Baking 101: Natural vs Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder
Today we’re talking about chocolate! I’ve eaten two (ok, four) dark chocolate candies for this special occasion. Let’s talk about this unsweetened variety of chocolate: cocoa powder! We’re talking depth, color, and yessssss chocolate flavor. Of course, since we’re baking, nothing is simple, and we’re talking about acid reactions again. It’s important!
The difference between Dutch-processed and natural cocoa powder:
Cocoa powder is just cocoa powder, right? It’s just roasted cacao beans that have been ultra pulverized for cake and cupcake purposes, that’s all. Not exactly.
There is a fundamental difference between Dutch-processed and natural cocoa powder. The difference is acid. Yea! We’re talking about acid reactions again, this time by way of cocoa powder. Who knew that cocoa powder was acidic? Well.. now we do! It’s worth understanding.
Dutch-processed cocoa powder is cocoa powder that has been washed in a potassium solution that neutralizes its acidity. The Dutching process also gives the cocoa powder a darker color. Dutch-processed cocoa powder in baking is usually paired with baking powder because, as mentioned in The Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder, the baking powder takes care of the acid component in leavening our baked goods.
Was that too many words? Here’s a breakdown: Dutch-processed cocoa powder, acids stripped, dark color, reach for the baking powder!
Natural cocoa powder is cocoa that has not had its acid stripped. Natural cocoa powder is usually lighter in color, and because it has all of its acids in tact, it is usually paired with baking soda because the metallic taste that is released in the sodium carbonate of baking soda is mellowed by the acid in natural cocoa powder. Natural cocoa powder is what is typically found in American grocery stores. We’re talking Hershey’s Cocoa Powder… that’s natural cocoa.
Too many words again. Here’s a breakdown: natural cocoa powder, acids present, light in color, grab that baking soda!
What if a recipe only calls for ‘cocoa powder’? This happens all the time, right ? Take a look at the recipe. Does it call for a majority of baking powder or baking soda. If the recipe is mostly leavened by baking powder, reach for the Dutch-processed cocoa. If it’s a baking soda heavy recipe, go for natural cocoa powder!
In my experience, most American recipes that call for ‘cocoa powder’ are generally referring to natural cocoa powder.
Are Dutch-processed and natural cocoa powder interchangeable in a recipe? Well… not exactly. As with any baking recipe, it’s best to follow it as written. When we make substitutions, we start fussing with the taste and texture. In a pinch, you can substitute natural cocoa powder if you’re out of Dutch-processed cocoa powder. Although, it’s not a good idea to substitute Dutch-processed cocoa when you’re out of natural cocoa powder. We’d be missing those precious acids!
But your Dutch-processed Cocoa Powder is like… super dark. You’re right! And you’re totally perceptive. It’s called Black Onyx Cocoa Powder. It’s ultra-Dutched! It’s the sort of cocoa powder used to make Oreo cookies. Yea. That’s really good news.
I used Black Onyx Cocoa Powder to make this Midnight Black Chocolate Pudding. Halloween… just sayin’.
On the lighter side we have Chocolate and Peanut Butter Pudding. It’s as good as it looks. Thank goodness.
Chocolate Beet Cake with Beet Cream Cheese Frosting is one of my very favorite recipes to make with (natural) cocoa powder. It’s beet pink! It’s cake with vegetables that totally doesn’t taste like cake with vegetables. IN LOVE!