I recently purchased a bag of organic cacao beans from Mountain Rose Herbs. It was an impulse buy, purchased mainly because they were on sale, and I was curious to see some cacao beans. After all, I have had an almost life-long love affair with chocolate.
I got my cacao beans in the mail, opened them up, looked at them. Closed them. Set them on a shelf.
I had no idea what to do with them. I still don't really, but I've been trying some things. First, I un-shelled a few of them to get the "nibs" out, and put them in my mortar and pestle. See, I had been reading up on cacao beans, and found that the nibs are ground into a thick liquid. This liquid is partly cocoa butter and partly cocoa powder. The liquid is then pressed to extract the cocoa butter, and you are left with the powder, which is used in baking.
I ground my nibs up to see if I could duplicate this at home. When I ground it in my mortar and pestle, I was unable to get it into any sort of liquid form. It was just a powder. So, okay, I can make my own cocoa powder. That's one use I guess. But not very cost effective, so I really have no desire to make my own cocoa powder.
What next? For my second experiment, I decided to try grinding some of my cacao beans with coffee beans to make a chocolate flavored coffee. The end result was a hot cup of slightly more bitter than usual coffee: FAIL.
But, keeping on the coffee/cacao trend, I decided to go a slightly different route. Coffee and cacao bean extract. I figure that this will be a nice flavoring for drinks, baked goods and desserts (I'm thinking milkshakes, puddings, and maybe even cheesecake!), and I was even wondering if I could use it to flavor my homemade toothpaste.
Here is what I did:
Coffee and Cacao Bean Extract
Cacao beans (de-shelled; you will be using the nibs)
Fill a 4 ounce jar 1/3 with the coffee beans and another 1/3 with the cacao nibs. Your jar is now 2/3 of the way full. Cover the beans with the vodka, filling the jar to within 1/2" from the top. Tightly cover with jar and shake well. Place the jar in a cool, dark place to steep for at least two weeks. You can leave the jar steep for longer if you'd like however. Shake the jar every few days.
After at least two weeks has passed, strain the beans out of the vodka and compost them. Pour your liquid extract into a bottle and label.
The first thing I plan on trying the extract in is this yummy sounding drink recipe:
Iced Irish Coffee
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 ounce water
1 scoop vanilla ice cream
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 ounce whiskey
3 Tablespoons coffee-cacao bean extract
1. Blend a handful of ice cubes with the cream, water, ice cream, and sugar until the ice is crushed and smooth.
2. Add the whiskey and extract and blend for a few more pulses until combined. Pour into glasses and enjoy!
In a couple weeks, I'll let you all know how the extract turned out. Hope it's not a fail.