A short guide to enjoying chocolate in the summertime
by Kate Shaffer
It’s Wednesday—a rare middle-of-the-week work-from-home day—and I’m wandering around our apartment trying to ascertain which is the coolest room. It’s currently 93° on Portland’s East End, a block from the water. Yesterday our car thermometer registered an even 100° as we pulled into our driveway at 6:15pm.
I haven’t turned on the stove or oven for 48 hours. I have worn the same loose-fitting shift dress going on 4 days, and I straight up don’t care if the neighbors see me walking around the living room in my underwear.
The cats are splayed out like melted models in a Dali tableau; every time I look, they’re in a different spot, spreading like soft putty in an effort to optimize the cooling surface on their disloyally furry bodies. Their eyes follow me around the room accusingly, as if they know that Steve and I seriously considered abandoning them to the heat and bunking down for the night in the air-conditioned chocolate factory. It should mean something that we decided against this. But they’re cats. So it means nothing.
And while Steve and I are fully prepared to survive on crispy iceberg lettuce, tiny cucumbers, and popsicles for the foreseeable future, crises such as these call inexorably for chocolate. So how does one both embrace the hot weather, AND also indulge in a chocolate-y treat with little or no cooking? Read on for a little guidance on how to keep calm and cocoa on.
TAKE IT OUTSIDE
Many Mainers stake their reputations on their ability to thrive in the great outdoors. Folks from the state that claims “Vacationland” on their license plates, are experts at outside fun—from summer camp to clambakes; back country hiking to car camping. But you don’t need to be a wilderness pro—or even in a campground—to toast a marshmallow over the flames of a dooryard fire pit or the backyard grill. S’mores—DIY sandwich cookies made from graham crackers, chocolate, and a warm, toasted marshmallow—are the go-to dessert for outdoors folk from Northern New England to the Pacific Northwest. All you need is a box of graham crackers, a bag of marshmallows, and a package of chocolate bars (Whoa! That’s a lot of gear!). Or, you can keep it clean, compact, and classy with one of our S’mores Camp Kits.
I designed these kits with sustainability and style in mind. Each kit is packed for two or four people (because what are you going to do with a gigantic bag of crappy grocery store marshmallows after the fun is over?). And each pair of graham crackers are sealed to keep them from going stale in the summer humidity; this way, you can use just what you need and not worry about an entire box of grahams expiring before your next S’more sesh. The stylish, plaid shirt-themed cardboard packaging is recyclable (or burnable), which reduces waste and prevents littering.
As with all of our confections, everything in the kits are made from scratch, and completely by hand. And whenever possible, I use organic or locally produced ingredients. The stone-ground sifted organic whole wheat flour from Maine Grains—one of a handful of the state’s artisanal grain mills—makes up our signature graham cracker. Locally churned butter from Casco Bay Creamery and amber-hued honey from the midcoast’s Swan’s Honey make a pleasingly sweet, crispy bite. And we roll the dough thin, so that your finished s’more is less like biting through plywood, and more like enjoying a flaky Napoleon dessert.
We make our signature honey marshmallows in-house, in small batches, with premium, organic or local sweeteners, and non-high fructose corn syrup. I spent a lot of time engineering the shape of the marshmallows so that they deliver optimum flavor balance with the chocolate and the grahams, but minimum messy spillover when squished between the crackers after toasting. It was a tough job, but I suffered through. Pro tip: I found that a long-handled fork or pronged stick are the best toasting tools for these marshmallows.
And of course each tree-bark themed chocolate bar is perfectly sized for your s’more and made from traceable, single origin chocolates from Ecuador.
You can get our S’mores Camp Kit here, and then get outside!
THE PROS DO IT COLD
According to my friend Vanessa Seder, author of Eat Cool: Good Food for Hot Days: 100 Easy, Satisfying, and Refreshing Recipes that Won't Heat Up Your Kitchen, enjoying your chocolate ice cold is the way to go.
“It takes more energy for your body to process sugar, fat, and alcohol,” says Vanessa, and that’s likely to make you even hotter in steamy weather.
“If you’re going to have [chocolate] on a hot day, choose a small piece of dark chocolate. And have it cold,” Vanessa instructs. She suggests keeping chocolate bars in the freezer for just these occasions. She also says to stay away from white and milk chocolates, which have more fat and sugar than dark.
“Dark is a better option,” says the cool-eating pro. “And ideally with a little salt on top.” Studies show that a healthy diet which includes salt, can help regulate body temperature on hot days.
Vanessa and her family are big fans of our Almond & Sea Salt Bark, which is made with 56% single origin bittersweet chocolate from Ecuador, organic almonds, and Maine sea salt. But if you want to keep your freezer stocked with an assortment of dark chocolate bars, we have four that fit the bill: the aforementioned Almond & Sea Salt, Ancho Chile & Roasted Pecan (which also includes smoked Maine sea salt), Honeyed Hazelnut, and Lavender Blossom. And while Vanessa’s suggestion of a “small piece” is open to interpretation, each of our bars is 2 ounces. That’s small, right?
COOL HEADS PLAN AHEAD
If you’ve never had a chilled chocolate beverage on a summer day, this is the heat wave to finally try it! There’s a reason why our iced drinking chocolate was one of the most popular items on our summer menu when we had our cafes on Isle au Haut and Blue Hill. There’s just nothing like a tall, frosted glass of drinkable chocolate over ice, topped with lightly sweetened local cream, that has been whipped by hand into soft pillowy peaks.
Ice cold drinking chocolate requires a little advanced prep, and a small amount of cooking time, but if you plan ahead and add drink prep to your evening routine, you can enjoy this heat-beating beverage all summer long.
Here at Ragged Coast, we start with our Classic Dark or Spiced Ancho Drinking Chocolate mix, and use whole milk for our base and honey as our sweetener. But if the kick you get from our Dirty Chai, or the healthy vibes from our Matcha & White Drinking Chocolate mixes are more your style, those are delicious options as well. You can substitute any non-dairy beverage—soy, almond, oat, even coconut!—for the milk, and sweeten (or not) to your own taste. Our Drinking Chocolate mixes contain no added sugars other than the sugar that’s in the ground chocolate, and zero milk powder, so if you follow a plant-based diet (especially beneficial in hot months!), our dark chocolate mixes are perfect choices (as well some of just a few non-dairy options on the market).
Each 12-ounce bag of our Drinking Chocolate mixes have instructions for how to prepare a party-size batch of the icy beverage that is going to rock your summer.
So if you’re on a fruitless repeat of wandering around trying to find the coolest place to get through the heat, take my advice instead and get outside, eat cool, and plan ahead! And always do it with chocolate.
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