Today, let’s take a closer look at chocolate, specifically cocoa powder. Have you ever wondered about the differences between natural and Dutch-processed cocoa powder? Can they be used interchangeably? What should you do if a recipe doesn’t specify which type of cocoa powder to use?
Baking can be an intense minefield of ingredients, measurements, substitutions and chemical reactions. While it might seem overwhelming at first, it’s not usually as complicated as it seems once you break it down. Cocoa powder is no different!
What is Cocoa Powder?
All cocoa powder is made from cocoa beans that are processed and ground into a paste called cocoa mass. The cocoa mass is then processed to separate most of the cocoa butter. The remaining solids are dried and ground into cocoa powder.
What is Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder?
Dutch-processed cocoa powder, also called European style cocoa powder, has been treated with alkalis to improve flavor and texture. The process was created in 1825, and it enabled commercial confectioners to produce better products on a larger scale.
This process mellows the flavor and acidity, making it easier to discern tasting notes such as floral, citrus, coffee and caramel. It’s preferred by most chefs.
Because Dutch-processed cocoa powder has been treated with an alkali, it’s perfect for using in recipes that call for baking powder. The acid in the baking powder takes care of the leavening of your recipe.
What is Natural Cocoa Powder?
Unlike the Dutch-processed version, natural cocoa powder hasn’t been treated with an alkali. It has a lighter color, a slightly bitter, acidic aftertaste, and a PH balance of about 5.5-6.
Natural cocoa powder should only be paired with baking soda, as the acidity in the the cocoa powder balances the acidity in baking soda.
Learn more about why certain ingredients should only be used with baking soda or baking powder in this article: Baking Soda vs. Baking Powder: What’s The Difference?
Are Dutch-Processed and Natural Cocoa Powder Interchangeable?
Sometimes… but usually not. There are occasions when it doesn’t matter, namely when the cocoa isn’t being combined with a chemical leavener for baking. Some examples:
- Truffles (Chocolate Malt Truffles)
- Cocoa powder dusting (Tiramisu Cake)
- Frostings and puddings (Sour Cream Chocolate Frosting)
What Do You Do If a Recipe Only Calls For Cocoa Powder?
Take a look at the chemical leavening agent in your recipe. If you see mostly baking soda, use natural cocoa powder. If the recipe uses mostly baking powder, go with Dutch-processed cocoa powder.
What is Raw Cacao Powder?
Raw cacao powder is a favorite among the health and fitness crowd, who often deem it a “superfood.” Because cocoa beans are roasted at a very high temperature before being pressed into cocoa powder, most of the nutritional benefits are lost. Raw cacao powder retains those nutritional benefits.
Tip: Always Sift Your Cocoa Powder
With some dry ingredients like flour, you can get away with simply whisking. But if you don’t sift your cocoa powder, you’ll wind up with lumps of cocoa in your baked goods.