This is part three in our Pure Chocolate Wisdom series of information and scrumptious recipes, sponsored by Pascha Chocolate. I hand-picked Pascha Chocolate for Go Dairy Free, as it is made in a top allergen-free facility (dairy-free, nut-free, gluten-free, and even soy-free!), and is certified organic, vegan, fair trade, kosher, and non-GMO verified. They strive to balance pure chocolate with other nutritional ingredients, as in their NEW Lucuma, Maca, and Arabica Coffee Chocolate Bars. Not one to blindly trust, I wanted to understand more about why they chose these ingredients and how they balance them. Here is what I learned…
The term superfood may have emerged from the world of marketing, but purists in natural food have given it true meaning in recent years. Many now recognize superfoods as nutrient-rich noshes that are reported to be quite beneficial for health and well-being. Three that are enjoying the spotlight these days are lucuma, maca, and an old favorite, coffee.
Lucuma is the lesser known of these three, but it is an amazing subtropical fruit with high potential, in my opinion. It is most often dried and milled into a fine powder to use as a low-glycemic, nutritious sweetener (many label it as “diabetic-friendly”) in natural foods such as pure chocolate. Though we tend to use it in smaller quantities, lucuma is a surprisingly good source of fiber. It also provides 14 essential trace minerals, notable amounts of antioxidants (such as beta-carotene), and doses of dietary vitamins and minerals, such as niacin and iron.
In chocolate, I found that lucuma added an alluring yet subtle sweetness while tempering without masking the intense cacao beneath. According to Simon Lester, the founder of Pascha Chocolate, the goal of using lucuma in their chocolate was to reduce the sugar as much as possible while still retaining the sweetness of a typical 70% chocolate bar.
Lester says, “A lot of customers who are wanting high cacao chocolate are on a reduced sugar diet or might be diabetic or just sensibly trying to limit their sugar intake. But at the same time they want a sweeter taste than a full 85% dark chocolate. So, we took out half of the sugar in the regular Pascha 70% bar and replaced it with lucuma powder.”
In essence, they used lucuma to create a nutritious 85% chocolate bar with the sweetness of a 70% dark chocolate. He notes that lucuma does add caramel-like notes that you won’t find with straight up sugar, and added that Pascha may experiment with going even higher in lucuma and lower in sugar in the future.
Maca My Day
Maca is a root, rather than a fruit, but like lucuma it is typically dried and milled into a fine powder. It is the most intriguing of the “new” superfoods for its reported adaptogenic-like qualities. Grown at high altitudes, maca’s ability to manage challenging conditions is said to help our bodies cope with external life stresses. It aids in hormonal balance, increases stamina, and energizes naturally, without the ups and downs of caffeine. Maca can also be a good source of protein, fiber, essential fatty acids, and vitamins, such as B, C, and E.
In chocolate, maca can easily take control with it’s rich, intense, and creamy caramel-like notes. But when combined with dark chocolate, it tends to enhance rather than dominate, offering unique flavor nuances that are almost too complex to describe.
To get the most of maca’s health benefits without letting it overpower, Pascha adds just 5% of this earthy superfood to their 60% dark chocolate. Lester says, “More maca was getting too dominant, and less was getting too low to be meaningful. When working with different cocoa blends and the 5% maca content we just liked the balance of the 60% chocolate with the maca.”
The Java Renaissance
Coffee was once the enemy, blamed in old-school studies as a cause of heart disease and other ills. Scientists have since learned that the bean was getting a bad rap simply because there tended to be poorer lifestyle habits (smoking, high alcohol consumption, low nutrient diets, etc.) among heavy coffee drinkers. In fact, moderate java consumption (without added dairy!) has been shown in newer reports to have several health benefits, including protection against Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes and liver disease. Coffee may also improve cognitive function and decrease the risk of depression.
Since I’m not a big coffee drinker, what I didn’t know was the difference between Arabica and robusta coffee beans, the two types used most commonly. Arabica, which is used in Pascha’s new chocolate bar, has approximately half as much caffeine as robusta and it tends to have a sweeter, softer taste with more fragrant notes. Some even say that the pleasant acidity of Arabica gives it an underlying chocolaty flavor. This might explain why I actually liked the Pascha Arabica Chocolate Bar – it had a more complex yet complimentary sweet flavor.
To obtain that seamless balance, Lester says that they use 7% Arabica coffee with their 70% chocolate, plus an added touch of vanilla. “We found that a 10:1 ratio of coffee to cocoa allowed the coffee to come through while still remaining clearly chocolate.” In other words, the percentages in their chocolate-coffee blend were all about taste.
What is your take on these superfoods?
Have you tried lucuma and maca?
Have I inspired you to become more adventurous with your chocolate?
Have you seen my EASY RECIPE for Superfood Chocolate Crunch?!
I’m sharing this post with Allergy-Free Wednesdays.