Every year, the human population consumes around 7.2 million metric tons of chocolate. The average American will eat 12 pounds of chocolate each year. The average Brit, Swede, or German will eat twice that much. And yet, the U.S. accounts for one fifth of the worldwide consumption of chocolate.
From chocolate truffle boxes to bulk cocoa powder for baking, the market for chocolate is a thriving one, as can be seen by the sheer variety of chocolate products available. For the professional chocolatier or baker, or the home chef, choosing the right chocolate for your baking needs can be daunting. To help you tackle the deliciously diverse world of chocolate for baking, we’ve broken down the key facts you need to know about cocoa powder below.
Before you buy bulk cocoa powder, make sure you’re getting the best cocoa for your baking needs by following these guidelines:
Understanding Natural Processed versus Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder
Cocoa powder falls into two broad categories based on its processing method: Natural-process cocoa powder or Dutch-process cocoa powder. Natural cocoa powder, also called non-alkalized, is the pure powder created after the fermented, dried, and roasted beans have been ground into a fine powder. Cocoa beans are naturally acidic, so natural process cocoa powder will have a higher acidity than dutch process – – typically coming in with a pH around five or six. This is what lends certain cocoas their fruity, almost citrus-like undertones.
Dutch processing is a method of neutralizing that acidic flavor. Dutch process cocoa powder, also called Dutched, alkanized, or European style, has been washed in a potassium carbonate solution to bring its pH to a neutral seven. The result is a mellower, more woodsy flavor and a darker hued cocoa powder. The more alkanized the cocoa powder, the darker its color.
When buying bulk cocoa powder, the label doesn’t always say if it’s been dutch processed or not. If you turn to the ingredients again, though, you’ll be able to tell. Dutch process cocoa powder should indicate the cocoa has been “processed with alkali.” If the label says only “cocoa” under ingredients or “unsweetened cocoa powder,” it’s natural process cocoa powder. Remember that flavors also differ by brand, which is why it’s important to choose a premium brand as we’ll discuss below.
When to Use Natural Process versus Dutch Process Cocoa Powder
For recipes which don’t require leavening, you can use natural and dutch process cocoa powder interchangeably. Likewise, if your recipe relies on biological leaveners such as yeast, you’re free to use whichever cocoa you prefer. If you’re baking and the recipe uses chemical leaveners like baking soda or baking powder, however, natural and dutch cocoa powders are not interchangeable. Using an incompatible cocoa powder can result in a final product that doesn’t rise properly or is gummy in texture.
By removing the acidity from the cocoa, the dutch process leaves you with a product that can’t react with leaveners such as baking soda. As such, recipes using dutch cocoa will often rely solely on baking powder. If your recipe uses only baking soda, on the other hand, it’ll likely need the acidity of natural cocoa powder to react with the baking soda. If you have a recipe that uses both baking powder and baking soda, it’s even more important to follow the recipe’s specifications to ensure you get the right balance of acidic and alkaline ingredients.
How to Tell the Difference Between Premium and Regular Cocoa Powder
Regardless of the way it’s been processed, you can spot premium cocoa powder by its fat content. If you want the best flavor, buy premium bulk cocoa powder. Most regular cocoa powder has a fat content of 10% to 12%; premium cocoa powder, on the other hand, will have twice this amount. Choose a cocoa powder with 22% to 24% fat to know you’re working with a high quality product.
To find the fat content of cocoa powder, check the nutrition label. If it says one gram of fat per a five to six gram serving, you’re looking at a premium brand of cocoa powder. Regular cocoa powders will have closer to .5 gram of fat per five gram serving.