In today’s blog we’ll be talking about the difference between natural and dutch processed cocoa powder. In layman’s terms, they can simply be differentiated by colour. One is darker than the other but like everything else this also has a scientific explanation behind it. Before we get into that let’s find out what cocoa powder actually is.
WHAT IS COCOA POWDER?
Cocoa powder comes from cocoa beans. The beans are fermented, dried, roasted and cracked into nibs. Then, the nibs are ground to form cocoa liquor or cocoa mass.On further pressing of this cocoa liquor, it results in cocoa butter and cocoa cake. This cocoa cake is milled and sieved to give us the magical ingredient “cocoa powder”.
Cocoa powder is used in multiple baked goods such as cakes, cupcakes, breads, chocolate milk, etc. Cocoa powder plays an important role in any food item that requires the presence of “chocolate”. Cocoa powder is a powerful flavoring that can turn your dessert into a delicious chocolate-flavored one
The Journey from Pod to Powder
To deliver rich-tasting cocoa powder, producers must perfect every step of the process.
An alkalizing agent such as potassium carbonate or sodium carbonate is added to the nibs, the cocoa liquor, or the final pressed powder. This optional step darkens the powder’s color and mellows its astringent notes.
1. Harvest Pods
Football-shaped pods are collected from tropical cacao trees. Each pod contains from 20 to 50 beans (seeds), which are surrounded by fruity pulp.
2. Dry Beans
Cacao beans are fermented for two to nine days and then dried for up to several weeks before being bagged and sent to processing facilities.
3. Roast Beans or Nibs
Cacao beans are either roasted whole and then hulled or shelled first, leaving just the meaty centers—the nibs—to roast.
4. Grind Powder
The roasted nibs are ground into a paste called chocolate liquor, which is pressed to extract cocoa butter. The remainder is then dried and ground into a powder.
DUTCH PROCESS COCOA POWDER
Dutch process cocoa powder or alkalized cocoa starts with cocoa beans that have been washed in alkaline (as the name suggests) solution of potassium carbonate. This wash neutralizes their acidity to a pH of 7. So, dutch process cocoa powder is neutral. Because it is neutral, it does not react with baking soda. Hence most recipes that specify the use of dutch process cocoa powder steer away from the use of baking soda and are often paired with baking powder (this is not always the case!)
All cocoa powders vary in shades (due to alkalization) from a lighter reddish brown to a richer darker brown. Dutched cocoa powders come in noticeably darker shades. There are also heavily Dutched "black" cocoa powders that bring the cocoa powder to an alkaline level of 8. This is the kind of bittersweet cocoa you'll find in Oreo cookies. Dutched cocoa powder has a smoother, more mellow flavour often associated with earthy, woodsy tones. Alkalizing cocoa makes it darker in color, reduces its acidity and mellows its flavour, and dissolves easily into liquids.
NATURAL COCOA POWDER
As the name suggests, it is the natural powder (untreated) derived from roasted cocoa beans. Natural cocoa powder is light brown in color and the pH is lower (acidic in nature) it is commonly paired with baking soda (alkaline in nature). These two ingredients react with each other causing your baked goods to have a good rise (i.e) mainly the synergism helps in leavening of your baked goods. Chocolate is naturally acidic, so natural cocoa powder typically has a pH between 5 and 6. That acidity bears out in natural cocoa's flavour, which gives the cocoa a sharp, almost citrus fruit finish.
CAN I USE THEM INTERCHANGEABLY?
They can be used interchangeably in recipes that don’t contain any baking soda or baking powder. But if it contains baking soda it’s better to use natural cocoa powder and if it calls for baking powder then it's better to use dutch processed cocoa powder purely. Be mindful while using interchangeably as it may affect the rise and may also affect the taste of the end product. If you’re confused as to which one you are to use, use natural cocoa powder. In conclusion, you can use natural cocoa powder in place of dutch process cocoa powder but never use dutch process cocoa powder if a recipe calls for natural cocoa powder!