I have loved good food and enjoyed cooking for as long as I can remember. I bought my first cookbook when I was in second grade and found my way into the kitchen as often as I could. As a child, I helped my father in the garden – watering plants and vines, and watching miracles happen. I come from a large Italian-American family with 28 first cousins (on one side of the family!) where sit-down holiday dinners for 100 people are the norm. Some of my fondest memories are of family gatherings – both large and small – with long tables full of bowls and platters piled high, the laughter of my cousins echoing and the comfort of tradition warming my soul.
Fresh herbs are something of an unsung hero in cooking. Regularly destined to overgrown pots on porches or left withering on grocery produce shelves (or worse, your fridge), herbs are all too often overlooked, avoided or simply forgotten.
We've often discussed Goldenberries and their remarkable nutrition – namely, high levels of immune-boosting vitamins, as well as their stores of anti-inflammatory antioxidants. But what often gets passed by is just how incredible Goldenberries are to cook with and use in recipes. The reason behind this frequent oversight is simple: Goldenberries are delicious as is! And yet, if you can suppress your urge to eat your entire Goldenberry stash right away, the culinary rewards are truly great.
If you're lucky, around spring and summer, you may see fresh Goldenberries pop up in Farmers' Markets and select natural food stores. They're hard to miss: wrapped inside a natural papery husk, each Goldenberry sits like a prized pearl, shiny and smooth, with a bright golden-orange hue reminiscent of an egg yolk. Bite into the berry and you'll enjoy a pop of mildly sweet, citrusy flavor that ranges from floral to lemon to honey to grapefruit. Due to their scarcity and expense, these fresh berries are usually reserved for special occasions or as a singular ornament for desserts.
When sun-dried, Goldenberries become an entirely different beast. As with anything dried, the flavors deeply condense, dramatizing the already not-shy flavor of the Goldenberry. Like a sweet and sour candy, Goldenberries explode on the palate, with each chew bring a new swash of zesty flavor. In many kitchens, foods as powerful as the Goldenberry are often reserved for the spice department, but because of Goldenberry's sweetness, you can get away with adding them to many types of recipes, instantly enlivening your entire dish with a sophisticated and exciting edge. Here are some of my favorite ways to use dried Goldenberries in cooking:
- Minced and added to a chutney
- Simmered into a jam
- Blended or macerated into cocktails
- Blended into dipping sauces and glazes for proteins and starches
- Tossed into sweet and savory salads
- Cooked with rice or grains
- Combined with creamy desserts
Just remember that adding a handful of Goldenberries to your dishes has an amazing way of instantly elevating your entire meal. How will you use your next batch of dried Goldenberries?
There's often a bit of confusion around Cacao Butter, making it the most asked-about product of the Navitas Organics Cacao product line! Yet, once you become familiar with the potential of Cacao Butter, it's hard not to become truly enamored.
Right from the start, Cacao Butter is a bit of a misnomer. There's no butter or dairy in Cacao Butter, nor is Cacao Butter particularly buttery in flavor. Rather, Cacao Butter is technically an oil. Traditionally, when making chocolate, peeled Cacao Beans are crushed into Nibs, and then pressed and ground with very high pressure. This process creates two products: the dry, brown, powdery Cacao "cake," otherwise known as Cacao Powder, and the pure Cacao fat, otherwise known as Cacao Butter. Cacao Butter looks like a golden-hued oil when melted at low heat, and hardens into a cream-colored solid when cooled to room temperature. Cacao Butter is the reason why your chocolate bars taste so smooth, and why the chocolate chips in cookies are hard to the touch, but melt in your mouth.
Chocolate makers will recombine the Cacao Powder and Cacao Butter, along with other ingredients, to better control flavor and generate a more velvety texture in their chocolates. But to really put Cacao Butter to use, it's important to fully understand its three main properties:
1. Cacao Butter has very little chocolate flavor.
Interestingly, Cacao Butter's chocolaty aroma is greater than the flavor it actually provides, which is only a hint. It serves well as a background flavor, and mostly adds richness to recipes.
2. Cacao Butter melts very easily over low heat.
Cacao Butter is too hard to use in its solid state and must be melted before being added to a recipe to incorporate it. Luckily, this is an easy process! Simply use a chef's knife to finely chop your Cacao Butter, and add to a small sauté pan over the lowest heat. The Cacao Butter will fully melt within just a couple minutes, and you should remove it as soon as the last bits of white disappear to avoid burning (Cacao Butter has a low smoke point). For best results, use a silicone spatula to effectively gather every last drop of the Cacao butter from the pan to avoid wasting any!
3. Cacao Butter will always return to its hardened state when cooled.
Just because you've melted the Cacao Butter, doesn't mean it will stay that way! Cacao Butter will slowly re-solidify at room temperature, and can be more rapidly hardened in the refrigerator or freezer. (In fact, you can transform the Cacao Butter from liquid to solid form back and forth indefinitely.) Because of this hardening property, melted Cacao Butter needs to be thoroughly incorporated into recipes to avoid forming solid chunks or veins of hard fat, and should be added to room temperature or warmer ingredients.
Now for the fun part: how to use Cacao Butter! Cacao Butter is absolutely fantastic in all kinds of desserts, whether they are chocolate-themed or not! Use melted Cacao Butter in the place of other kinds of oil, margarine or dairy butter in recipes like cookies, brownies and cakes for a subtle chocolate innuendo (for best results, use a partial substitute only, keeping in mind that Cacao Butter will continue to firm up the recipe a little after cooking).