz (~3/4 cup) cacao butter*
2 oz (7 tablespoons) roasted carob powder*
8 oz (2 cups) almonds, ideally soaked/dehydrated*
3 oz (3/4 cup) raisins*
1/4 ounce (~1 1/2 teaspoons) coconut oil
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt

-Melt the cacao butter in a double boiler add the carob powder and coconut oil and whisk until smooth.  You could also melt the cacao butter in the microwave but it seems to take forever so I prefer a double boiler for this.  Of course a double boiler does not have to mean anything more than a heat proof bowl that fits on a saucepan with a little water in the saucepan.
-Add the almonds and raisins and stir to coat.  Spread on a parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle with salt.
-Chill in the freezer for 10 minutes and then remove and break apart.

*Ingredient notes:  Cacao butter is the same thing as cocoa butter but be sure not to skimp on this. I've found cheaper stuff that has off flavors and tastes like soap and it's awful!  Carob powder is also called carob flour.  Of course any combination of nuts with/without any combination of dried fruit would be good. 

**Other notes:  I think a variation with some spice would be excellent and there is an interesting Cinnamon Spiced Coconut Bark on Diet, Dessert and Dogs.  Also, I'd love to try some filled chocolates with this carob chocolate mixture and plan on using this recipe for Double Chocolate Hazelnut Candies as inspiration.

***Note to mom: Hey, check out the Russell Stovers Elvis box, that thing has really gotten a lot of reuse!