Differences in Cocoa and their uses

Bonnie Beck

By
@sailboat

Important information on cooking with Cocoa.


Featured Pinch Tips Video

Ingredients

cocoa

Directions Step-By-Step

1
Cocoa Powder
Cocoa powder is made when chocolate liquor is pressed to remove three quarters of its cocoa butter. The remaining cocoa solids are processed to make fine unsweetened cocoa powder. There are two types of unsweetened cocoa powder: natural and Dutch-processed.


DUTCH-PROCESSED or Alkalized Unsweetened Cocoa Powder is treated with an alkali to neutralize its acids. Because it is neutral and DOES NOT REACT WITH BAKING SODA, it MUST BE USED in recipes calling for BAKING POWDER, unless there are other acidic ingredients in sufficient quantities used. It has a reddish-brown color, mild flavor, and is easy to dissolve in liquids. Its delicate flavor makes it ideal in baked goods like European cakes and pastries where its subtle flavor complements other ingredients. Droste, Lindt, Valrhona, Poulain and Pernigotti are some popular brands.



Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Powder tastes very bitter and gives a deep chocolate flavor to baked goods. Its intense flavor makes it well suited for use in brownies, cookies and some chocolate cakes. When natural cocoa (an acid) is used in recipes calling for baking soda (an alkali), it creates a leavening action that causes the batter to rise when placed in the oven. Popular brands are Hershey's, Ghirardelli, and Scharffen Berger.
2
The role of cocoa powder in cakes:
When used alone in cakes, cocoa powder imparts a full rich chocolate flavor and dark color. Cocoa powder can also be used in recipes with other chocolates (unsweetened or dark) and this combination produces a cake with a more intense chocolate flavor than if the cocoa wasn't present. Most recipes call for sifting the cocoa powder with the flour but to bring out its full flavor it can be combined with a small amount of boiling water. (If you want to try this in a recipe, substitute some of the liquid in the recipe for boiling water.) Often times, you may notice that more butter and leavening agent are used in recipes containing cocoa powder. This is to offset cocoa powder's drying and strengthening affect in cakes. There are two types of unsweetened cocoa powder: natural and Dutch-processed and it is best to use the type specified in the recipe as the leavening agent used is dependent on the type of cocoa powder. Some prefer using Dutch-processed cocoa as a slight bitterness may be tasted in cakes using natural cocoa and baking soda.

Dutch-Processed Cocoa:

1 cup = 92 grams

1 cup sifted = 75 grams

Natural Unsweetened or Nonalkalized Cocoa:

1 cup = 82 grams

Substitution for 3 tablespoons (18 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa: 3 tablespoons (18 grams) natural cocoa powder plus pinch (1/8 teaspoon) baking soda

Substitution for 3 tablespoons (18 grams) natural cocoa: 3 tablespoons (18 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa plus 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar or 1/8 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar.

Note: Due to the differences between natural and Dutch-processed cocoa powders, do not substitute one for the other in recipes.

Note: Do not confuse unsweetened natural and Dutch-processed cocoa powder with sweetened cocoa drink mixes. They are not the same thing.
3
Use of Black Cocoa
Have you ever tried making homemade Oreo cookies and couldn't quite get that exact Oreo cookie color? Or hankered for a slice of devil's food cake that was as deep and dark and chocolatey as you always think it should be? The answer, fellow bakers, is black cocoa powder.
This is an ultra-Dutch processed cocoa powder. All the acidity has been neutralized, rendering the cocoa powder completely mellow, non-bitter, and very black. Think of black cocoa powder almost as more of a coloring ingredient than a flavoring one—it will turn your baked goods as deeply black as you could ever hope for.
Because it's been so heavily Dutch processed, this cocoa powder presents some challenges when baking. It contains almost no fat, which can make baked goods dry and crumbly. You can either use half black cocoa and half regular Dutch-processed cocoa in your recipe, or you can up the fat a little bit.

Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder is heavily Dutched, and is close to black cocoa powder.

Oreo cookies use Black Cocoa.
4
What does it mean to ‘bloom’ cocoa powder?
Some recipes call for cocoa powder to be ‘bloomed‘ in hot water or another hot liquid. This is done to intensify the flavor of the cocoa powder. According to Cook’s Illustrated, this releases flavor particles trapped in the cocoa powder and helps the “burst forth”. Many recipes, especially cookies, don’t have liquid ingredients, so you wouldn’t use that technique.

Can I use sweetened cocoa powder in recipes that call for cocoa powder?
Sweetened cocoa powder is a product, like the aforementioned ground chocolate, that’s intended to be used for making hot beverages. Do not use it in recipes that call for cocoa powder. Always check to make sure that when a recipe calls for pure cocoa powder, you’re using unsweetened cocoa powder.


Why do some recipes say to sift drying ingredients with cocoa powder in them, and others say to whisk?
Because it’s so fine, cocoa powder tends to lump up in the container. So you either need to sift or whisk it well to break up the lumps. It’s also a good idea to disperse the cocoa powder in other dry ingredients in recipes, especially if using a stand mixer, as the fine cocoa powder tends to easily fly out of the mixing bowl when mixing.
How do you store cocoa powder, and how long does it last?

Cocoa powder should be stored in a cool, dark place, but not in the refrigerator because the humidity can promote spoilage.
Because of its low moisture content, cocoa powder will keep up to three years. To ensure consumers use the cocoa powder while it’s at its prime, most manufacturer’s list an expiration date on their containers.

Can I dust a cake pan with cocoa powder instead of flour?
Yes, for chocolate cakes, it’s fine (and sometimes desirable) to dust the pan with cocoa powder as you would use regular wheat flour. This is a good tip also for converting recipes to gluten-free.
5
Simply add a spoonful of cocoa powder to the greased pan, roll it around, shaking the pan to ensure an even layer of powder, then tap out any excess.

The best way to figure out which cocoa powder is good is to take a deep sniff; good cocoa powder will have a naturally sweet, but slightly acidic, smell of rough chocolate. You may also wish to try a few cocoa powder-based desserts, to determine which cocoa powder you like.
6
Why do some recipes say to sift drying ingredients with cocoa powder in them, and others say to whisk?

Because it’s so fine, cocoa powder tends to lump up in the container. So you either need to sift or whisk it well to break up the lumps. It’s also a good idea to disperse the cocoa powder in other dry ingredients in recipes, especially if using a stand mixer, as the fine cocoa powder tends to easily fly out of the mixing bowl when mixing.
7
Can I substitute ground chocolate for cocoa powder?

No. Ground chocolate is finely ground bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, which is mostly used for making hot beverages. It contains sugar and additional cocoa butter, and isn’t the same thing. Pure cocoa powder has no sugar or additional fats added.

About this Recipe