For me, nothing compares to the dedication and ingenuity of a homemade DIY Christmas Gift. The reducing, reusing and repurposing helps lessen our environmental footprint during this season of excess. Some take advantage of their handy nature, while others zone in on their crafty skills, but for me, I often gift edible Christmas presents which has included Peanut Butter Energy Balls or Toasted Muesli In a Jar in the past. This Medicinal Dark Vegan Chocolate Bark Made Three Ways is made using maple syrup and real cocoa butter for the authentic chocolate taste. Some of my favourite flavour combinations for this Chocolate Bark include Peppermint and Toasted Coconut, Cherries and Toasted Almonds, and Coffee and Cacao Nibs. This Christmas I’ve also added a little medicine (or some may say magic) to this bark for a truly healthy start to the New Year.
“Medicinal Mushrooms are on the frontier of natural and traditional medicine. Reishi and Cordyceps are two fungi with well-studied health-supportive properties including anti-viral and immune-boosting.”
This year after learning more about the natural medicines found in herbs, plants and mushrooms, I was able to truly appreciate the medicinal offerings of mushrooms after attending a weekend course by a renowned Mycologist and Herbalist Robert Rogers (see Chaga Turmeric Golden Mylk Latte). Chaga mushroom tea is something I enjoy almost daily and this Christmas I wanted to share a little piece of Mushroom Medicine with friends and family. To do this I used CocoCeps Organic Dark Cocoa Powder which contains the mycelium of Cordyceps and Reishi. I also used CafeCeps Organic Coffee which has the same mushroom properties.
Cordyceps have been well studied for their effects on strengthening the immune system, as well as potential anti-tumour properties. There is some evidence that they may be helpful as an adjunctive therapy for Chronic Kidney Disease. Both the fruiting body and mycelium have shown to express the beneficial properties; the combination of the two has shown strong hypoglycemic activity with lowered cholesterol and triglycerides in mice studies.
Reishi generally needs no introduction and is utilized mainly for its immune-enhancing, anti-tumour and antiviral properties. Previously it was argued that the main medicinal compounds are found only in the fruiting body, but recent research over the last two decades has suggested that the mycelium also contains some valuable compounds, though different from the fruiting body. For full access to all the beneficial compounds found in Medicinal Mushrooms include some mycelium, as well as another product made up of fruiting body (i.e. Chaga Tea). It is important to note that when sourcing mushrooms, always purchase organic. Mushrooms porous nature ensures they easily absorb any pesticides and fungicides. As organic standards can vary internationally opt for products grown in North America -CafeCeps and CocoCeps are cultivated and grown in the USA and certified organic.
Along with using some Medicinal Mushroom infused cacao, another aspect that sets this Dark Vegan Chocolate Bark apart from others is that it uses traditional chocolate ingredients. Traditional chocolate is made from blending the whole cacao beans into a paste and then adding sugar (and milk products if desired). It is extremely difficult to purchase whole cacao beans, cacao nibs are the closest thing I’ve found, and you require a good quality food processor to grind the beans down into a smooth usable paste. Cacao beans are made up of ~50% cacao butter, so for a simple DIY chocolate purchase cacao butter and cacao powder and blend it at a 1:1 ratio. Cacao butter also has a low melting point and is extremely stable, making it a better option then using coconut oil in your chocolate bark if you plan on keeping it out of the fridge. It is also important that any chocolate is sourced ethically (see post Ethical Chocolate Brownie), and purchasing Fair Trade ensures this.
The quantity of sugar (or maple syrup in this case) determines how dark the chocolate is. This recipe by weight is 15% sugar, making it an 85% dark chocolate. By decreasing the maple syrup to 2 tablespoons per batch this would result in a 90% dark chocolate. For a non-vegan Chocolate Bark you could also use honey.
Not everyone is on board with DIY Christmas gifts and this becomes evident when you try and step foot into a shopping mall at this time of year. During this busy time, I especially like to take advantage of online shopping. For this year’s DIY Edible Christmas Gift I used iHerb to purchase my ingredients. iHerb is great because they carry over 35,000 products. When searching for sugar-free dried fruit, I found Freeze Dried Cherries which taste excellent in this bark. I was also able to purchase an organic Peppermint Essential Oil that can be used internally. iHerb also ships to over 150 countries and provides support in 10 different languages. To spread the love iHerb is offering new customers a special offer (see here).
Medicinal Mushroom Dark Chocolate Bark Three Ways [Vegan, GF]
- 3 cups CocoCeps Organic Dark Cacao Powder with Reishi and Cordyceps, Madre Labs
- 3 cups Organic Cacao Butter, Earth Circle melted
- 9 tbsp Maple Syrup
- 1 1/2 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
Peppermint and Toasted Coconut
- 15 drops Organic Peppermint Essential Oil, Now Foods
- 1/4 cup Shredded Coconut toasted*
Cherry and Toasted Almonds
- 1/2 cup Freeze Dried Cherries (or dried cherries)
- 1/4 cup Raw Slivered Almonds, Bergin Fruit and Nut Company toasted**
Coffee and Cacao Nibs
- First, prepare 3 small baking trays by lining them with parchment paper.
- To prepare the chocolate base, melt the Cacao Butter in a saucepan over low heat. To make the Peppermint Chocolate Bark with Toasted Coconut combine 1 cup of Cacao Powder with 1 cup of the melted Cacao Butter in a bowl and stir until well combined. Add 3 tbsp maple syrup, 1/2 tsp vanilla and the Peppermint Oil at this point. Pour this mixture into your first baking tray, smoothing the mixture out with a spatula if needed. The chocolate should be about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Place in the freezer for 5 minutes to let it set slightly.
- Once the bark has set slightly add the toasted coconut. If you add this too early it will all sink to the bottom. Now place the tray back in the freezer and let set for at least 30 minutes.
- To make the Cherry and Toasted Almond repeat step 2, combining 1 cup of Cacao Powder with 1 cup of the Cacao Butter, 3 tbsp maple syrup and 1/2 tsp vanilla. Once it has set for 5 minutes in the freezer add the toppings.
- To make the Coffee and Cacao Nibs Chocolate Bark repeat step 2, and this time adding the Instant Coffee in with the Cacao Powder, mixing it with the remaining wet ingredients until well combined. After letting it set in the freezer for 5 minutes, add the Cacao Nibs.
- Once all three barks have set in the freezer and are firm to touch, break into pieces. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge.
Rachel Dickens, The Conscious Dietitian, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She graduated with her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2010 from Griffith University. She strives to provide evidence-based nutrition information with a focus on plant-based nutrition, and share some of her favourite seasonal recipes and sustainable eating tips.