Flourless Chocolate ‘Cloud’ Cake, and Fair Trade Month

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

~ Nelson Mandela

It’s very hard to “walk in another man’s shoes”, to truly understand what it feels to grow up in poverty, without access to many things people in other countries take for granted, such as having food on the table for every meal, having shoes to wear or having more than one pair, having access to healthcare, modern infrastructure, the opportunity to go to school, the possibility to have real chances to change your life for the better…

I remember growing up in Spain during a time when ETA, the Basque terrorist group, was in its full apogee and bomb scares were happening almost every week at our school. Every time we were told that classes were postponed for later in the day or cancelled, I always felt a pang in my heart and remember thinking that I much preferred to have to go to school every single day of the year than getting time off because of bomb threats. I also remember many kids being ecstatic about not having to go to classes; in fact, some of these kids who are obviously now adults, have admitted to calling in many of the threats that resulted to be fake.

Yet all of us were fortunate to live in middle to upper-middle class families and have access to an excellent education and all those things that many, many children around the world can only dream of or not even envision because it seems too unreal to them.

I would bet that the majority of these children would never even consider calling in a fake bomb threat because for them the access to education carries a great weight: the fate of their future, that of their families, and of their countries is at stake. Education for them is not a burden or a waste of time.

And because I believe in helping others and enabling them to achieve better lives, I have partnered with Fair Trade USA for Fair Trade month.

#BeFair.

What is Fair Trade you ask?

Fair Trade is a global trade model and certification [that] allows shoppers to quickly identify products that were produced in an ethical manner. For consumers, Fair Trade offers a powerful way to reduce poverty through their everyday shopping. For farmers and workers in developing countries, Fair Trade offers better prices, improved terms of trade, and the business skills necessary to produce high-quality products that can compete in the global marketplace. Through vibrant trade, farmers and workers can improve their lives and plan for their futures. Today, Fair Trade benefits more than 1.2 million farming families in 70 developing countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Fair Trade principles include:

  • Fair prices and credit: Democratically organized farming groups receive a guaranteed minimum floor price (or the market price if it’s higher) and an additional premium for certified organic products. Farming organizations are also eligible for pre-harvest credit.
  • Fair labor conditions: Workers on Fair Trade farms enjoy freedom of association, safe working conditions and sustainable wages. Forced child and slave labor are strictly prohibited.
  • Direct trade: With Fair Trade, importers purchase from Fair Trade producer groups as directly as possible to eliminate unnecessary middlemen and empower farmers to develop the business capacity necessary to compete in the global marketplace.
  • Democratic and transparent organizations: Fair Trade farmers and workers decide democratically how to invest Fair Trade premiums, which are funds for community development.
  • Community development: Fair Trade farmers and farm workers invest Fair Trade premiums in social and business development projects like scholarships, schools, quality improvement and leadership training, and organic certification.
  • Environmental sustainability: Harmful agrochemicals and GMOs are strictly prohibited in favor of environmentally sustainable farming methods that protect farmers’ health and preserve valuable ecosystems for future generations.

How does Fair Trade differ from Free Trade?

According to Fair Trade USA’s founder, President and CEO Paul Rice, “Fair Trade makes free trade work for the world’s poor.”

Free trade is the economic theory that the market should be allowed to flow without government intervention. Purists want to get rid of all trade tariffs, subsidies, and protectionist economic policies. However, it is these very regulations which stop commodity prices from fluctuating uncontrollably. This laissez-faire theory aims to reach market equilibrium – where supply meets each demand. What free trade supporters fail to consider is the fact that, sometimes, the means to get that supply is not all that fair.

Historically, free trade has left small-scale producers behind as large subsidized companies start to take over their industries. While large contracted farms can afford to sell commodities at lower prices, local farmers, who have traditionally supplied these products, are driven into debt. The only way these farmers can compete with subsidized farms is to lower their product prices to the point where labor is free and quality of life is unsustainable.

In the case of coffee growers, these producers lack information on the real market value of their commodity, which easily makes them victims to unfair market deals that take advantage of their inexperience. Additionally, these farmers often lack access to credit and are forced to take quick cash from buyers who offer to pay a fraction of what their crop is worth.

Fair Trade helps level the playing field by equipping the farmers with tools—information and training—they need to receive fair prices for their products. The Fair Trade system aims to provide greater market access to farmers, which gives them a larger say in how much their product is worth.We say that Fair Trade is “market-based” because it relies on socially-conscious consumers support the movement by purchasing Fair Trade products. Through their conscious purchases, consumers tell companies that they care about the farmers and workers who produce their products. Fair Trade aims to address the underlying inequities caused by poverty and lack of access to market information that free trade ignores.

What is the impact of Fair Trade on communities?

All around the globe, the fair prices and opportunities connected with Fair Trade are keeping kids in school. In many countries, impoverished farmers and workers often need their children to work in order to make enough to support the whole family. Fair Trade helps provide farming families with the income and stability they need to keep their children in school, instead of in the fields and factories.

Ghana: Kuapa Kokoo, a cocoa cooperative, has been Fair Trade Certified for 14 years and in that time has used the special Fair Trade social premium to build four schools and two daycare centers for the children.

Paraguay: Children of the Arroyense Cooperative are being trained in word processing, typing, and Excel on computers purchased with money from sales of Fair Trade sugar. Students of all ages are given books and school uniforms to support their education from pre-school through high school graduation.

India: The local elementary school received craft supplies and math materials to teach young children of tea estate workers. Nilgiri Estate cooperative members voted to use Fair Trade social premium development funds to buy school buses so that the students who live far away can get to classes. Community Fair Trade funds are also used to pay for a hostel for students who live even farther.

In what other areas does Fair Trade have an impact?

One of the most important aspects of Fair Trade is this: funds are specifically designated for social, economic and environmental development projects. However, we don’t pretend to know what’s best for each community. That’s why we’ve enabled a democratic system where each community determines how their funds are used.

Some examples of how developing communities all over the wold have used the funds from Fair Trade to improve their quality of life are:

  • Farmers learn and implement environmentally sustainable practices.
  • Workers are empowered to demand fair wages and treatment.
  • Women are guaranteed health care, rights and freedom from harassment.
  • Revenues are set aside to build schools and help maintain enrollment.
  • Farmers are given market-based tools to lift themselves out of poverty.
  • Workers and their families gain access to doctors, medicine and proper nutrition.

Every purchase matters.

Quality Products. Improving Lives. Protecting the Environment.

It’s a Win-Win for All of Us!

How can you help you ask? Easy.

1. Look for the Label:
Fair Trade is a market-based approach to fighting poverty. That means that it only works when you actually buy the stuff. So please hold up your end of the bargain and look for the Fair Trade Certified label every time you shop.
2. Get Involved!
As they say: Think globally, act locally. Fair Trade Campaigns is a powerful grassroots movement focused on growing awareness, availability, and commitment to Fair Trade to improve impoverished communities around the world.
3. Spread the Word!
Believe it or not, YOU have the power to improve the world. It all starts with a simple act of sharing. Speak up. Be bold. Tell your family and friends why you support Fair Trade.

What do we all get out of this?

Buying Fair Trade ensures that you’re getting quality products and the people who grow, sew and craft them get a fair deal for their hard work. In fact, your everyday purchases can help farmers and factory workers in 70 countries work in safe conditions, earn extra money to invest in their communities and improve the lives of their families.

*Quality Products
*Products You Can Trust
*Organic Certified
*No GMOs!
*Ecosystem Preservation + Sustainable Farming Methods
*Biodiversity
*Water Conservation
*Waste Management
*No Child Labour
*Direct Investment in Communities: Schools, Hospitals, Homes, Roads, Wells for Clean Water
*Market Access and More Money to Farmers

Rogelia, Luis Ángel, and their son William Alexander.

Please allow me to introduce you to Rogelia Serna Cruz, Luis Ángel Juarez Morales and their son William Alexander Juarez Serna.

Rogelia and Luis Ángel are Fair Trade farmers working for Grupo Alta, a Fair Trade Certified company in Sonora, Mexico. William Alexander (center), 13, holds a scholarship certificate as he stands next to his mother and father during a scholarship award ceremony.

William Alexander is a junior high school Fair Trade-scholarship recipient as the child of an employee. The scholarship program provides a stipend for children of employees who study elementary or junior high school and maintain at least a B+ average. The funds for the scholarships come directly from surplus earnings made through the sale of Fair Trade products.

His father Luis Angel, originally from Tapachula, Chiapas, started as a migrant worker, has been working with Grupo Alta for 19 years and is now a foreman and permanent resident of Hermosillo. His mother Rogelia has been working with Grupo Alta for 19 years as well.

Without fair treatment, empowerment and fair salaries, and scholarships like this one, the parents of William Alexander would not have been able to provide a better life for William or send him to school. Fair Trade makes his education possible, as well as improves his prospects in life.

October is Fair Trade Month and I’ve Partnered with Them!

As I’ve said before, since I believe in helping others and enabling them to take steps in achieving a better life, I’ve partnered with Fair Trade USA to spread the word about what they do and how we as consumers can help as well by purchasing Fair Trade Certified products. It’s a win-win situation for all of us and every little effort counts!

Fair Trade USA and a number of their certified companies have graciously sent me a package with “Paleo/Primal” goodies to try and use.  I want to thank each and every one of these companies for their generosity and healthy products and for being part of #BeFair.

  1. SunSpire Organic Baking Bar 100% Chocolate
  2. Eating Evolved Coconut Cups
  3. Runa Tea Leaves
  4. Lake Champlain Organic Unsweetened Cocoa
  5. Nutiva Organic Coconut Oil
  6. Frontier Co-Op Whole Black Peppercorns
  7. Arrowhead Mills Organic Coconut Flour

The Cake.

Both of my nieces are sybarites. They are very fortunate to be growing up in an environment which allows them to grow a healthy mind and body and have access to an excellent education. And because of this, they both read a lot of books (and magazines) and have cultivated a sophisticated palate as well.

One of them especially is very selective when it comes to food magazines and her favourite is Bon Appétit (my favourite as well). For a couple of years now, she’s been raving about this “absolutely invigoratingly delicious” chocolate cake. So, I finally decided to give it a go.

It’s a recipe called ‘Fallen Chocolate Cake’ in the Bon Appétit magazine. But it turns out that the recipe was originally shared by Richard Sax, a chef and prolific cooking writer who co-authored a monthly column with Bon Appétit for many years. Richard’s recipe is made with refined sugar and a delicate sugared meringue, which creates a ‘cracked’ texture once the cake is baked, sort of like a French macaron.

However, I’ve created a more Paleo-friendly version using raw honey; and therefore the cake unfortunately doesn’t possess the same elegance and sensuality as Richard’s, instead is more of a sponge version, albeit it does crack just a bit. The texture and flavour are divine though!

In honour of my Mexican farmer family with whom I’ve been paired by Fair Trade, I’ve added a bit of pizzaz to the flavour with a touch of ground pepper. This is totally optional.

Here are the Bon Appétit adapted version and Richard Sax’s original Chocolate Cloud Cake recipe.

Flourless Chocolate ‘Sponge’ Cracked Cake, With a Peppery Twist (and Crème Anglaise)

Ingredients, for one 9-inch round mould

8 ounces (226g) chocolate* (please see my notes below)
1/2 cup (113g) butter, and a little extra for greasing the mold
5 egg whites, from large eggs (at room temperature)
4 egg yolks, from large eggs (at room temperature)
1 cup (340g) raw honey
1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (or fresh lemon juice)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground black peppercorns

Method

Preheat oven to 350F (170C). Grease with some butter a 9-inch round cake mold and set aside.

Prepare a small saucepan that will fit into another pan to be filled with water. Place the pan filled with water on the stove over medium heat, allowing the water to heat up as you chop the chocolate (to save you time). You will be cooking the chocolate au bain-marie. Finely chop the chocolate with a sharp knife. Place the chocolate into the saucepan and place this into the pan with water. Stirring frequently, melt the chocolate. Immediately turn the heat off and add the butter. Stir together until the butter is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove the saucepan from the other pan, dry the outside with a cloth, and set aside.

Leave the pan with water on the stove, and add more water if necessary. Now, with another saucepan that will fit inside, we’ll make the honey syrup for the Italian meringue, which will allow the cake to crack just a bit. Place 1/2 cup of the honey plus 1 tablespoon water in a small saucepan, place this inside the pan over medium heat. Stirring frequently, allow the honey and water to heat through until it’s a liquid syrup. Remove from heat to cool.

In the meantime:

Separate your eggs, placing 5 egg whites in one large clean bowl and 4 egg yolks in another large clean bowl. (If you’re making the Crème Anglaise below, save the extra yolk for the sauce.)

Add the remaining 1/2 cup raw honey, vanilla and pepper to the egg yolks, and beat vigorously until well blended. Now, carefully add the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, whisking with a fork or hand whisk until well blended. (If you fancy a bit more of a piquant flavour, feel free to add some more pepper at this point.) Set aside.

With an electric mixer or your very strong arm (my case), whisk the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until soft mounds form. Do not over beat to stiff peaks. By now the honey syrup should be ready and slightly cooled as well. Whilst beating the egg whites with the whisk with one hand, drizzle the syrup into the whites with the other. Continue stirring until the syrup is well blended into the egg whites. Now whisk until soft, silky peaks form.

With a spatula, fold in 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. We are doing this to add some air to the chocolate mixture. Then gently fold in the rest of the egg whites just until well blended (no white is showing).

Pour into the cake mold and bake for 30-40 minutes until the top is puffed and the center is no longer wobbly. It’s very important to not overbake the cake, or it will come out dry and dense. Use a sharp knife to test if the center is done. I put the oven timer on for 25 minutes and check every 5 minutes thereafter. In my oven, 40 minutes was the perfect result. It’s always better to err on the side of undercooked than overcooked, as you can always add minutes in the oven if necessary. As soon as at the cake is done, remove immediately from the oven and allow to cool at room temperature. The cake will sink nicely but still be spongy. Remove from the springform before serving.

Garnish with powdered cocoa or oven-roasted grapes for a unique flavour combination. Or you can serve over a delicate warm crème anglaise (recipe below).

Scullery notes:

(1) I used two types of chocolate, 4 ounces of 100% unsweetened baking bar from Fair Trade Sun Spire; and 4 ounces of 60% semi sweet chocolate bar. Depending on the type of chocolate you use, you may have to adjust the amount of raw honey. The original recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar.

(2) For the pepper, I used Frontier Co-Op Organic, Fair Trade Whole Black Peppercorns, which I ground in a coffee grinder and then measured. These peppercorns are strong and flavourful! So, I only used 1/4 teaspoon. However, depending on what you use or how piquant you prefer the cake, you could add a bit more for a spicier touch.

(3) As I stated, this is a Paleo-friendly version not using refined sugar. I’ve made the cake three times, once with the egg whites with cream of tartar alone (very dense results) and twice with the Italian meringue method. And in my estimation, I find that if you want to achieve the desired cracked effect which makes Richard Sax’s cake so famous, you need to use refined sugar. The only thing I didn’t try was adding all the raw honey as a syrup to the meringue instead of dividing it. That could make for a slightly less heavy wet ingredients part.

Crème Anglaise

Ingredients, makes a little over 1 cup

2 eggs yolks
1/4 scant cup raw honey
1 cup of milk of preference (I used coconut milk)
1/2 vanilla pod or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks and raw honey until well blended. If you’re using vanilla extract instead of the vanilla pod, you can add the extract to the egg-honey mixture now. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, warm the milk with the vanilla pod, stirring frequently. Allow to cook and infuse for 3-4 minutes, but do not bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Take the vanilla pod out, cut lengthwise and scrape the vanilla seeds into the milk, and give it a stir. (The remaining pod can be used for creating vanilla extract, so don’t throw it away!)

Pour some of the warm milk into the egg mixture and whisk, mixing well. Then pour the rest of the milk in and blend well. Pour everything back into the saucepan and over low to medium heat, cook until the sauce thickens into a smooth texture and coats the back of a spoon. Stir constantly.

If you have any clumps in the sauce, pass it through a sieve before serving.

Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly at room temperature. The sauce can be served warm or completely cooled. Keep refrigerated for later use.

Disclaimer: Although I received a goodie package from Fair Trade USA, I was under no obligation. All of the text above is my own, except the italised, highlighted sections which I’ve copied directly from the www.fairtradeusa.com site.