Otis got his first taste of “chocolate” this Easter, courtesy of the The Carob Kitchen egg that the Easter Bunny delivered, and ever since then, I’ve found myself being pestered for carob bears at the health food shop – you know the ones they display right at toddler eye height by the check out? I try not to refer to these – or the odd time we have ice cream or share a piece of cake together – as “special” food or “treats”, because they’re not either, they’re just food that we eat sometimes… and enjoy every delicious mouthful!
But goodness does he loves those carob bears! To be honest, I’m not a fan of the skim milk powder or soy lethicin they contain – skim milk powder is void of any of the vitamins and minerals found in regular milk, and dangerous oxidised cholesterol is formed during its processing, oh and it’s also been used to fatten pigs (enough said!). Soy is one of the most genetically modified foods and has one of the highest percentages of contamination by pesticides of any of our foods, and it also reduces thyroid function. So I figured I could/should make my own that were healthier, cheaper and would also result in a stash in the fridge that I could dip in to once Otis was asleep.
When it comes to chocolate, carob is a bit same-same-but-different. Made from dried and roasted carob pods, it has a sweeter taste and is less bitter than cacao, so requires less sweetener to be added to it. Carob contains fibre, antioxidants, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, and zinc, but the reason I prefer it for little people instead of chocolate is because it’s caffeine free. Caffeine is a stimulant and even though the amount of caffeine present in chocolate is low, it can cause sleep disturbances, nervousness, anxiety and a rapid heart rate. Caffeine is also a diuretic, which can cause your child to urinate more frequently. Most commercial chocolate also contains more sugar than cacao, and then there’s the high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated vegetable oils, soy lecithin, artificial flavoring and carrageenan that make the list of their undesirable ingredients.
Carob is also a great chocolate alternative for pregnant or breastfeeding mums who are avoiding caffeine or who have babies that don’t tolerate it well. I quite like the taste of it and so does Otis.
I used silicone koala moulds for the real chocolate bear experience but you could use any shaped moulds, patty pans or simply pour in to a lined baking dish, then break in to bark once set.
I’ve added peppermint oil here, but you could also try orange oil for a Jaffa version – just remember to use only a food-grade 100% pure essential oil. There’s nut butter in this recipe too – for some protein and a bit of fudgy texture – but you could easily omit this for a nut-free version or replace with seed butter.
Because they’re made with cacao butter (which you can buy at the health food store), they do stand up well in a lunch or snack box as long as it’s kept relatively cool. Keep them stored in the fridge or freezer… preferably towards the back, so they’re harder for you to keep reaching for!
Choc (Carob) Mint Bears
Makes: Approx. 24 bears – Prep time: 10 mins – Cool time: 10 mins
250g cacao butter
100g carob powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 drops peppermint oil (I use doTERRA)
2 Tbsp nut butter
- Arrange your chosen moulds on a flat tray and make room in the fridge or freezer for it go.
- Add 5cm of water to a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Then set a medium glass or ceramic mixing bowl on top, making sure it’s not touching the water (this creates a “double boiler”).
- To the mixing bowl, add finely chopped cocoa butter and let melt, approx. 2-3 minutes.
- Once melted, turn stove top off. Add carob powder, vanilla, peppermint oil and nut butter and use a whisk or wooden spoon to mix until thoroughly combined. Remove bowl and set on a flat surface (be careful not to put a hot glass bowl on a cold bench top – use a heatproof mat or chopping board.
- Taste and adjust flavor as needed – you may want to add a pinch of salt if these are for older kids or a couple more drops of peppermint oil.
- Pour carob mix into your chose moulds.
- Transfer moulds to the fridge or freezer to set – about 10 minutes.
- Enjoy straight from the fridge, freezer or at room temperature. Store leftovers in a well-sealed container in the fridge for 1 week, or in the freezer up to 1 month.