A friend of mine recently started stocking Hasslacher's 100% cacao drinking chocolate blocks in her shop so I had to get my hands on some. And I did.
To be honest, I have no idea what to do with it. When I make hot chocolate for myself I use unsweetened cocoa powder and add sugar to taste. If I want a real treat I melt down 80% chocolate and use that instead. Sometimes I add a sticky liqueur too - Kahlua is best, Tia Maria works well too. So I knew I could use the cacao for hot chocolate. But what I wanted was a way to make it work in baking.
This is the product:
It's made to appeal to people like me. Wrapped in wax paper, lovely graphics, produced in Colombia by the growers themselves. A happy package of feelgood chocolate.
The first thing I wanted to find out was how it differs from cocoa. I came across an excellent, non conclusive, argument here. After quite an extensive search, I still haven't come up with an answer. Is the cocoa powder I use at home (Bournville as a rule, Green & Black's if it's on offer) the same? The only conclusion I could draw is that it's basically the same.
I gave it a go in butter icing, a simple experiment. I usually use sifted cocoa powder but sometimes use melted 80% chocolate instead. I had convinced myself that the chocolate gives a richer taste than the cocoa in both icing and cakes but I think it's the added fat of the chocolate rather than the taste that makes it so. The cacao, I thought would add the richness without the extra sweetness. It did, but I could find no difference to cocoa powder.
So cheer myself up, I melted two squares, added milk and two teaspoons of demerara sugar, stirred it up, gave it a whizz with the aerolatte and had the most amazing cup of hot chocolate ever. This IS different to cocoa power and to 80% chocolate. It's bitter like coffee. Enjoyably sweet to to drink but with that satisfying backnote that coffee provides.
For that reason alone I love this and will buy more when I'm out. As for baking, I'm not giving up. Next time I have an excuse to make cakes I'll do two separate ones and take the taste test. I'm also going to try a ganache and a much richer chocolate icing. A baking friend is going to try using chunks in cookies, and another makes it into hot chocolate with coconut milk.
I'll keep you posted. Now, where did I put the mini marshmallows?
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