Many years ago I started my culinary trail in baking. My plan was to be a pastry chef, that lead me to Europe (Commis de Patisserie in Innsbruck Austria), and after cooking school to be the Pastry Chef at the Ojai Valley Inn and Country Club. I have always said that pastry work is a great background for catering; baking takes a lot of planning and steps for each dessert, much like putting together an event.
Every so often my interests veer towards baking again. Recently my husband took up an interest in cocoa powder, specifically Dutch Cocoa. A couple of years ago he was making a cake for my birthday (oddly he claims he can’t cook, but can make a really good cake from scratch). By accident he bought a box of Hersey’s Special Dark Cocoa to use. He figured dark chocolate had always been my favorite, so went ahead and used it, not realizing Dutch and Dark are not the same thing. The cake he made was out of this world, with the deepest darkest chocolate and butter cream that I could imagine (I couldn’t even finish a piece - don’t worry it did not go to waste). Why was this cocoa so different?
We bought another can of the cocoa several months later and it just didn’t have the same kick to it. We started with reading that can verses the old can and saw that the original was Dutch Processed Cocoa (or Dutched Cocoa) and the new can was only 50% Dutched Cocoa and 50% Natural Cocoa (Hersey changed their recipe, for which I will never forgive them). So what is Dutched Cocoa? There the research begins.
Cocoa beans have some natural acidity; this is largely the source of the bitterness in chocolate. In the 1800’s the Dutching process was developed (by the Dutch) to neutralize the acidity by soaking the beans in an alkaline solution prior to processing. The result is cocoa that is neutral rather than acidic, which allows more of the flavors to be perceived (making it taste more chocolaty). The color is also darker, and the powder is also more soluble yielding a smoother texture.
There can be different degrees of Dutching, which are easy to tell by the color. I purchased a sampling of cocoas with Dutch, Double Dutch, and Black Cocoa. My husband thinks the Dutcher the better; for me it depends on the use.
In baking it’s easy to substitute in Dutch Cocoa for Natural Cocoa, just omit the baking soda. The soda reacts with the acids in the cocoa, so has nothing to do when dutch is used.
You will have to go through a specialty food supplier to get Dutched cocoa, but it’s well worth it. I highly recommend King Arthur Flour - they have a great web site and a killer catalog. One year for Christmas this where I bought the hubby that cocoa sampler I mentioned earlier - we are still enjoying it!
This next weekend we are at Dutcher Crossing for Dry Creek Valley’s Passport Wine Tasting. We will be making the most incredible Double Dutched Chocolate Brownies to pair with their port- don’t miss it.
Double Dutched Chocolate Brownies
1 cup unsalted butter
2¼ cups sugar
1¼ cups Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups chocolate chips
Combine sugar, cocoa, salt and baking powder
Add melted butter, eggs and vanilla – stir well
Finish with flour and chocolate chips – stir till combined
Pour and smooth into a parchment lined quarter sheet pan
Bake 15 to 20 minutes @ 350 degree (till glossy and firm)