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Cocoa Powder

Tuesday, 11 September 2012 | Tags: , , , , ,

The building block of one of the most craved foods in the Western world, cocoa powder is a staple in the baker's kitchen. We find out that not all cocoa powder is the same on an episode of Anna & Kristina's Grocery Bag dedicated to chocolate!

 

THE BASICS

  • Cocoa powder comes from the cocoa bean, which is the dried and fermented fruit (seed) of the Cacao tree. Its latin name, Theobrama, means “food of the gods”. Understandably!

  • Nearly 70% of the world’s cocoa bean crop is grown in West Africa. It’s important to source your cocoa whenever possible from fair trade suppliers.

  • Cocoa beans are ground into a smooth liquid called chocolate liquor (though it’s non-alcoholic). It cools into blocks, which are then pressed in order to remove the cocoa butter (a pale yellow, pure, edible vegetable fat) and produce cocoa powder.

  • Cocoa powder generally contains only 12% cocoa butter. Pure, unsweetened chocolate contains about 55% cocoa butter.

  • Cocoa powder has more cocoa solids and the least amount of cocoa butter. Therefore, it’s a purer form of chocolate. Cocoa butter, however, gives chocolate its creamy smooth texture.

Dutch-Processed vs. Natural Cocoa Powder

  • Dutch-processed means the cocoa beans have been washed with a potassium solution to neutralize their acidity before grinding. Dutching reduces the harshness of the cocoa solids, makes the powder darker, and mellows the flavour of the beans.

  • Natural cocoa powder is simply cocoa solids. Out of the box, they both taste bitter, but natural cocoa is a bit fruitier, and Dutched is mellower and slightly nutty.

  • Dutch and natural cocoa powders react differently when baking, so it’s important to pay attention to what is called for in a recipe.

    • Baking soda (alkaline) is usually called for together with natural cocoa because it neutralizes the acidity.

    • Baking powder (neutral) is usually called for along with Dutched cocoa since both are neutral.

Nutritional Benefits

  • Flavinoid-rich cocoa helps decrease “bad” LDL cholesterol and increase “good” HDL cholesterol, as well as decrease blood pressure and improve blood vessel health.

TASTE TEST

With the help of pastry chef Marco Röpke, we made two chocolate cakes using the exact same recipe, one with natural cocoa powder, and one with Dutched.

  • The natural cocoa powder cake tasted fine, though the chocolate flavour wasn’t as strong.

  • The Dutched cocoa powder cake was quite a bit darker and chocolatey tasting. We much preferred the cake with the Dutched cocoa powder, but pay attention to what the recipe calls for to be sure you’re using the right type.

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