Raspberry White Hot Chocolate (Dairy-free, Vegan)

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Hot chocolate is one of my favorite evening treats, especially on a chilly winter night.  I stopped buying hot cocoa mixes years ago, because I discovered that making my own was really easy and tasted about a zillion times better (not to mention it wasn’t full of yucky stuff like hydrogenated oil).  A hot beverage in a warm mug is a lovely thing, whether you’re sharing with friends or your sweetie, or treating yourself.  This Raspberry White Hot Chocolate is the perfect beverage to sip after an evening out this Valentine’s Day.  It would also be lovely to sip at the end of a romantic evening in.  Preferably by the glow of a crackling fireplace (no fireplace? There’s always youtube).

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The first time I tried a raspberry white hot chocolate, was while I was working at a bookstore during college.  The shop had a  coffee bar, where we served up plenty of espressos and grande cups of coffee to bleary eyed students studying for exams. One of the perks of working there, was that we were encouraged to sample the specials so that we could recommend them to customers.  Or at least I think they encouraged us to sample everything. My memory is a little vague, but I’m going with the story that we were invited to try the various coffee drinks, because that’s exactly what we did.  In fact, sometimes when business was slow, one of my fellow college coworkers would grab a cup and fill it with whipped cream, chocolate syrup, caramel sauce, and marshmallows and eat it like a sundae. Crazy college kids.  Anyway, I’m getting off subject.  The point of my little trip down memory lane, was that I fell in love with the raspberry/white chocolate combination while working in that bookstore/café. I would mix up the powdered white chocolate, steamed milk, and raspberry-flavored syrup, and then top it off with a swirly mountain of real whipped cream.  Usually a shot of espresso was added in as well.  It was a sugary, fatty, caffeine and dairy filled concoction that my 20 year old self seemed to tolerate really well.  It was my favorite coffee shop drink.

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Now the idea of downing that much sugar and artificial flavors, not to mention dairy, makes me queasy. I’ve always wanted to try to recreate the drink, this time without dairy or refined sugar. Also sans the powdered white cocoa concoction, which I guarantee is laden with dairy, not to mention all kinds of faux-food nasties.  You can find vegan white chocolate, either online or at the health food store, but it’s usually mostly sugar.  After scanning several homemade vegan white chocolate recipes, I knew that I needed to get my hands on some pure cocoa butter.  Cocoa butter is the fat extracted from the cocoa bean.  It’s a major ingredient in chocolate, and gives it that velvety smooth, melt-in-your-mouth texture. It has a rich cocoa aroma, and it’s emollient properties coupled with it’s natural antioxidants also make it an ideal skin moisturizer.  You’ve probably seen stretch mark lotions with cocoa butter, I know I slathered them on my tummy while I was pregnant (and I swear it works!).  It’s a little hard to find, although you can easily order raw cocoa butter online.  I was so excited a couple weeks ago when my mom brought me some sample sized, 1 ounce little cocoa butter tubs that she found at her health food store.

Obviously I used the cocoa butter to whip up some dairy-free white hot chocolate, with fresh raspberry sauce.  Let me tell you, pure cocoa butter beats that powdery fake white cocoa any day!  Combined with the flavors of real raspberries (not that artificial syrup), pure vanilla extract, heated almond milk, and sweetened with maple syrup, it is divine!  This is a grown up, gourmet hot chocolate, with a gorgeous pink hue.  It’s the perfect way to say, Happy Valentine’s Day!

Raspberry White Hot Chocolate

serves 2

2 oz of pure, raw cocoa butter (or about 1/4 of a cup)

3 cups raspberries, fresh or thawed frozen raspberries

2 1/2 cup almond milk (for an extra creamy drink, sub 1 of the cups with 1 cup of full fat coconut milk or homemade cashew milk*)

2 Tbsp pure maple syrup

tiny pinch of pink Himalayan salt

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Coconut whipped cream, optional

Instructions:

1.  Make the raspberry sauce.  If using fresh berries, you can sprinkle one teaspoon of coconut sugar over the berries to bring out the juices.  I found that my thawed frozen berries were plenty juicy. Throw them in a blender and blend until very smooth. Press the berry puree through a fine mesh sieve, to strain out the seeds.  I used a rubber spatula to push the puree through the strainer. Set aside.

2. Gently melt the cocoa butter over a double boiler, or a smaller pot set inside a larger pot of water. Once melted, whisk in your almond milk (and optional coconut or cashew milk). Add in the maple syrup and tiny pinch of salt.  Now add 1/3 cup of the raspberry sauce and whisk very well. Taste and add more raspberry sauce (I think I used about 1/2 cup total) and/or maple syrup, if desired.

3. Remove from heat, and stir in the vanilla extract.  Top with homemade coconut whipped cream and drizzle with raspberry sauce.

* To make homemade cashew milk blend 1/3 cup of soaked (for at least 2 hours) and rinsed cashews with 1 cup of water until very smooth (no chunks).  There is no need to strain, but you can if desired.

** For the coconut whipped cream, refrigerate a can of full fat coconut milk overnight, then open the can and scoop out the solid white cream.  Whip the cream in a bowl with a fork until smooth, light, and airy.  Add in sweetener, like maple syrup, to taste.

And remember these wise words this Valentine’s Day, no matter who you choose to share your hot chocolate with…

 

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