Hot Chocolate, The Dominican Way - The Vegetarian Who Loves Bacon Blog at - 114551

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Hot Chocolate, The Dominican Way 
Jul. 22, 2009 7:31 am 
Updated: Sep. 3, 2014 12:32 pm
Have you ever made hot chocolate? I mean real hot chocolate, no packets of chocolate-flavored powder or hot water involved?
I recently spent a few weeks in the Dominican Republic, and how to make real hot chocolate was one of the things I learned while I was there. Being that it was nearly 100-degree weather, one might ask why we were making hot chocolate. My best answer? When nature gives you cacao trees, you make chocolate! (The Dominican Republic is one of the world’s chief producers of chocolate; the trees flourish under the shade of larger trees and in the warm, tropical environment.)
We had a jump start on the process by using cacao beans that had already been harvested out of their fruit-like pod and dried in the sun. After making a nice fire and heating up the large steel roasting pot, the dried cacao beans were added to the pot. (Ripe pods of cacao are typically dried from three to seven days outside in the sun before they are roasted.)
The beans are then constantly stirred over the fire for 20-30 minutes, roasting them until they are crackling and crisp, but not burnt. A large wooden spoon is best for this task because that fire gets hot!
The beans are then transferred to a large pan where they are cooled. You’ll have to shell these suckers by hand, so for the sake of your fingers, make sure they’re just warm to the touch so you still have fingerprints at the end of the day. This is also the messiest part of the process. The thin paper-like shells come off easily, but also leave your fingers black and sooty.
This is where you sneak in a bean or two to see what they taste like. Still warm, they were toasty and crunchy bites of dark chocolate goodness. If you like bitter dark chocolate, you’d love freshly roasted beans. To me, they were so dark and bitter they tasted a little bit like coffee!
Now it’s time to break up the beans. We poured the shelled beans into a large wood mortar, and used a pestle larger than a baseball bat to crush the pieces. This was not for the faint of heart; it was a good 20 minutes of constant work. Several of us took turns with the pestle! About the time when the beans resemble a large, oily brown mush, you’re almost ready.
While this mush might look and smell good, it’s very bitter. We used raw sugar from sugar canes that had been ground earlier in the same mortar and pestle. To the eye though, it looked just liked powdered sugar. Slowly mix in sugar and continue mashing the mixture together, taking time to stir the mixture from the sides of the mortar every few minutes. Once you get your desired sweetness, you’re almost done. (If you’re just making chocolate, adding in sugar, flavorings or milk will yield the flavor of chocolate you desire. We simply divided the chocolate paste into small bags to take home!)
We then put the large pot over the fire again, and poured in fresh cow’s milk. Dominican cinnamon and vanilla were added to the milk, as was a large amount of the chocolate mixture. Stirring constantly, this was brought to a slow boil. It is then removed from the heat, and the hot chocolate is poured through a strainer to remove the large grains of chocolate.
Then you just pour the hot chocolate into mugs, and enjoy! Sipping on a mug of the freshest hot chocolate I’ve ever had was definitely a treat I’ll never forget!
A cacao pod when it's ripe
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Roasting the cacao beans
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Cooling the cacao beans
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Grinding the beans
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Almost there!
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Milk with the chocolate added
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Straining the ground cacao and cinnamon
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The freshest cup of hot chocolate!
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Jul. 22, 2009 7:49 am
Wow Jenny What an Adventure! So Cool! That kind of experience you can't get in any tour guide book that is for sure. Very interesting. We take things like chocolate for granted, not realizing how difficult it is to get it from the plant to the cup and what's involved. Makes you stop and think, doesn't it? The cacao pod is very funny looking.Thanks for sharing your trip with us! Have a good day! Patty
Jul. 22, 2009 8:50 am
How cool is that~~I never knew so much went in to making hot chocolate. What an eye opening adventure that must have been. I will not look at my sad little can of SwissvMiss the same ever again.
Jul. 22, 2009 9:05 am
Wow, Jenny! I love hearing about your adventures! So cool...I now have the taste for a really good hot chocolate, heat be damned!
Jul. 22, 2009 9:09 am
Mmm, with some low clouds hanging in the air this morning, that cup of hot chocolate sounds very good right now! Great post!
Jul. 22, 2009 9:14 am
What a great story!
Jul. 22, 2009 11:17 am
As someone who loves chocolate, this truly made me appreciate how much work making chocolate can be. I also understand why good chocolate can be so expensive! And with the air conditioning at work, I could really go for a hot cup right now too!
Jul. 23, 2009 3:46 pm
We take our conveniences for granted, don't we. Thanks for the interesting blog. I'm looking forward to reading more of your adventures.
Jul. 23, 2009 9:28 pm
Best thing I've read all day!
Jul. 23, 2009 10:16 pm
Jenny, You sound like a really sweet daughter cooking such special things for your Mom and especially your Dad. Thanks for the pictures of the Dominican. Isn't it a wonderful place? I thought the cocoa beans tasted like bitter coffee too. Thanks for sharing and keep up the great cooking. The story about the chicken thighs is funny. It's something to laugh about for years to come. Happy recipe hunting from a recipe hunter in St Louis.
Jul. 24, 2009 9:26 am
What a neat experience. I lived there 3 times & never did that. Was this part of an agri- or eco-tourism package, or did you seek it out on your own?
Jul. 25, 2009 7:32 am
Thanks so much for sharing that adventure! I think you are one blessed girl to enjoy fresh hot chocolate that you helped to make.I really enjoyed the blog.
Jul. 25, 2009 11:21 am
I remember doing this with my grandmother in Haiti. Instead of doing this process everytime, she'd make little sticks of pure chocolate that we can break off and add to boiling milk to enjoy. Yum, yum, yum! Greasy, lol... but yummy.
Lost in the Pantry 
Jul. 26, 2009 8:24 am
The same as homemade Mexican chocolate. Most people just buy the wafers now, but I have an old recipe on how to make your own chocolate w/ roasted cocoa beans, ground on a hot metate, starting w/ 1.5 lbs of Tabasco cocoa beans, 10 oz. Maracaibo cocoa beans...and so on. Too much work for me! I just buy the wafers which include the vanilla (sometimes cinnamon) and sugar. Not perfect, but close enough.
Lost in the Pantry 
Jul. 26, 2009 8:27 am
oh, and you're absolutely right - there is absolutely nothing like REAL hot chocolate. Thanks for reminding me!
Jul. 26, 2009 10:21 am
wow that is so amazing! i would love to try that! i bet that was the most delicous hot chocolate in the world! :)
Jul. 26, 2009 11:24 am
That is so awesome! It sounds like you had quite an adventure. Good for yoU!
Jul. 26, 2009 1:55 pm
Anthony Bourdain, MOVE OVER! I thought Anthony Bourdain (writer) of the Travel Channel offered the most authentic travels and local food on TV . . . but Jenny, your blog is just as interesting and authentic, like peeking behind the curtain to see the REAL Dominican Republic. Thanks!
Jul. 26, 2009 4:18 pm
Jenny, We have vacationed in Punta Cana, Dominican Rep numberous times and none of the side trips we have taken offer making hot chocolate. We are going to Punta Cana in Feb. 2010. How did you get to do this? And what is the organization you are working with for your 3 day trip? Sounds like something I'd be interested in. Can you fill me in? I just found your story today, so I may have missed your previous blogs about this trip. Thanks, Sitnsew
Jul. 26, 2009 7:25 pm
I'm very jealous. I grew up in the Dominican Republic as a missionary kid, and we used to have the best hot chocolate for breakfast during summer camps, and it definitely didn't matter that the weather was warm. Hot chocolate here just isn't the same. I also like the cinnamon and vanilla in there. I miss Dominican chocolate...even the candy bars in the states aren't as good. Did you have any Rocky Kids or Crachi bars while you were there? They also have better chocolate milk (Choco Rica brand). It's thicker and more chocolately. Oh, how much I miss it.
Jul. 27, 2009 10:24 am
Oh, wow. What a great experience! Thanks for sharing your photos and stories.
Jul. 27, 2009 1:26 pm
Thank you for all the great comments! For sitnsew: You can find great volunteer opportunities abroad at! jfaul: I never got to try those chocolates! Hopefully I get to go back again!
Jul. 28, 2009 7:22 am
Dear Jenny: I was so pleased to read about the Dominican way to make Hot Chocolate. We live in Huntsville, Ontario, Canada and really enjoy Hot Chocolate in cold, snowy Canadian winters. I read through your profile and had a mother who did not believe in giving spices to small children -- so I know how to make Chili Con Carne without any spices. It is great fun to share recipes. Thank you kindly.
Jul. 28, 2009 9:47 am
This is so true! I am married to a Dominican here in the US and I can't tell you what goes into him making a cup of hot chocolate. First a pot is brought out (I would have never used a pot for this). I always used the packets. Then he brings out more spices and cinnamon sticks than you can shake a stick at. The Dominican way is definitely not Swiss Miss. He's got our daughters begging for it on cool days. They normally eat it w/bread and cheese.
Jul. 28, 2009 2:00 pm
What fun!! Thanks for sharing your adventure.
Jul. 31, 2009 4:10 pm
Just found this blog and what a story and I love the pictures. Being a chocolate lover all my life, I definately took chocolate for granted. Thank you for your adventure...
Mar. 16, 2010 12:09 pm
I just came across your blog-after finding the only recipe for pupusas on this website. I love the way you describe the whole process, it was very descriptive! I recently had the same opportunity to make hot chocolate from cacao beans in El Salvador(although we went to a molino to grind the beans; less labour intensive) and your post had me salivating over my memories. Cacao sure wasn't what I expected it to be, with the papery husks after it was toasted and the bitter, almost coffee-like flavour. A great experience! It's always good to know where your food comes from!
Mar. 9, 2011 11:06 am
Thank you so much for this blog entry! - I just was at a farm in the DR and brought the chocolate that was on sale home to the US (they were also growing it, and the pods were in the sun drying), it is great to have directions on how to make the hot chocolate to give with it as a gift!
Mar. 18, 2012 5:51 pm
Hi, We just got home from the Dominican Republic at 2AM this morning. We brought home some fresh cocoa. I plan to make hot cocoa tonight for my family. Thank you for posting this process. We were able to enjoy some cocoa on a farm in DR but I truly appreciate all the work that went into getting the cocoa to the table now.
Mar. 24, 2012 11:43 am
hey, i went to the dominican and i went out on an excursion with my hotel where we drove ATV's around and saw a bunch of things in the Dominican but i only bought powder from the store and it smells cool but i dont know how to make it did you do that?
Sep. 3, 2014 12:32 pm
Hi Jenny, I have a question for you. A friend who visited the Dominican Republic gave me a chunk of something in a packet labeled Chocal Chocolate de la Cuenca de Altimira. It is kind of hot dog shaped but shorter and thicker,and it is some kind of chocolate, kind of like compressed powder,what do you do with it. Could you email me? I would hate for it to go to waste! Thank you, Jerry.
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I love to cook and bake. I live to eat, not eat to live. I love eating out and trying new things! I’ve been a vegetarian for my whole life, but I do sneak the occasional slice of bacon or pepperoni.
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