Photo by FreeImages.com
Dutch Process or Natural Cocoa Powder?
When I decided to start baking brownies from scratch, one of the first questions I had was whether I should buy natural cocoa powder or Dutch process cocoa powder.
I had a bag of Valrhona brand cocoa powder in the pantry, and after looking it up to discover that it was Dutch process cocoa, I decided to buy a bag of natural cocoa from the grocery store so that I could compare the two.
What I Learned About the Difference Between Natural and Dutch Process Cocoa
After some reading, I learned that Dutch-process cocoa powder is cocoa powder that is treated with alkali in order to reduce the acidity of the cocoa. This process also removes certain flavor notes, while bringing out others. It is typically darker and more brown in color than natural cocoa. This was easy to observe simply by looking at the cocoas side by side.
Ultra dark Dutch process is almost black in color. It’s the type of cocoa used in Oreo cookies. Ultra dark cocoa has a very mild chocolate flavor that is counter intuitive to its dark color.
Natural cocoa powder, on the other hand, is not treated with alkali. It is slightly more bitter than Dutch-process cocoa, and it has notes of fruitiness that are less noticeable or altogether missing in Dutch-process cocoa. Natural cocoa powder is also reddish brown in color.
Which Cocoa to Use for Brownies
If you are using a brownie recipe with baking soda or baking powder in it, you should always use the type of cocoa called for by the recipe. Baking soda and baking powder are alkaline substances that react with the acidity of the cocoa. Those reactions affect the taste of your brownies, so it’s important to follow the directions when you see cocoa and baking soda or powder together.
If the recipe doesn’t include baking soda or baking powder, you may use natural or Dutch-process cocoa interchangeably according to your taste. Personally, I prefer natural cocoa powder because of its robust flavor and fruitiness.
If you’d like more information on cocoa and on chocolate in general, I highly recommend Alice Medrich’s Seriously Bitter Sweet: The Ultimate Dessert Maker’s Guide to Chocolate.
Which type of cocoa do you prefer? Natural or Dutch process?
Try my best brownie recipe!
If the recipe specified which cocoa to use then I wouldn’t be looking it up on the internet.
True! If you tell me about the recipe, or link to it, I might be able to help. Brownies are my thing.
It’s a recipe for fudgy brownies from a 1960s book written by home economics teachers. No baking soda but 1/2 t. baking powder. I suppose if Dutch process isn’t mentioned then I should default to regular.
Yes, I’d probably make the same choice. The leavener (baking powder, in this case) requires an acid to start the chemical reaction, so the more acidic natural cocoa would be the logical choice, I think.
I’ve tried both and realized regular cocoa tastes much better for dense brownies! Dutch cocoa made them taste like cake.
I agree natural bark cocoa produces a dense brownie with a nice flaky top crust. I was out today and used Dutch process, totally ruined them as they came out like cake.
I have used Hershey’s Cocoa and Special Dark Cocoa powder for years. I love the dark chocolate flavor, but a couple of years ago they changed the Special Dark to a dutched process. They say it can be used interchangeably in recipes, but I have found that it completely changes the way my recipes work and taste. Can you offer any non-dutched dark cocoa powder brands that work in your brownie recipes?
Also, I must have a brownie that has a thin, glossy, crackly top, yet super fudgy like a box mix. Is there any way to achieve that without adding melted chocolate and only using cocoa powder?
One thing to keep in mind when working with cocoa is that it reacts chemically with substances like baking powder and baking soda. If you have a recipe that includes baking powder or baking soda, and calls for Dutch process cocoa, if you use natural (or vice versa) it may not work. That said, swapping Dutch process and natural cocoa in recipes that do not include a chemical leavener should, in theory, work fine. For example, my two best brownie recipes do not include any leaveners.
The flourless brownies are more fudge-like: https://recipeforperfection.com/decadent-flourless-brownies-recipe-sundaysupper/
The deep dish brownies have a little more structure: https://recipeforperfection.com/ultimate-deep-dish-brownies-recipe/
I use Guittard Cocoa Rouge when I need Dutch process cocoa, and Scharffen Berger Natural Cocoa Powder when I need a natural cocoa powder. Hope this helps!