Tis Season, Make Your Hot Chocolate a ‘Sacred Cacao Ceremony’
It’s sweater weather season (f)all over again and an legitimate excuse for cradling pint-sized mugs of hot chocolate, mulled wine and hot toddies. Let’s pause the sleigh ride on the note of the hot chocolate ritual. Over the past few years, seekers — of spiritual enlightenment, and of more ordinary highs — have revived ancient Mayan rites of the cacao bean and re-interpreted them into contemporary culture. Sacred cacao ceremonies are popular with New Agers in Los Angeles, New York and London, in which shamans harness the native intelligence of cacao as medicine for spiritual healing. This is known as plant-spirit-medicine. With shamanic music in the background, participants are invited to set intentions, imbibe a spiced cacao drink and dance. Participants often report experiencing profound openings of the heart, transformative insights, ability to release negative thought patterns, and a beautiful initiation and connection to the natural world of plant spirit wisdom. Scientifically, we know that cacao contains certain active ingredients such as serotonin that help release ‘feel good’ emotions.
Whether or not you believe in such woo-woo, there is undeniable benefits and enjoyment to slowing down and conducting your own personal cacao ceremony. Try setting the mood with lighted candles, burning frankincense, vibrational soul music (at 432 Hz) and a pen and paper to jot your thoughts while sipping on this sultry tonic elixir.
In my reflective and creative reverie, I daydreamed of marshmallow-decked hot chocolate and lavishly-spiced gingerbread men, which later evolved into a merged vision of gingerbread-shaped marshmallows in hot chocolate. Perhaps this may have been unconsciously inspired by Marshmello & Anne-Marie F-R-I-E-N-D-S playing on loop in the background. With an unrelenting determination as feisty as Dasher and Dancer, I set off to realise my vision.
The Chemistry of Marshmallows
The original marshmallow was made from the gummy sap of the root of the marsh mallow plant, Althaea officinalis. The modern version however, is based only on protein (gelatin) and sugar (corn syrup). Chemically, a marshmallow can be defined as a re-structured network of protein bonds and air molecules stabilised sugar molecules. Aquafaba, the water from beans (typically chickpeas), can be used as a protein substitute to gelatin in vegetarian / vegan marshmallows. The hot syrup breaks the original protein bonds in aquafaba while air in being beaten in. As the aquafaba and sugar syrup cools, the protein bonds re-form with the hydrophilic ends being attracted to water in the syrup and the hydrophobic ends are repelled and attracted to the air pockets. Eventually, the result is a sticky, spongy mess we recognise as marshmallow.
Marshmallows can cause a sticky situation if you are not prepared. To avoid the quicksand, you have to have all your equipment ready (mise en place) and work quickly if you want them to turn out well.
- 160 g (2/3 cup) almond milk
- 80 g (1/3 cup) filtered water
- 9 g (1 1/2 tbsp) raw cacao powder
- 5 g (1/2 tbsp) raw cacao butter, melted
- 5 g (1/2 tbsp) coconut sugar
- 1/2 tsp Darth Force Superfood Blend or chaga powder
- Pinch Himalayan salt
- 60 g (1/4 cup) aquafaba (bean water)
- 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
- 1/4 tsp lemon juice
- 6 g (1/2 tbsp) raw cane sugar, powdered in a spice grinder
- 160 g (2/3 cup) maple syrup
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 60 g (1/4 cup) filtered water
- 1 tsp agar powder
- Pinch Himalayan salt
- Tapioca starch, for dusting
- Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend on high speed for 5 minutes until hot. Alternatively, place all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer whisking continually so that the ingredients are well-dissolved and emulsified. Pour into mugs and garnish with gingerbread man marshmallows and chocolate sauce.
- Line a square cake pan and dust generously with tapioca starch. Have ready your thermomix with butterfly whisk attached and two small saucepans with the respective ingredients inside (see Ingredients section).
- In the thermomix bowl, place the aquafaba, xanthan gum and lemon juice. Beat for 3 minutes / speed 3.5 until fluffy. Add in the powdered sugar and continue to beat for 1 minute until glossy and full.
- Meanwhile as the thermomix is operating, bring Saucepan A (maple syrup and vanilla extract) to a hard boil at firm ball temperature (115-120 °C). Use a candy or infrared thermometer to check the temperature. Once the temperature is reached, remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately stream in the hot maple syrup gradually into the aquafaba mixture with the butterfly whisk running.
- Immediately, bring Saucepan B (filtered water, agar powder and salt) to a low boil to dissolve the agar powder. Simmer for 1-2 minutes until the mixture thickens and turns translucent. Stream in the hot agar mixture gradually into the aquafaba mixture with the butterfly whisk running. Continue beating for 5 minutes / speed 3.5 until the mixture cools down.
- Pour the marshmallow into the prepared pan. Working quickly, use an angled spatula to smooth out the marshmallow. Use a sieve and dust the surface with more tapioca starch. Place the pan in the refrigerator and allow to set for at least two hours or overnight.
- When set, unmold the marshmallow from the pan. Cut the marshmallow into your desired shape (e.g. for gingerbread man marshmallows, use a gingerbread cookie cutter). Store marshmallows in the freezer.
- You may use a stand mixer for beating the aquafaba in place of a Thermomix.