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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?
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