Underappreciated cacao shines in Dark Chocolate Tahini Cups | Food and cooking

Oded Brenner is a modern-day Willy Wonka. In the 1990s, he co-created an international chocolate empire, Max Brenner Chocolate, that includes a 7,000-square-foot emporium on Broadway in New York City.

Brenner left that venture in 2012, and a few years later began exploring a different side of chocolate. A trip to Jamaica in 2015 ignited a passion for cacao, which is more than just the beans that are turned into chocolate.

Yield: 24 small “cups”

Brenner saw people making juice, liquor and flour from the cacao fruit and using the whole pod instead of just the beans. He was amazed at how little he knew about cacao, despite having worked in chocolate for 20 years.

“It is the most unknown fruit behind the most known fruit,” summed up Brenner.

Brenner told me that traditional chocolate production wastes most of the fruit. By contrast, he said, in Ecuador, they drink cacao water and eat the dried fruit of the pods.

“In fact, the entire pod is edible, but in our quest for the traditional chocolate, all of the other parts of the fruit are wasted,” he said.

Brenner now promotes the unsweetened fruit as having high antioxidant properties. The cacao fruit, he says, is packed with potassium, magnesium, iron and thiamine B1, among other things. The water is full of natural electrolytes.

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