So here’s the deal…it’s the 3rd Annual #PaletaWeek over at Lola’s Cocina, and I had all intentions of making green, white, and red paletas to cheer on Mexico in tomorrow’s World Cup game against South Korea, but as I started to make them, I saw a bag of roasted cacao nibs from Oaxaca sitting on my countertop, and I thought, “Hmmm…I bet those would be pretty tasty in vanilla-laced almond milk.” So I stuck some on a spoon with a little milk, and wow! Yes! This is something that had to be shared.
But, I guess the more important question here is, how does one randomly have a bag of cacao nibs sitting on the countertop, and what are cacao nibs anyway?
Well, this spring Roberto and I traveled to Washington, D.C. to partake in the D. C. Chocolate Festival. It was quite amazing, and besides being able to try single origin bars from dozens of chocolate makers, we got to learn about single origin cane sugar with William Marx of WM Chocolate and about growing cacao in an agroforestry system like Agrofloresta in southern Mexico.
More importantly though, all of this chocolately goodness got me to thinking about making my own chocolate from bean to bar. I mean, why not? I had a bag of cacao beans sitting in my basement that I had brought back from my trip to Oaxaca last summer.
So, I jumped in head first and found this chocolate-making Bible at the library–Making Chocolate: From Bean to Bar to S’more. It is authored by the makers of Dandelion Chocolate (they make wonderfully delicious single origin chocolate by the way), and it is the most fantastic chocolate resource ever. I may have read it cover to cover in under two days…just saying.
No sooner than I turned the final page, than I ran downstairs to dig out that bag of cacao beans. I put the dried beans on my comal and began to gently roast them. In about 4 minutes, the house started to smell like buttery brownies. I then removed the outer shell from the bean, and voila! I had cacao nibs. (*Cacao nibs are seeds of the cacao fruit that have been fermented, dried, roasted, and shelled and are ground together with sugar to make chocolate.)
Now, back to the paletas!
To make these paletas, I used homemade almond milk (you could use coconut milk, cow’s milk, or any nut milk really) sweetened with honey and Mexican vanilla extract. I poured it into the molds, and let it partially freeze before adding the cacao nibs. Unfortunately, the nibs tend to float to either the top or bottom, but if you time it right, you might be able to get a few suspended in the middle of the paleta.
The nutty, fruity, slightly bitter nibs are complemented by the icy freshness of the almond milk. You just can’t beat that chocolate + milk combo. It’s always a winner!
Be sure to visit Lola’s Cocina this week for lots of creative paleta recipes, and you can check out my past contributions below:
vanilla almond milk paletas with cacao nibs
2 cups unflavored almond milk (or any milk of your choice)
2 TBSP honey (or any liquid sweetener)
1 1/2 tsp Mexican vanilla extract
4 TBSP cacao nibs*
→Whisk together almond milk, honey, and vanilla extract.
→Pour into paleta molds. Freeze for one hour.
→Remove from freezer and evenly sprinkle nibs into each mold. Try pushing them down with a popsicle stick in order to suspend them as best you can. (This may or may not work.)
→Place the lid on top of the mold and insert popsicle sticks. Freeze for an additional 3-4 hours or overnight.
→To unmold, dip in warm water and carefully wiggle the popsicle sticks. Once they’ve been unmolded, you may need to freeze them once more before serving. Enjoy!
- You don’t have to travel all the way to Oaxaca to find cacao nibs. You can find them just about anywhere these days. I’ve seen them at Trader Joe’s, TJ Maxx, Amazon (just search cacao nibs), and of course, many small chocolate makers will sell them to you. Visit Chocolate Alchemy or Dandelion Chocolate.