If you like baking, you know that a decent cocoa powder is a must-have. However, do you know the difference between Dutch-process and natural? And have you heard of the third kind: black cocoa? Here’s some quick info on the staple and when to use which kind.
To get cocoa powder, the beans are first fermented, roasted, hulled, and then ground into a paste known as cocoa “mass.” 75% of the cocoa butter, the fat, is then removed. What’s left over is dried and then ground into cocoa powder. This is what you’ll see at most stores, and it’s labeled as simply “unsweetened cocoa powder.” It has a bitter, acidic taste, but once baked into recipes with ingredients like sugar and vanilla, you get great chocolate flavors. Most of the time, you’ll use natural cocoa powder. It reacts with baking soda to get the proper rise, which is why you can’t swap out baking soda for baking powder.
So, what’s Dutch-process cocoa? Before they’re turned into powder, cocoa beans are first soaked in an alkali solution, which reduces the bitterness and acidity. This makes Dutch-process cocoa better option for hot chocolate mixes. It’s also great for brownies thanks to its rich, fudgy taste. You can recognize Dutch-process cocoa by a label like “alkalized” or “processed with alkali.” It’s also darker than natural cocoa powder. Recipes that use Dutch-process cocoa usually call for baking powder.
The last type of baking cocoa, black cocoa, is simply Dutch-process cocoa taken to the extreme. It’s so alkalized that it’s practically black in color, thus the name. Oreos cookies are made from black cocoa. You won’t usually find it in stores, but you can buy it from retailers like King Arthur Flour. Because of its richness, you’ll see it mixed with normal Dutch-process powder, as opposed to a 1:1 ratio substitute. If you want to make something with black cocoa, look up (and follow) recipes that specifically call for it, like these homemade sandwich cookies from Bake From Scratch.