Spotlight Spice: Organic Cocoa Powder, Dutch Processed

Today is National Chocolate Day…well, one of them. The U.S. National Confectioners Association lists four “Chocolate Days” on their calendar – July 7, September 13, October 28, and December 28. If anything is deserving of four special days, we think most folks would agree it’s chocolate!

The late October version of the holiday feels a bit like a season opener for us – celebrating the start of nearly non-stop sweet and chocolaty baked goods we’ll be stuffing in our mouths through the end of the year. All that thinking about baking and chocolate has us spotlighting our Dutch Processed Organic Cocoa Powder.

So, what is it?

Well, that’s a two-part question.

First let’s cover cocoa powder. Cocoa powder is made by fermenting, drying, and roasting cocoa beans. The beans are then ground into a paste (solids in cocoa butter). They then extract the butter, leaving the solids which are then ground into powder. The resulting powder is fairly acidic and has a sharp and bitter flavor. It’s what you most typically find at the grocery store if you live in the United States.

Now let’s talk about Dutch Process (or “Dutched”) cocoa powder. This part is a bit of a trip back to chemistry class. Dutch Processed cocoa powder has been washed with a potassium carbonate solution to lower its acidity. The process results in a more tamely flavored, darker cocoa powder.

Which should I use?

Many recipes will specify natural vs. Dutch Process cocoa powder. When the recipe specifies, we recommend using what it calls for.

But what do you do when the recipe doesn’t specify? A good rule of thumb is to look at the leavener in your recipe. If a recipe calls for only baking soda, it likely relies on the acidity in natural cocoa for leavening, so you’ll want to use natural cocoa powder in that case. If the recipe calls for only baking powder, it’ll likely be better with Dutch Process cocoa powder since both have a more neutral ph. If the recipe calls for both and doesn’t specify, it’ll come down to your personal preference. Most recipes written in the U.S. will mean natural cocoa powder since that’s what is commonly available at most grocery stores.

For recipes without a leavener (think hot chocolate, pudding, icing, etc.), it comes down solidly to personal preference – both in color and taste. Natural cocoa powder will produce lighter colored food than Dutch Process cocoa powder, and natural cocoa powder will have a sharper, astringent and bitter taste compared to the more mild, less bitter, and earthy flavors of Dutch Process cocoa powder.

 

If you’ve not used a Dutch Process cocoa powder, we recommend picking some up and giving it a try. You’ll likely find that you prefer it over natural in some recipes and applications.