Street Food and Cacao Beans

          With the recent seasonal pause between Food Trucks, alongside a bout of writer’s block surrounding my random rambles, my blog posts have become somewhat slow in their uploads. As such, I’ve come to start thinking about some other things which I can do during the wait between Reviews.

          That said, I would like to officially introduce my new Blog Segment, “Street Food Corner.” Here I will be cooking food inspired by our various, wonderful Food Truck offerings. Whether I’m trying to copy, pay an homage to, or just cook something I think would be a good Street Food item, I will document my experience and post pictures and recipe online.

          If anything it’ll give me an excuse to cook more.

          About a week ago, I got a very special delivery shipped from a friend on the East Coast; whole roasted Cacao Beans! I had no idea how to use them, but I was excited. With my new foray into street-food-reproduction, I thought I’d take the chance to do a from-scratch homage to my favorite Twin City Truck Drink: Mexican Hot Coco from Cruzn Café. Not to mention it was the only recipe online for using the beans I could find…

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          Either way!  But before I get to the actual Coco, I need to go over how exactly we transform these lovely beans into a useable product. They may be tasty to eat raw, but you can’t make Coco without Powder (or Chocolate bars, but I’m not going through that crazy process).

          So, much like a Japanese Fisherman or an Irate Italian making Pistachio Gelato, we start with the long and annoying process of skinning. I’m sure there’s a much easier process of doing this other than by hand, but I want to ensure I lose as little bean as possible, not to mention lose the risk of skin in my drink. It’s a pain in the thumb, but after a couple hours I was rewarded with a little pile of brown lumps that sort of looked like…. well, I’ll just let your imagination run wild on its own.

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         Now we chop! Any method works, from using a knife, crushing between fingers, putting in a Ziploc and repeatedly throwing against the nearest wall, or the Slap Chop (You’re gonna love my nuts!). I used my handy-dandy, pretty little portable nut grinder and container; it’s actually nice since there’s no mess, can keep inside the base to store.

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          Nice and chopped, one could stop at this step to use as simple Coacoa Nibs; great for sprinkling over desserts, mixing into salads, or other garnish-related uses. The taste sort of reminds me of those chocolate-covered cherries, just not as sweet and a little more bitter. But to continue, we now move to the slow, many-stepped process of grinding.

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           Before I continue, something very important must be discussed. Proper chocolate manipulation revolves around the consideration of the cacao butter and various “crystals” within the bean’s structure, which are all very sensitive to temperature change, such as the heat generated by grinders. If the chocolate gets too warm in this rough stage, one can end up clumping the ground pieces into something unusable, like below (it still taste good, and could be used in infusing, but can’t use it like a proper powder). As such, we must remember one very important thing when grinding: SHORT BURSTS. This is why it takes so long; when one gets to the spice grinder, we can only grind for 10-15 seconds at the MOST. After which, take the chocolate out and leave to cool a little on the counter before grinding again.

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           Alright, that out of the way, we go through the first grind. This is simple, just getting the nibs smaller; if you have a food processor, that works best (as you can see, I have the smallest processor known to man; it’s my baby). Do this in smaller batches that grind quicker, reduce the risk of heat, for about 20-30 seconds maybe.  Otherwise one could work on simply hammering in a bag until it looks like what you see below; an even smaller Nib.

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             After cooling, we start the first of our many runs through the Spice Grinder (or Coffee Grinder, whatever one has). I only ground a couple spoonfuls at a time, with around 10 seconds of pulsing; I went over once, and the result is as you see below.

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           The number of times one grinds is up to you, what final product is desired and how comfortable you feel with the higher risk of structure destruction as it gets smaller. I ended up doing three separates for a nice powder, and I would suggest the same; the first round of pulsing gets it really good, but it’s sort of like sand.

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              Second worked it even better, but still not at the real “powderiness.” If you wanted to stop here, either of the first or second pulses could easily be used the same way one would any “spice.” I myself think the first would be great for crusting meats, like a pork loin.

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             Finally at the third grind; hard to tell from the picture, but one can see how the third grind in the bowl is different than the second grind in the spoon. We can now use this for our Hot Coco!

Mexican Hot Coco

1¼ C Water or 1½ C Milk/Cream Mix

1 Tb Quality Coco Powder

2 Tb Sugar

Tb Vanilla (I like the Mexican for this)

2 Large Pinches Cinnamon

1 Large Pinch Chili Powder

SMALL Pinch Cayenne (Optional)

Salt for seasoning (important even in desserts)

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  1. Combine all ingredients in sauce-pan
  2. Heat, whisking occasionally to combine, until simmering
  3. Simmer about 2 minutes, whisking constantly. The added air can improve creaminess of texture.
  4. Ladle into cup, give a couple minutes to cool (NO DRINKING BOILING LIQUID!!!)

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           I used water, as that’s how traditional Mexican-style is made, but if you’re going for the nostalgic, comfort-drink, milk and cream always tastes good (Fat adds Flavor as my old instructor says). I also had just finished dehydrating some sliced kumquats, so I put those in to infuse at the end; created a nice little fresh note in the nose. Overall, a nice, spicy-cinnamony version of coco to warm the bones.

            Well, I hope you all learned something interesting and fun about the Cacao bean!  I can’t wait to use my leftover powder for something else; maybe I’ll post the recipe up here too. For now, have yourself a nice day, and look forward to more recipe-related posts in the future.

            How do you like your Hot Chocolate? What sort of Food do you think I should cook? What kind of Food Truck-like recipes do you make at home?

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One thought on “Street Food and Cacao Beans

  1. Pingback: SFC: Mexican Joe | Reviews on Wheels

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