If I could construct any kind of toolbox, mine would be chocolate...like, I don't mean literally made of chocolate, but filled with chocolate tools. The dark chocolate bar could be the screwdriver that pops out different heads to accomplish different jobs... because really, you can use a bar for almost anything. I like to build a lot of things with chocolate. It's pretty much a daily thing with me. Can you tell?
Now, call me weak, but there's no way I'm walking past an open bag of chocolate chips, clean or not, without grabbing at least a small handful. I have a teen who likes to make chocolate chip cookies regularly (and once won an award for his giant cookie). So, imagine my surprise when I walked past the kitchen one day and grabbed a handful of regular "store" brand chocolate chips. Clearly those were bought in an emergency. Similar to a fine wine drinker....my chocolate trained palate knew immediately that there was no cocoa butter and the texture was grainy. Of course, most "clean" chocolate chips come at fine wine prices. Sigh.
So let's start with this scenario: You're on a budget (me) or you have a bottomless pit teenager (me), and generally buy chocolate chips in bulk (me)....the best and tastiest compromise I've found, is Costco's Kirkland 51% cocoa content chocolate chips. They're actually pretty clean, but they do contain soy lecithin. Argh!!! Stupid Soy! (Ingredients: Unsweetened chocolate, sugar, soy lecithin, and vanilla.) And, while it is definitely not Fair-Trade, Costco does seem to be somewhat responsible in it's cocoa sourcing.
That said, when I bake MY tiny healthy chocolate chip cookies, I use the more expensive healthy-er chocolate chips, but that's because unlike my son's cookie recipes, my recipes only need 30-60 grams. It's not so hard on the budget.
Healthy-er Chocolate Chips
Camino 72% cocoa content chocolate chips.
Organic Ingredients: Cacao Mass, Cane Sugar, Cacao Butter.
Canadian Company: Not only are Camino chocolate chips made with quality ingredients, they are also quite low in sugar...one teaspoon per 15 grams. Also comes in 55%.
Enjoy Life chocolate chips and chocolate chunks.
Ingredients: Brown Sugar, Cocoa Mass, Cocoa Butter
A family favorite....these also now come in DARK!!!! They are higher in sugar (5g per 15g) but are dairy-free, soy-free, and allergen-free chocolate chips!
The mini chips are great for getting tiny bits of chocolate in every bite. If you can't find them in your local stores, iHerb usually has them in stock.
Equal Exchange Organic 70% chocolate chips
I haven't tried these, but they look like a great choice: Organic Ingredients: Chocolate liquor, Raw cane sugar, Cocoa butter, Cocoa powder.
That's all I have for you. There's not a whole lot of clean chocolate chips out there. H
But here's a tip: If you can't find clean chocolate chips, just chop up a clean chocolate bar. Problem solved.
Healthy Cocoa Powder
Cocoa is pretty much....just cocoa. 100% unsweetened cocoa shouldn't have cheap fillers in it. Cocoa is made by removing most of the cocoa butter from the chocolate liquor, leaving about 10% fat.
You may notice that some cocoa is "Dutch Processed". This means the cocoa beans have been processed in an alkaline solution (potassium carbonate) to remove the acidity. Chocolate is similar to wine in that it has many different layers and flavors. "Dutching" targets the bitter flavors resulting in a smoother flavor, but it also destroys the beneficial flavanoids. Some of my recipes call for "Dutch" cocoa, therefore I buy both alkaline and non-alkaline cocoa.
Then there's raw cacao. It's made by cold-pressing unroasted cocoa beans, keeping the enzymes and more of the beneficial flavanoids. Realistically, baking defeats the purpose of buying raw cacao, but it could be a good choice for your raw recipes.
Look for 100% unsweetened cocoa powder . Purchase in bulk at your local health food store, or in tins like this NOW organic, non-alkaline cocoa.
Healthy Chocolate Baking Squares & Cacao Nibs
Baking squares are roasted and fermented cocoa beans that have been ground up, melted and molded into blocks. They're about 50/50 cocoa butter and cocoa solids and usually sugar-free.
Raw Cacao Nibs are probably the least processed form of chocolate. The beans are simply dried and fermented. Cacao nibs are crunchy, bitter and retain most of the beneficial properties of chocolate. I like adding them to my smoothies but that's about it.
What's the difference between cocoa and cacao? Cacao usually refers to the lesser processed forms of cocoa products.