I know there’s more to life than food, but sometimes that just doesn’t seem so. Especially when we’re talking about spiced hazelnut pumpkin bread topped with Jinji’s wild-harvested hazelnut / chocolate stone-ground spread. Gah. You guys, this is the stuff life is made of!
I’ve always been passionate about food, so one of the coolest parts about my job is that I’m constantly surrounded by the best artisan products in the area. Every so often I encounter one that’s so good I’m forced to step outside my little granola world to share the love with you all.
Insert: Pure Chocolate by Jinji.
I stumbled upon this Baltimore-based brand at a gift and gather market I participated in downtown DC Sunday. During one of the lulls, I was fortunate enough to talk with the founder, Jinji, taste her creations and learn how she came to make and sell them.
Back in the day, Jinji was working as a holistic nutrition counselor when she crossed paths with a mentor who taught her the art of crafting raw chocolate. Understanding that truly raw cacao has potent health benefits due to its high levels of dietary fiber and polyphenols -- improved digestion, reduced stress and better cardiovascular health, anyone? -- Jinji saw an opportunity to create a more nutritious spin on our traditional chocolate indulgences. As a wellness enthusiast, she knew that cacao, combined with other pure ingredients, was not only a food to be enjoyed, but one that could also make us feel good long after we finished eating it.
While most chocolate bars on the shelves today rely on milk, sugar and cocoa (a highly processed and virtually nutrient-devoid form of the cacao bean) for their smooth and creamy texture, Jinji created an organic, dairy-free line of products made with cacao butter, cacao powder and coconut flower blossom. Coconut flower blossom, better known as coconut sugar, is a low-glycemic sweetener that naturally contains vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other nutrients.
The company specializes in bark offered in creative flavor combinations, each concocted with a specific beauty purpose in mind. The gingered lavender and walnut, for example, is their “skin formula.” Orange infused raspberry + brazil nut (my favorite), is considered a “hair formula.” Jinji also offers healthier versions of more traditional confections such as fudge, truffles, pecan turtles and date poppers. The latter, a more uncommon treat, is a medjool date first filled with a mixture of local raw honey, cacao nibs and pink himalayan sea salt, then finally covered in house-made dark chocolate. Unfortunately, you’d have to travel to their store in Baltimore to try those. The bark, on the other hand, can be ordered online or purchased at a few local stores including Salud Natural Market in Great Falls, MOM’s Organic Market in Fairfax and Union Market in Washington, DC.
The bark is phenomenal -- you’d never guess it’s raw -- but the hazelnut / chocolate spread is what hooked me. Made with sprouted wild hazelnuts, fair trade Ecuadorian cacao beans, coconut blossom and sea salt, it has a slightly sweet and complex flavor decadent enough to spice up plain ‘ol vanilla ice cream, yet subtle enough to pair with already-flavorful dishes without stealing the show. And for a raw, stone-ground spread, it’s unexpectedly smooth.
I highly recommend finding a way to make the hazelnut / chocolate spread part of your life as soon as possible. Especially because I’ve got a recipe -- Spiced Pumpkin Hazelnut Bread -- that it pairs with perfectly. I know, I know. Thanksgiving is over. But pumpkin, chocolate and hazelnut? Say no more.
I’ve made quite a bit of pumpkin bread over the last few weeks and, for this go-around, I combined two of the recipes I’ve enjoyed the most. One is by My New Roots. The other is by Sprouted Kitchen. I imagine this bread would be ideal on one of those snowy days when you want nothing more than to curl up on the couch with a big, warm blanket, a good book and a comforting breakfast, snack or dessert. Which is perfect, because it seems like we're about to have a lot of them.
Spiced Hazelnut Pumpkin Bread
2 cups sprouted spelt flour*
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp seat salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp nutmeg
⅛ tsp ground clove
1 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
¼ cup coconut sugar (for sprinkling)
2 tbsp ground pumpkin seeds (for sprinkling)
Jinji’s verve chocolate bark (for sprinkling)
1 ½ cups pumpkin puree
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp almond milk (ours is amazing!)
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup maple syrup
Jinji’s hazelnut / chocolate spread (for drizzling over finished product)
Flaky sea salt
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a small food processor, add the hazelnuts and pulse just until they're roughly chopped (they should still be in large chunks). Toast in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside in small bowl to cool. Add pumpkin seeds to food processor and pulse until coarsely ground.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine spelt flour, baking powder, sea salt and remaining spices. In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, olive oil, almond milk, vanilla extract, egg and maple syrup. Slowly fold in the pumpkin mixture with the dry ingredients until combined. Fold in toasted hazelnuts.
4. Oil a standard loaf pan with olive oil and line the bottom with parchment paper. Pour batter into pan and smooth the top. Run a knife in a zig zag through the batter to create a swirl effect. Sprinkle with coconut sugar and pumpkin seeds. Use a thin paring knife to create chocolate shavings from Jinji’s verve bark directly over loaf (less than a quarter of the bar should do).
5. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 60-70 minutes. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Remove the loaf and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
6. To serve, toast the bread, drizzle with Jinji’s hazelnut / chocolate spread and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Indulge and enjoy the magnificence.
*Please note, this bread is not gluten-free. With a sprouted spelt flour base, it may be okay for those with a slight sensitivity (sprouted flour is easier on the digestive system), but is not appropriate for celiacs.