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This blog post is an excerpt from the original writings of Keith Wilson, the Chocolate Shaman, which were first published in 2012. For more recent info on all things Ceremonial Cacao, visit our main blog For the Love of Cacao.
Cacao is yummy in a blended mix of 2-3 medium avocados, a ripe banana, a can of coconut milk, cardamom, vanilla, and maple syrup, pitted dates, or honey for sweetening. Thicken by adding the ground Cacao last, until the blender begins to create an air pocket. Serve in a parfait or wine glass, topped with raspberries or shaved coconut. You may get slightly less smoothness in texture if you use our ground cacao, but it will be yummier! If you are using Keith’s Cacao, first blend, warm, or simmer the ground cacao with the coconut milk for a smoother result.
Making Cacao Bliss Balls from a coarsely chopped block of our Cacao requires a little extra liquid to hold everything together when rolling into balls. Use honey, agave, artichoke syrup, fresh coconut or ginger root, ground with everything else to release the liquid, or fruit juice or even a little bit of nut butter, tahini, or coconut oil. Add coconut (fresh or dried) and nuts, such as almonds, cashews, peanuts, macadamia, and seeds like sesame, sunflower, or pumpkin, leaving some coarsely chopped, for both texture and appearance. Next, add your favorite seasonings: hot chili pepper, cardamom and/or cinnamon, anise, clove, ginger, mint, vanilla (or extract), lemon or orange juice (or grated peel, extract, essential oil). Then you can play with raisins, dates, apricot, or other dried fruit as sweeteners, which should be roughly 25% of the weight of the Cacao, or 10-15% if you prefer less sweetness. Many like a bit of salt or use salty peanuts - salt is a much-recommended addition!
Work everything together or run it through a food processor, adding the liquids or nut butter last, or a hand-crank grain mill (if it's not too wet). Next, hand-mix in larger nuts or seeds for texture, or run those nuts and seeds through the processor to lightly chop and mix in at this time. (Go to our Recipes Blog for delicious Cacao Bliss Ball Recipes)
• Add freshly ground flax or chia meal for mouthfeel smoothness. Use an electric coffee mill or blender to pre-grind these seeds well before adding them to your mixture.
• Cacao nibs add extra crunch. Alternatively, you can insert a whole bean within the ball.
• Coffee brings an interesting flavor, and you get the theobromine-caffeine synergy. Again, you can use it all ground, or combine ground and whole or cracked roasted beans for the crunch. A ratio of 2.5oz (71g) coffee per pound (454g) of chocolate gives a distinct but far from strong coffee flavor. Reduce to 50g for just a hint. The coffee flavor tends to diminish a bit over a few days.
• Other synergists are the well-known Maca and the Maya Nut (also known as Ramon Nut or Ujuxte, in this part of Guatemala), an emerging rainforest superfood.
• White coconut shreds or flakes, green whole pumpkin seeds, sunflower, or sesame seeds look great incorporated in the mixture or used to roll the balls in.
• Mesquite powder is yummy and adds a subtle sweetness.
• Licorice root powder is sweet and decidedly exotic! It's one of my favorites.
• Coconut oil mixed with other ingredients can go rancid surprisingly fast.
You can spice up your Cacao bliss balls with anything that takes your fancy. Some popular flavors are coconut, cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla, ginger, hot chili pepper, tahini (sesame butter), coffee, and orange (grated peel of one medium orange per pound of Cacao). A combination/balance of hot pepper/ginger works really well. Something like blackberry concentrate is a delicious addition. Be careful not to make the mixture too moist, as it will be difficult to roll into balls. If that happens, you can dust the surface with powdered Maca, Cacao or cinnamon, sesame seeds, chopped nuts, dried coconut, dried basil or mint leaf flakes, or even vervain leaf flakes for the subtle dimensional traveler with a fondness for extreme flavors. Another cure for a too-moist ball mix is oatmeal (rolled oats powdered in a blender).
By weight, 45% Cacao gives a very rich chocolate ball. For a 30g ball, a full ceremonial amount of Cacao is just over 3 balls, so be aware not to overdose. A smaller amount of Cacao, such as 0.3oz (8.5g), which is 20% of a ceremonial dose of Cacao per 1.15oz (33g) ball, will give a fully delicious Cacao taste with plenty of room for other flavors.
Roasted peanuts are great for filling out a ball without breaking the bank. Throw the peanuts into the food processor with the Cacao, and you get Cacao peanut butter! We recommend you try this with your favorite nut if you are inclined to nut butter. Depending on the nut, you may need to add some oil to get things flowing, especially if the nuts are not roasted (roasting brings out the oil). Liquid tahini will do the trick. If the Cacao goes in first and is melted by the mechanical work of the machine, that is often enough to provide the oil.
If you add perishables, like fresh ginger, coconut, orange peel, or fruit juices, you will need to refrigerate your bliss balls. But, of course, at non-tropical temperatures, they seem to keep well for several days, longer if there are no liquid ingredients.
There is a wonderful indigenous myth about two secret lovers, discovered and killed by their tribe, who became Cacao and Vanilla. I guess their energies balance well together.
In the Mexican chocolate molé tradition, tahini (sesame seeds) is the magic ingredient that combines the other flavors into synergy. Try that with your Cacao balls... it works!
I have a Champion Juicer, and with the abundance of local bananas, peeled and frozen, I make the best 'ice cream' (no milk). I add some frozen pineapple or mango and any Cacao drink leftover from ceremony, and freeze it in ice-cube trays. A few nuts, chopped cacao paste, or peeled beans and nibs for crunch can be run through with the bananas. Then stir in nuts, cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla, and ginger, for example. You can also add some whole peeled beans or nibs on top. Coconut meat, frozen or not, goes really well too. (Check out Keith Wilson's Original Ice Cream Recipe on our Recipes Blog)
Coconut milk is delicious with Cacao. Add cardamom and vanilla to make a fine gourmet drink. Coconut milk will slow down assimilation, so it is not suited for ceremonial use but might be just what you want for a day of creative activity. One ounce (28g) Cacao paste (half if using powder) to a pint (0.5l) of water makes a decidedly rich social drink. Add one can of coconut milk per half-gallon (2l). Careful though, if you drink too much, you will be up all night! The first time I took this to a pot-luck, there were 'complaints' as it was more popular than other more preparation-intensive dishes. My favorite Guatemalan hot spring libation is to pick up 3 liters of liquid from freshly opened coconuts on the way, and mix it with some unsweetened Cacao and a bit of sodium and potassium chloride electrolyte - good for several hours of bliss without bodily imbalance. Again, caution is advised, for you may get nauseous if the tub or sauna is too hot.
Almonds are a standard addition to many Mexican chocolate products. For a ‘funk-sional’ Mexican molé,a non-sweet chocolate sauce, work Cacao with warmed nut butter and chili, sesame/tahini (the flavor-coordinating key), season with garlic, cinnamon, anise (half the cinnamon), cloves (half the anise), then sweeten with soaked raisins and thin with the raisin soak-water. I like adding some cardamom and ginger. You can use this to drizzle over just about anything (most famously over enchiladas) you have for dinner or dip your veggies in. You’ll find great molé in Oaxaca’s (Mexico) 20 de Noviembre Market, though to enjoy it, make sure you’ve done some inner-work clearing beliefs about sugar (if needed). This molé is without the roasted peppers and the usual flavorful oil. I find it oily enough as it is. (Similarly, try pesto with just 10-20% of the recommended oil, adding water to make up the rest of the liquid requirement. That way, you get to enjoy more of the good green stuff. An all-cilantro pesto is great for heavy metals detox.)
If you want to remove the Cacao butter from our ground Cacao or from finely blended beans, make your hot Cacao with hotter water (but not boiling, which will disperse the butter). Then let it cool in a wide-mouth container, giving it an occasional short slow stir at the beginning of cooling. Once it cools, refrigerate, and then scoop out the butter that has solidified on top. Refrigerate the container on its side to avoid plugging the neck. To clean it up, you may reheat, stir, and re-cool the butter in additional water. Some batches of Cacao do not have enough butter to separate well in this way. Re-add butter to chocolate treats, use it cosmetically, or make a chocolaty fragrant medicinal salve that melts at body temperature. If you are letting your drink but do not want the butter to separate, use water that is less than 120°F (49°C) to soften the shaved Cacao.
Not all Cacao has this much butter. Once, a customer in a local restaurant got up and left without paying when he was served a cup of my Cacao as hot chocolate. He was put off by the butter droplets floating on top of the brew! He obviously had never seen pure Cacao before!
Enjoy this sacred Food for the Shift – The Holy Bean!
Join Keith and the Cacao Tribe, every Wednesday and Saturday to share Cacao and experience his powerful version of inner processing work.