Chocolate Treats for a Sweet Easter

Written by Lauren Marotta, www.laurenmarotta.com

Spring has officially sprung! And with the arrival of this new season comes Easter.

Even if you don’t celebrate this holiday, the next few weeks will be filled with temptation: you’ll be unable to escape the siren song of sugar.

Chocolate, especially, is everywhere you look, flooding the shelves of every store you enter. I’m here to alleviate your fears by telling you: it’s okay. You can and should eat chocolate! It’s good for you, I swear.

Let me explain.

The Truth About Chocolate

Chocolate gets a bad rap; but ~real~ chocolate, which is made from the cacao bean, is an incredibly nutrient-dense food.

Pure cacao is packed with:

  • Antioxidants and polyphenols to fight free radical damage and protect you from disease. Cacao has more antioxidants than grapes, blueberries, walnuts AND sweet potatoes: fact.
  • Serotonin and other neurotransmitters that increase dopamine levels in the brain, improving your mood and promoting happiness
  • Inflammation-reducing vitamins + minerals like zinc, calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin A, C, E + Bs, strengthening your immune system and overall health
  • Fiber, to regulate your digestive system and feed healthy gut bacteria
  • Cardiovascular and brain-protective essential fatty acids: healthy brain and healthy heart, need I say more?

It’s a legit superfood. In fact, it was once referred to as the ‘food of the gods’ in the Americas where it was first cultivated. Pretty sweet.

The problem is that most store-bought chocolate is low in cacao, overly processed, and packed with cheap fillers, preservatives, emulsifiers, genetically modified ingredients, dangerous fats, milk powders, and refined sugars. Big Food has managed to turn a serious superfood into a product that is totally no bueno for you and your loved ones.

Why Go Raw

Raw chocolate is made from unroasted, unprocessed cacao bean powder and butter, whereas store bought chocolate is made with roasted cocoa liquor, powder, or solids. When cacao beans are heated, their molecular structure changes and their health properties are destroyed in the process. Raw cacao powder and butter are processed at low temperatures and maintain all the major benefits. The powder tastes rich, nutty and delicious: total win-win.

It’s time to take back chocolate!

Luckily, there are raw, organic chocolate options finally being sold in stores, but it’s easier on your wallet and way more fun to get in the kitchen, channel your inner Laura Secord, and make your own. Nothing says ‘I love you’ like a healthy, homemade chocolate bunny! Another DIY chocolate win: you can control the type and amount of sugar you’re consuming by adding less and opting for natural, unrefined sources that won’t spike your blood sugar levels, trigger your body to store fat and lead to the ever-dreaded sugar crash.

My favourite thing to make this month to replace the Cadbury bad boys of my youth and satisfy my craving for something sweet is chocolate cups. I make so many versions of these, but I’m sharing two of the easiest: one filled with a smooth nut butter and the other with a creamy salted caramel. Yes, even caramel can be good for you when it’s done right.

You’ll never want to buy chocolate again after tasting your own. Not only is it the simplest thing you’ll ever make, it’s also entirely customizable: you can make bark, disks, cups, molded shapes or bars, continually experimenting with different versions and flavours. Since it’s Easter, may I suggest you order some of these adorable molds?

This recipe turns everyone’s favourite indulgence into something so healthy you can eat it for breakfast. Seriously. As your nutritionist, I’m happy with that.

Basic Raw Chocolate

  • 1 cup raw, food-grade cocoa butter (I like this brand)
  • 1/4-1/3 cup pure maple syrup or raw honey (amount depending on your preferred sweetness)
  • 1 cup raw cacao powder (like this one)
  • optional: 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • optional: 1/4 tsp sea salt (I use himalayan salt)

Instructions

  1. Chop up the cocoa butter into very small pieces, this will encourage even melting. Place the cocoa butter into a medium-sized glass or ceramic mixing bowl.
  2. Add 2 inches of water to a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Set the mixing bowl containing the cocoa butter on top of the pan, making sure it’s not touching the water (this creates a double boiler). Stir the cocoa butter constantly until it’s completely melted, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and add maple syrup or honey, whisking to combine.
  4. Once the two are mixed well with no separation, sift in the cacao powder. Whisk to combine, until all lumps are dissolved and the mixture is smooth.
  5. Taste for sweetness. Add more, if necessary.
  6. Whisk in vanilla extract and salt, if using, until combined.
  7. You’ve made chocolate!
  8. Use this mixture to make cups, bark, bars, or discs.

Nut Butter Cup Filling:

Adapted from My New Roots

  • 1/2 cup of any nut or seed butter you like (almond, cashew, peanut, hazelnut, pecan, sunflower, pumpkin)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup or raw honey
  • 1 tbsp of coconut powdered sugar or organic powdered sugar (you want to avoid powdered sugar made with corn starch)
  • 1/4 tsp of salt

Instructions:

  1. Combine the nut butter with the maple syrup or honey until well mixed.
  2. Add the powdered sugar and salt, stirring until the mixture is tacky and a ‘dough’ is formed. If the mixture is still too runny, add a little bit more powdered sugar until it firms up.
  3. Refrigerate while you prepare the cups.
  4. Arrange your molds or 12-14 paper cupcake liners on a baking sheet. You can also use mini paper cupcake liners if you want bite-sized cups, but will need to reduce the amount of filling per cup.
  5. Prepare the chocolate, as instructed above in the basic recipe.
  6. Transfer the liquid chocolate into a glass liquid measuring cup for easy pouring into the cups or molds. If molds are small, use a little spoon.
  7. Pour or spoon a small amount of chocolate into the bottom of your molds or cupcake liners, just enough to cover the base of each cup.
  8. Freeze the molds or cups for 5 minutes to harden the chocolate.
  9. Grab 1/2 tbsp or less of the nut dough, roll into a little ball and flatten it slightly between your palms, making sure it’s not bigger than the size of the chocolate cup. Place each ball of filling in one cup.
  10. Pour or spoon the remaining chocolate on top of the filling, until the cups or molds are full and the filling is completely covered.
  11. Sprinkle the tops of each cup with chopped nuts or flaky sea salt, if desired.
  12. Allow to set in the refrigerator or freezer for about 30 minutes, or until fully hardened.
  13. Enjoy!

Caramel Filling:

  • 1 cup pitted dates (if your dates are dry, soak them in warm water first for about 10 minutes until they soften up – you want fresh, sticky dates to produce the smoothest caramel)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or raw honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Sea salt, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Remove the pits of your dates and chop them finely.
  2. In a food processor, blend soft dates and maple syrup or honey until smooth.
  3. Add the vanilla and as much salt as desired, blend and taste.
  4. Refrigerate the caramel until you’re ready to add it to the base of your chocolate cups.
  5. Using a small spoon or piping bag, add a dollop of your caramel filling to the hardened chocolate base.
  6. Pour or spoon the remaining chocolate on top of the filling, until the cups or molds are full and the filling is completely covered.
  7. Sprinkle the tops of each cup with flaky sea salt, if desired.
  8. Allow to set in the refrigerator or freezer for about 30 minutes, or until fully hardened.
  9. Enjoy!

The raw chocolates can be kept at room temperature for serving, but to preserve freshness, I store them in an airtight glass container in the fridge for 2-3 weeks, or the freezer for 1-2 months.

If you’d prefer to make:

Bark:

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and pour the chocolate on the paper, spreading evenly. Sprinkle anything your heart desires on top. Let it set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, or until hard, and enjoy!

Discs:

Drop tablespoon-sized amounts of chocolate onto parchment paper and spread into circles to make small chocolate discs. Top with whatever flavours your heart desires. Let set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, or until hard, and you’re ready to dig in!

The possibilities with bark and discs are endless. Some ideas:

  • Nut butter or caramel swirls
  • Toasted hazelnuts, salted peanuts, pecans, flaked almonds, granola, coconut
  • Puffed quinoa or rice
  • Superfoods like maca, lucuma, goji berries
  • Dried fruit: cherries, raisins, cranberries, figs, crystallized ginger, pineapple
  • Lavender, rosewater, orange extract or orange blossom water, mint extract
  • Lime or lemon zest
  • Smoked salt, pink salt, vanilla salt.

Go crazy. You’ll be glad you did.

Lauren Marotta is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN), lifestyle & wellness expert, and writer obsessed with keeping it real. To learn more about Lauren, follow her on Instagram & Twitter. Visit her website www.laurenmarotta.com, or get in touch with her by saying hi@laurenmarotta.com.