What is cocoa powder?
When it comes to achieving a deep, dark chocolate flavour, good quality cocoa powder can be a wonderful addition to your recipe. Cocoa powder, which is widely used for baking purposes, is made from the cocoa solids. and can be used in everything from brownies to cakes.
Cocoa butter is usually around 50% of the cocoa bean and the remainder is Cocoa Solids or Cocoa powder. Chocolate production requires the addition of extra Cocoa butter to the natural occurring combination of Cocoa butter and Cocoa solids and hence there is a natural by- product of the chocolate industry, known as Cocoa Powder. An interesting Fun Fact is that the Cocoa Powder was once the jewel of the Cocoa Bean and the Butter almost considered scrap. Today of course it is very different and the prize of the cocoa bean is the cocoa butter.
How is Cocoa Powder made?
To produce the cocoa powder, cocoa nibs are ground to a paste. The thick paste is heavily pressed and the cocoa butter is removed. Once the cocoa butter is removed, the remaining cocoa solids are then processed by milling to produce fine unsweetened cocoa powder. Cocoa powder is usually around 20% fat.
Belgian cocoa powder is internationally known, and has been manufactured since the 17th century.
Cocoa powder is a natural source of an antioxidant called Flavonoids. These antioxidants are also naturally occurring in many fruits and vegetables and are thought to have very strong links to many health advantages. Flavonoids may offer several health benefits including the possibility of reducing blood pressure, anti-inflammatory and insulin resistance.
Natural or Dutch Cocoa Powder – what is the difference?
There are two types of cocoa powder – natural and Dutch. Natural cocoa powder is made from roasted cocoa beans that then go through a series of processes that eventually result in dry cocoa solids or cocoa powder. Dutch cocoa powder is made from beans that have been washed by a potassium solution that neutralises the acidity of the bean.
Natural cocoa powder has a lighter colour and tastes very bitter. Its intense chocolate flavour makes it a great choice for brownies, some chocolate cakes, and cookies. Natural cocoa powder is acidic, which when combined with baking soda, creates a leavening action that helps the batter rise as it bakes.
Dutch processed cocoa powder, also called alkalised unsweetened cocoa powder, is treated with an alkali for the purpose of neutralising its acids. This type of cocoa powder has reddish-brown colour and easily dissolves in liquids. The addition of alkali gives the chocolate a milder flavour. And because Dutch processed is neutralised, recipes that call for this type of cocoa powder normally requires baking powder for leavening, not baking soda.
Intensely dutched cocoa powder is known as Black Cocoa due to its intense black colouring.
How to use Cocoa Powder?
So you can see, it’s wise in baking things like brownies to be sure that you know whether your cocoa powder is Natural or Dutch, as the other ingredient combinations like baking powder and baking soda can be impacted. Take a quick look at your ingredient list on the pack of your Cocoa Powder. If there are signs of ingredients like potassium bicarbonate or potassium bromate then it is likely that your cocoa powder has been through a “dutch” process. If that is the case, then be sure to modify your recipe accordingly.
Just on the point of Dutch Cocoa. An interesting point to note is that a side effect of the Dutch process is that the natural antioxidant flavonoids mentioned earlier are significantly reduced.
We use Belgian Cocoa Powder to roll our Dello Mano Truffles and find that the balanced flavour profile and gorgeous deep red brown colour is a lovely finish to the product.
Store cocoa powder in dry, dark pantry. It is best not stored in the refrigerator as it will pick up moisture and negatively impact your baking. Cocoa powder has a very long shelf life if kept dry and sealed with most manufacturers suggesting around 2 years.
It is important to note that sweetened cocoa powder or chocolate drinks contain other ingredients like sugar and should not be substituted for cocoa powder as it will most likely end in tears in the kitchen. 🙂
If you’re making a low fat dessert or brownie then cocoa powder is best used as it is lower in fat.
Which is the best cocoa powder to use in brownies you ask? – We say use chocolate. But for things like chocolate truffles then cocoa powder is the perfect decadent finish.
If you have a special recipe you’d like to share or tips on cocoa powder then please drop us a line in the comment section below.