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Monday, February 6, 2023

All About Cocoa Powder

 Original Article

As far as food goes, cocoa powder is pretty important to my family and me.  We need it for brownies, pudding, basically a whole lot of desserts.  Hot chocolate, chocolate chip cookies, fudge; it's a pretty big list.  For us and millions of others, chocolate is a serious morale booster and good comfort food.  
It makes me sad and uncomfortable that the cacao beans we get cocoa from are entirely imported, mostly from Africa.  We have no domestic production.  So we have to store what we'd like to have on hand before the political situation in the world gets any more interesting than it already is.

Fortunately, cocoa has a pretty good shelf life.  Taste testers at Cook's Illustrated couldn't detect a difference between fresh cocoa and cocoa that was two years out of date.  Even with cocoa six years past date, only half of the taste testers could detect a difference, describing it as "duller, weaker, or more mellow." No one reported an off flavor. Basically, cocoa does not become toxic or unpalatable; it merely loses flavor.  To preserve flavor as long as possible, store cocoa in an airtight container. 

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between hot cocoa and hot chocolate?  Hot cocoa is made from cocoa powder, milk and sugar.  Hot chocolate is made from melted chocolate, milk and sugar.

Natural cocoa powder is lighter in color.  Baking soda is the usual leavening ingredient when working with natural cocoa powder. Most American recipes are written for natural cocoa.

Dutch process (also called alkalized, European, or Dutched) cocoa is darker, alkalinized, and less bitter.  The flavor is smoother and more mellow.  Heavily alkalized cocoa is almost black.  It's what is used in Oreo cookies.  Baking powder is the usual leavening for baked goods with Dutch cocoa.

For best results with baked goods, use the cocoa that the recipe calls for.  For sauces, puddings, and ice cream, the type of cocoa used is less critical to the recipe's success.  Of greater importance is personal preference.

Becky's Best Brownies
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
6 tablespoons cocoa
3/4 cup chopped nuts
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and make a well in the center.   Add in the oil, eggs, and vanilla and stir well.  Fold in the nuts and chocolate chips.  Spread in a 9x13 pan and bake 30-35 minutes.

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