You are probably reading this post because you LOVE chocolate and love to bake with it, right? Any chocolate fan has an assortment of products in their kitchen and cocoa powder is always among that list. First of all, did you know that not all cocoa powder is the same? Second, should you be using cocoa powder processed with alkali?
I am sure you may be wondering, what exactly is alkali anyways? Does it even matter?
I get asked these questions often and today I will share with you the ultimate guide to cocoa powder and what type to use! This is part III of my chocolate series. Part one I shared with you why dogs can’t eat chocolate and how to decipher all the details on that. Part two I shared with you some AWESOME nutritional tips for chocolate that are scientifically proven. The fun thing about all this information I get to teach you, is it is easy and true. In case you’re wondering how I know this, I studied chocolate for my senior research in college. As a chemist, chocolate is my favorite chemical 😉 Oh and coffee!
When I decided to choose chocolate as my chemical research, I actually had NO idea how intricate it was. A subject I covered thoroughly, was the chemical process of cocoa powders. Who knew cocoa was so full of chemical reactions?
Let’s talk cocoa powder!
So, the first question to ask is Should You Be Using Cocoa Powder Processed With Alkali?
Cocoa powder processed with alkali is also known as dutch process. Dutch process means it has been chemically manipulated to reduce acidity! This is an important process that does a few things. First, it will make the cocoa darker, and second it gives it a more rich flavor (think oreos!)
Natural cocoa powder is just roasted cocoa beans with the fat removed, then ground into powder. It is more bitter, strong, tart and very acidic! You can see the difference in colors below.
So regular vs dutch processed cocoa, can they be swapped? The answer is NO!
Recipes with a leavening agent like baking soda or baking powder will react with acidity and alkalinity, so it is important to stick with what the recipe calls for. If you like to use vintage recipes or have some old cook books, you will notice it usually doesn’t specify to the type of powder needed. That is due to the fact that dutch process was not always available in the stores back in those days.
Just a fun fact, but dutch process was invented in the 19th century by a dutch man named C.J Van Hooten, so it has been around for a long time.
There are different levels of dutched cocoa. Heavily dutched cocoa powder is known as black cocoa powder, and this is where items like Oreos get that black color.
Back to the question, should you be using cocoa powder processed with alkali (or dutch process)? It definitely depends on what you are baking. Here is my favorite way to use it:
I never make brownies without using this type of cocoa. It really makes them taste more rich. Hot Chocolate is more decadent with it also, so I always use the cocoa powder processed with alkali for those type of recipes! I have had a few people tell me they aren’t sure which type to buy that the store, not all brands say on the label what type it actually is. I used to have to buy it online also (the best brand by the way ) because the small town I lived in didn’t carry it!
Here is a look at both the labels compared:
I have also seen the labels for cocoa powder processed with alkali labeled as European style cocoa and dutch cocoa. There is some cocoa powder processed with alkali that isn’t very good quality, so I definitely recommend this brand ! I use it in my double chocolate frozen yogurt and these super rich healthy brownies! The only regular cocoa powder I use is Hershey’s brand! It is the best quality for baking.
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Are you a chocolate fan too?