Saturday, April 18, 2009

CACAO detsi…..enyo

In my attempts to find a recipe that the locals can use to transform their cacao harvest into a profitable delicacy, I decided to try another attempt at making some chocolate. Since a chocolate bar could never survive its shelf-life in this heat,I felt that it would be better to make a sauce or “detsi” as they call it in local language. This way, the jars of sauce could be conserved until consumed. (Note: it only takes about 3 Yovos 15 minutes to terminate the contents of one jars of this miracle elixir) Don't judge... we are deprived of such confections here.

Here in Togo, there are many “healers” selling concoctions of medications to cure anything from hernias to arthritis. There are herbs, elixirs, pomades and creams alike. All bottled and sold by the local “faith healer.” Although sodabi (local moonshine-palm wine) mixed with a certain bark, root or herb is known to be the choice “cure all” amongst the locals, I feel that with the right marketing tactics and promotional tag lines, I can convince them that eternal enlightenment and happiness lies in the very product they rush to get out of the country, cocoa. Why not make some of it available in the local market so you feel the lovin’ it brings to others around the world.

Although the majority of the health benefits of cocoa are found from noshing the raw, unprocessed nib (which I confirm is not that bad and although quite bitter, very stimulating)


Thus…the journey begins…from bean to bar (or bread in this matter)
I gathered the cacao beans from my farmers union, roasted them and then hulled to then take to the moulin (mill) for grinding down into a creamy paste. Since in previous attempts, I was unable to grind the beans down to the micron size of velvet chocolate liquor, I thought to give the good ole local mill a whirl. This method was much more efficient and it was wonderful that I was using local resources available to them. The chocolate beans went in the chute as the motor clamored away and out came a fudgy pulp in 5 minutes, for the bargain price of 20cents.
Taking cacao beans to a mill to be processed was not a common activity in my village.  Rice, corn, peanuts and millet of course but cocoa beans? Since it's not part of the daily staple, they head straight to the port for export.  Sight of this activity attracted a group of villagers who all began to comment on what I was doing. Most often in village, when you hear the word “yovo” (foreigner) sprinkled in conversations, esp. those in front of you, you know they are talking about you. I turned to my friend Yank and asked what all the gab was about and he began to recite their reactions to what I was doing. They were expressing sentiments on the fact that none of them have ever thought to figure out how to make chocolate from the cocoa bean. It’s the yovo who jumps in with curiosity and a desire to create that little delicacy unavailable in a land that produces the raw materials it is composed of. My desire to figure things out and make it for myself opened their eyes to intuition and experimentation.
Maybe a lack of fortitude on their part is all just from a lack of informative resources. Chocolate as a consumable is not common in the market (rare to be exact), and you can’t blame them for the lack of it's  promotional presence in their consumer culture. We grew up with TV and Mr. Wizard, culinary shows, Martha Stewart, and science fairs, then the internet appeared giving us home video promotions and how-tos on You-tube. Therefore, I took the initiative to share the knowledge of exploration and do it yourself prompts we are graced with.  Knowledge can be quite delicious at times.
After the mill, I stopped by the local boutique to find the remaining ingredients. For making chocolate one must use powdered milk and confectioner’s sugar (no liquids). Powdered milk is abundant here in the land of limited refrigeration therefore this shouldn’t be an issue. The only lacking ingredient which is only found in larger cities is honey and vanilla; therefore I made two different batches and made alterations to the recipe accordingly. 
Returning home, I began to fondue the chocolate in a double boiler and then add the other ingredients. For 1kilo of raw cacao nibs ground into chocolate liquor, I added the following ingredients (note; this is just an estimate since it was added little by little according to desired taste and consistency) I adjusted the recipe to make it more cost efficient and easier for the Togolese to create into a profitable elixir (hence the appearance of sweetened condensed milk in place of the more expensive powdered milk and honey)
1 kilo cacao beans transformed into chocolate liquor (makes 4 jars)
2 small cans of sweetened condensed milk (1 ½ C)
honey ~
cayenne pepper~ vanilla ~(optional)

After the desired mixture was complete I sterilized glass jars and filled them with the piping hot sauce. I then capped them and they sealed shut upon cooling. I returned to village that evening with the “cacao detsi” to put my new product to the test. I cut up little bits of sweet bread and offered taste tests of the samples to the locals. (One was spiced up with cayenne and became the quick favorite to many.) 
They were all a little apprehensive to try it at first, but those who had seen me earlier with the raw cacao beans let their curiosity lead them to “gouter” the food of the gods. (…Which brings me to another idea for its marketing scheme… add the notion of “dieu” (God) to the label and it’s an instant sale to the many spiritual villagers….hummm… “Detsi de Dieu” Sauce of God…perfect!)
And…it was a hit! I had many takers and in just minutes the bread was gone and the jar licked clean. I made the calculation and found that after all the cost of ingredients and labor they could find 30-40% revenue on the sale if they targeted the tourist population as well as other addicted locals. Hopefully in a matter of time you’ll be buying “Dieu’s Cacao Detsi” from Togo.

Mia du nu ("eat with me")…Bon Appétit!

Note: It’s addictive, and since I still have some jars left I haven’t been able to stop taking a lick of the good stuff. I am high on antioxidant flavonoids!  Ihave been in a good mood all day, even better when I found huge Mangos for sale…tis the season YO…ohh its heaven on earth here in Togo.

Here are some factoids I found on what cacao does for your health. I believe all that is said below since after eating a large breakfast of my “cacao detsi” smothered on bread with bananas I entered the day with sunshine and joy all around me…best cure all for depression! However my “mélange” has been altered to include sugar, honey, milk, and a bit of vanilla and cayenne. Therefore it may just have been a sugar high…

~Take note ladies and gents~
Antioxidants: Cacao has more antioxidant flavonoids than any food tested so far, including blueberries, red wine, and black and green teas. In fact, it has up to four times the quantity of antioxidants found in green tea. Health benefits of these antioxidants include:
Promote cardiovascular health - Help dilate bloods vessels, reduce blood clotting, improve circulation, help regulate heartbeat and blood pressure, lower LDL cholesterol, and reduce the risk of stroke and heart attacks.
Protect from environmental and metabolic toxins - Help repair and resist damage caused by free radicals, and may reduce risk of certain cancers.
Neurotransmitters: By increasing the levels of specific neurotransmitters in our brains, cacao promotes positive outlook, facilitates rejuvenation and simply helps us feel good.
Serotonin - Cacao raises the level of serotonin in the brain; thus acts as an anti-depressant, helps reduce PMS systems, and promotes a sense of well-being.
Endorphins - Cacao stimulates the secretion of endorphins, producing a pleasurable sensation similar to the “runner’s high” a jogger feels after running several miles.
Phenylethylamine - Found in chocolate, phenylethylamine is also created within the brain and released when we are in love. Acts as mild mood elevator and anti-depressant, and helps increase focus and alertness.
Anandamide - Anandamide is known as the “bliss chemical” because it is released by the brain when we are feeling great. Cacao contains both N-acylethanolamines, believed to temporarily increase the levels of anandamide in the brain, and enzyme inhibitors that slow its breakdown. Promotes relaxation, and helps us feel good longer.
Essential Minerals: Cacao beans are rich in a number of essential minerals, including magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese.
Magnesium - Cacao seems to be the #1 source of magnesium of any food. Magnesium balances brain chemistry, builds strong bones, and helps regulate heartbeat and blood pressure. Magnesium deficiency, present in 80% of Americans, is linked with PMT, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and joint problems.
Sulfur - Cacao is high in the beauty mineral sulfur. Sulfur builds strong nails and hair, promotes beautiful skin, detoxifies the liver, and supports healthy pancreas functioning.
Essential fats: There is a misperception that chocolate is fattening. In truth, the fats in cocoa butter are healthy fats. Cacao contains oleic acid, a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, also found in olive oil, which may raise good cholesterol. Also, substances found in cacao are known to help reduce appetite.

Important note- To fully benefit from chocolate’s wide array of nutrients, eat chocolate that is as close to its natural state as possible. Whole cacao beans and nibs are best. You lose many of the health benefits when you eat commercially produced chocolate.

1 comment:

Katherine said...

hey megan,

I know I've been super slack at keeping in touch. time seems to fly and I cannot believe you will have been in togo for 2 years this june!
It made me happy to hear that you're concocting chocolate in a jar over there and starting off your day with a little chocolate, bread and banana. looking forward to hearing about your many adventures before too long!

kitty