Think Outside the (Chocolate) Box with Carob

Brooke Newberry
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Carob is promoted as a “chocolate replacement” or substitute for vegans or dieters.  Yes, they are similar: they both come from pods, they’re both brown, and they both can be melted.  They do not, however, have the same flavor or texture.  Pure carob is slightly malty, a bit sweeter and mellower; chocolate is richer and more bitter.  Let’s take a look at carob as its own ingredient, entity, and flavor, rather than as a chocolate substitute.  Because basically anything compared to chocolate will lose in the game of pure ecstasy. 

Carob powder comes from the pod of the Mediterranean carob tree. The pod is seeded and then the fruit pulp is dried, roasted, and ground to a fine powder that resembles that of cocoa powder.  The prettily packaged carob chips we see at health food stores are made with starter carob powder, just like chocolate chips are made from their own cocoa powder.  Carob chips have an earthy, soft flavor, and are processed sweetened and unsweetened.

If used in desserts as a straight stand-in for chocolate, carob might prove to be disappointing.  Don’t try baking all-carob brownies.  However, working a carob component in with your chocolate will bring complexity to chocolate desserts.  Carob is most delicious in desserts, breakfast, and snack items with a savory element to them – like vegetable breads.  In contrast, carob’s unique roasted flavor also adds depth and sweetness to mealtime dishes like black beans, homemade chilis, enchiladas with mole sauces, and darker, bitter barbecue sauces.  We also really like the idea of an all-carob hot chocolate made with honey and cardamom.

Buy: Find carob chips and carob powder in the baking section of natural foods stores, in unsweetened and sweetened form.

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