Chocolate Bark Recipes With Coconut Oil and Agave Nectar
The Joy of Chocolate Bark
Chocolate bark is a delicious treat. It's very easy to make at home using just three ingredients - coconut oil, cocoa and a sweetener. Replacing some of the coconut oil with nut butter is a tasty variation that I often use. Dried fruit, nuts, seeds, spices and extracts can be added to create a wide range of flavors. The addition of protein powder provides extra nutrition, although it softens the texture of the bark.
Coconut oil is a great basis for homemade chocolate bark because it's a solid at room temperature but becomes liquid when heated. If coconut oil is softened or melted, other ingredients can be stirred into it. When the mixture is cooled in a refrigerator or freezer it becomes a solid again and can be broken into pieces.
Agave nectar is a good sweetener to use in chocolate bark since it has a low glycemic index, which means that it doesn’t cause a spike in blood sugar. Raw agave nectar also has a pleasant toffee-like taste.
Saturated Fats in Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, which is unusual for a plant oil. (Palm oil is another plant oil that is high in fat.) Many people working in the area of nutrition - but not all of them - say that saturated fat from coconut oil is just as bad for us as saturated fat from animals.
The saturated fat in food obtained from animals increases the blood level of LDL cholesterol, the so-called "bad" cholesterol that increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The current thinking of most nutritionists is that we don’t need to eliminate saturated fat from our diet but that we should limit it. They say that unsaturated fats should make up the larger portion of our dietary fat and hydrogenated or trans fats should be avoided.
Interestingly, some nutrition researchers are now saying that perhaps coconut oil is not as bad for us as many nutritionists think. Saturated fats in humans and animals consist mainly of long-chain fatty acids. Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain fatty acids, however. Medium-chain fatty acids may affect our bodies differently from long-chain fatty acids.
Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
There's still a lot that needs to be discovered about the ways in which coconut oil affects our bodies. Some people make wonderful claims about the oil's benefits. For example, they say that coconut oil is antimicrobial inside the human body and that it causes weight loss by stimulating the thyroid gland. At the moment there is no evidence for these claims that is accepted by the majority of scientists.
To complicate the analysis of research concerning coconut oil and human health, refined coconut oil consumption may produce different results from unrefined oil consumption. It will be interesting to see what researchers discover about coconut oil and health in the future.
Melting Coconut Oil
It’s important to use virgin, unrefined coconut oil if you want to obtain the full aroma and flavor of the oil in a recipe. Unrefined coconut oil melts at 76°F (24°C), so on a hot day you may find that the oil is already in a liquid form.
If the oil is still solid when you need to use it, it should be melted with a gentle heat. This can be done by sitting a container of coconut oil above a container of warm water, heating the oil gently in a double boiler, heating it briefly in a saucepan at the lowest setting on an oven burner or microwaving it for a short time at a low setting.
Chocolate Bark Tips
A liquid chocolate bark mixture solidifies quickly in the freezer, especially if the container is placed in the freezer for about ten minutes before being used. Once it's been made, the bark needs to be stored in the refrigerator to maintain its consistency.
Many people eat the bark as soon as it's solid, but you may find that at this stage it has an oily background taste, especially if no nut butter is used in the recipe. In addition, handling the bark so soon after it's made may leave an oily residue on the skin, which I find unappealing. If you leave the bark in the refrigerator overnight, the oily taste and residue will disappear and the full deliciousness of the chocolate will develop.
Adding a small amount of nut butter to the coconut oil makes the bark very creamy and tasty. The nut butter does soften the texture of the bark slightly, though. If you want to make traditional chocolate bark that snaps loudly as you break it you will need to leave out the nut butter.
Another nice addition to the mixture is vanilla protein powder, which creates soft chocolate dessert bars rather than hard chocolate bark. I nearly always add nut butter to the coconut oil and I sometimes add a vanilla whey protein powder as well. Vegan protein powders are available for people who would prefer them.
Ingredients for Chocolate Bark
- 4 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons smooth nut butter
- 2 tablespoons of cocoa
- 1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon of agave nectar
- Melt the coconut oil if it's in its solid form, as described above. Warm oil is fine to use, but it shouldn't be very hot.
- Stir the nut butter, cocoa, and agave nectar together.
- Gradually pour the liquid coconut oil into the above mixture, stirring as you go.
- Pour the chocolate mixture into a freezer-safe eight inch by four inch loaf pan or another container. The container should be lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper. I prefer to use recyclable aluminum foil and unbleached parchment paper.
- The mixture doesn't need to cover the entire bottom of the container or have a neat shape. Chocolate bark traditionally consists of irregular and jagged pieces.
- Place the chocolate bark container in the freezer on an even surface for at least fifteen minutes so that it solidifies.
- Remove the slab of bark from its container and break it into pieces by hand.
- Optional - store the bark in the refrigerator until the next day for the best result.
If you want to omit the nut butter in the above recipe, add the cocoa and agave nectar to 1/2 cup (six tablespoons) of coconut oil.
The video below shows how to make pecan cranberry chocolate bark with coconut oil. It produces a larger quantity of bark than my recipe but takes longer to make.
Pecan Cranberry Chocolate Bark Recipe
The basic recipe for chocolate bark can be varied in the following ways.
- Add one tablespoon or more of chopped dried fruit, chopped nuts, seeds or finely shredded coconut. These ingredients can be stirred into the bark mixture or sprinkled on its surface before it solidifies.
- Add one quarter teaspoon (or more to taste) of a ground spice.
- Add one quarter teaspoon (or more to taste) of an essence.
- Add one tablespoon of protein powder to the mixture.
The oil, salt or sugar content of the nut butter and the use of a different sweetener - especially if it's a solid instead of a liquid - may affect the results of the recipe. In addition, some spices and essences may require more sweetener than others. Fortunately, experimentation is fun and the bark is quick to make. It's probably best to begin with a basic three or four ingredient bark, though.
To make a larger quantity of bark, increase the amount of each ingredient in the above recipe but keep the amounts in the same proportions (unless you want to experiment with the ratios). If the proportion of nut butter is increased, the bark will be softer and will take longer to solidify.
Chocolate Bark Made With Solid Coconut Oil
It's not essential to melt coconut oil in order to make chocolate bark. I got the "rustic' texture of the bark in the photo above by mashing the ingredients together at room temperature without melting the oil. This is a good technique to use if you have only a small amount of bark to make, as in my recipe. It's also useful if you don't want to take the time to melt the oil and mix it with nut butter and if you don't care about getting a smooth surface on the bark. The chocolate tastes the same, whichever method is used to make it.
The following video describes how to use coconut oil to make chocolate instead of chocolate bark. Apart from the different thicknesses and shapes of the pieces, the two products are similar.
Coconut Oil Chocolate Recipe
Do you use coconut oil in your kitchen?
Coconut Oil in the Kitchen
Coconut oil and protein powder are quite expensive, but if they're used in small quantities a container of each product lasts a long time. The oil doesn't need to be stored in the refrigerator, although it should be kept out of direct sunlight. Coconut oil sellers say that the unrefined oil will stay in good condition for at least a year and a half.
Coconut oil is good for baking because it adds a nice flavor and a moist texture to foods. It's also good for cooking because it has a high smoke point. The oil isn't damaged even when it's used to cook foods at high temperatures.
I don't make chocolate bark very often, but it's very enjoyable to eat when I do. Interesting tastes can be created by adding different types of nut butter, dried fruit and seeds, various spices, extracts such as vanilla, peppermint or almond and different flavors of protein powder. Chocolate bark with coconut oil and nut butter is a lovely treat.
© 2012 Linda Crampton