What is cocoa powder? How is it different from chocolate? Why are some cocoa powders almost midnight black, and some a light brown? Can one be substituted for the other? What have the Dutch to do with cocoa powder? And much more…..
I teach a workshop called The Science of Baking. A workshop designed to get both newbies and novice bakers baking confidently. With each group that takes this workshop come many queries. Questions that may seem commonplace to someone who bakes regularly. But these questions worry and undermine the confidence of a beginner and sometimes cause a failure to launch!
Most of my students write to me, and I write back…but I think it makes sense to put these queries down as posts.
* What is cocoa powder?
The cocoa solids that are left over after most of the cocoa butter is extracted from the cocoa bean. These solids are dried, powdered and used as cocoa for baking.
* How is it different from chocolate?
Chocolate–the kind that we eat–is a combination of cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, sugar, milk and flavouring. While one can bake with this chocolate in a cinch, the baked goods will not have the same intensity as baking with cooking chocolate or cocoa powder.
Cooking or baking chocolate is darker, less sweetened and usually unflavoured.
Cocoa powder is the most intensely chocolate-y of the three.
*Why are some cocoa powders almost midnight black, and some a light brown?
Natural cocoa powder is reddish brown in colour, acidic and bitter.
Alkalized or Dutch processed cocoa powder is treated to make it neutral. The process makes a cocoa powder that dissolves more easily, is dark in colour but mild in taste.
*Can one be substituted for the other?
Natural cocoa powder is the more chocolate-y of the two. Recipes written with Natural cocoa powder, have baking soda and vinegar as a leavener.
Dutch processed cocoa powder is found in recipes which call for baking powder as the raising agent.
*What have the Dutch to do with cocoa powder?
It was Dutch chocolate maker Coenraad van Houten who developed the process in the early 19th century.
I hope this explains the differences. Please feel free to ask any questions. While I’m no expert, I’ll try and answer to the best of my ability.