The Cookalong Podcast

Your Cooking Companion

Posted in Food
April 2, 2019

Natural or Dutch-Process? Which Cocoa Powder to Use??

No, they’re not the same. What if your recipe doesn’t specify what kind to use? Different chemical properties means they really are not interchangeable, and reading the rest of the recipe ingredient list will tip you off.

I’m going to walk you through just enough of the chemistry involved to help you remember which is which. In a nutshell, here’s what you need to know in order to choose:

  • Does the recipe include baking powder?

Use Dutch-processed.  (The acids have been rinsed off the cocoa. No acids mean you have to add something to make your batter rise. That’s in the baking powder.)

  • Does the recipe use baking soda but NOT baking powder?

Use natural. (“Natural” means nothing has been done to modify the cocoa, so it’s acidic! It still has natural acids that will react with the baking soda to make your batter rise.)

  • No baking powder or baking soda in the ingredient list?

Use either one. It means your recipe isn’t meant to rise.  Sauces, frostings, puddings, hot chocolate, some brownies (check to make sure)…they’re not affected by the acids, so anything goes.

HOWEVER: According to Jolyon Heltermane of Cook’s Illustrated, Dutched cocoa wins every taste test between the two. Neutralizing the acids seems to allow the chocolatey flavor to shine through. Tasters consistently perceived the Dutch-processed cocoa as having a stronger chocolate flavor. So when you are in a position to choose your cocoa type, go Dutch!

  • Can you substitute them for each other?

Yes, and NO. If you’re really stuck, you can substitute natural cocoa powder in a recipe that calls for Dutched. But never use Dutched when a recipe specifies natural cocoa, or your recipe won’t rise, and you’ll have very sad little cakes or cookies!

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