The A-B-C’s of cocoa: making the best choice for every recipe

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Remember the can of Hershey’s cocoa powder your mom pulled down from the cupboard shelf when she was making brownies, or a chocolate cake?

It’s true, many moms probably reached for a Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines mix. But if for no other purpose than a mug of hot chocolate on a cold morning, I’d wager that deep-brown can of Hershey’s owned a permanent spot in the dark recesses of the pantry – becoming more and more chocolate-fingerprinted as successive batches of brownies and cakes and cookies came out of the oven!

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These days, Hershey’s isn’t the only can on the supermarket shelf. In fact, Hershey’s comes in two varieties: classic natural; and Special Dark, a blend of natural and Dutch-process cocoas.

Still, there’s more to cocoa than simply its two basic varieties, natural and Dutch-process.

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Much more. In fact, King Arthur Flour sells five types of Dutch-process cocoa.

And, factoring in your own personal taste, you’re about to discover exactly how to determine which type of cocoa to use for any of your recipes that use cocoa.

Let’s talk about taste first.

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Many of us here at King Arthur Flour have been through a sensory training course designed to help us get beyond simple opinion: “This tastes good,” and “That tastes bad.”

WHY does it taste good? HOW does it taste bad? Answering these questions allows us not only to fine-tune recipes, mixes, and blends; it sharpens our taste buds, which makes choosing the ingredients we sell to you, our fellow bakers, a lot more effective.

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We sell five types of Dutch-process cocoa, in our catalogue and on our Web site. All have been taste-tested by our “panel of experts,” and selected on the basis of both the flavor they carry, and the “look” they lend baked goods.

I’ll list those cocoas here (plus natural cocoa); keep the A-B-C designations in mind, as the baked goods in the experiments that follow will be labeled with letters, rather than the name of the cocoas.

A. Black Cocoa, a cocoa that’s been more heavily Dutched than usual, giving it very dark color and intense flavor;
B. Double-Dutch Cocoa Blend, a combination of Dutch-process cocoa and black cocoa;
C. Triple Cocoa Blend, a blend of Dutch-process cocoa, black cocoa, and natural cocoa;
D. Bensdorp Dutch-Process Cocoa, a high-fat Dutch-process cocoa;
E. Cocoa Rouge, a Dutch-process cocoa that lends baked goods appealing reddish color;
F. Natural cocoa (Ghirardelli natural cocoa is included here for purposes of comparison)

These cocoas look quite different, don’t they? But as you’ll soon see, the color of the raw cocoa doesn’t always translate to the color of the brownie. Or cake. Or hot fudge sauce.

First, let’s briefly explore the difference between natural and Dutch-process cocoa.

Natural cocoa is solid unsweetened chocolate (baker’s chocolate) that’s had most of its fat removed before being ground into powder.

Dutch-process cocoa is natural cocoa that’s been treated with an alkalizing agent to lower its acidity, thus allowing more of its pure chocolate flavor to shine through.

The difference in acidity between natural and Dutch-process cocoas means that they can’t be seamlessly interchanged, one for the other, in every recipe. While natural cocoa will give your baked goods a different flavor and color than Dutch-process, the main difference is one of leavening.

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If you’re preparing a recipe that uses baking soda as its leavener; and if there’s nothing else acidic* in the recipe, then natural cocoa is your cocoa of choice. Its acidity neutralizes baking soda’s potentially strong, “soapy” flavor; and because natural cocoa is acidic, and baking soda is a “base” (remember your chemistry?), when the two get together they produce a reaction: CO2 bubbles, which make your cake, brownies, cookies, or whatever you’re baking rise in the oven.

*And by acidic, don’t think simply buttermilk, coffee, vinegar, yogurt, sour cream, etc. Molasses, brown sugar, applesauce, pumpkin – in fact, most puréed fruits – and other potentially surprising ingredients are actually quite high in acid. So be thoughtful when studying your recipe’s ingredients.

Alternatively, if the recipe you’re making includes baking powder (or baking powder and baking soda both, with baking powder predominating), choose either natural or Dutch-process cocoa. Since baking powder is already balanced (acid/base), the cocoa is there less for its part in the leavening process, more for its flavor.

We’re getting a bit deep here, I know; hang in there. I just wanted to set the stage for the following baking experiments.

First up: brownies.

No brag, just fact: our Fudge Brownies recipe is, quite simply, THE BEST. Unlike some brownie recipes that use unsweetened solid chocolate, this one relies 100% on cocoa for its chocolate flavor.

The leavening in the recipe is baking powder, not baking soda, which means you should be able to use either natural or Dutch-process cocoa. Let’s see what these brownies look like, baked with six different cocoas.

Rather than make six batches of brownies, I made one basic batter, divided it into six bowls, and stirred a different cocoa into each. The batter was then poured into the wells of a bun pan, to make six individual round brownies.

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There’s a difference in color, for sure – both outside, and in. For reference, in the right photo above, cocoas A-B-C are stacked top to bottom on the left; D-E-F top to bottom on the right.

And the flavor? The black cocoa brownies, upper left in both photos, were the most assertively chocolate. The Double-Dutch brownies, while certainly less assertive than those made with black cocoa, did have that hint of bittersweet chocolate. The ones made with natural cocoa tasted a tiny bit acidic. And the other three brownies exhibited a slight difference in color, but (to me) no noticeable difference in flavor.

Next up: Cake Pan Cake, down the years one of our most beloved cake recipes. It’s made with baking soda, but also includes a tablespoon of vinegar.

So, class, which cocoa should you use – natural, or Dutch-process?

Yes, you in the front row, waving your hand – either, you say?

You’re absolutely right. Since the recipe is leavened with baking soda AND includes an acidic ingredient, either Dutch-process or natural cocoa are appropriate here.

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Again, there’s a noticeable difference in color. The photo on the right shows natural, black, and Triple Cocoa Blend side by side, so you can see both ends of the spectrum, plus the middle ground.

And again, the flavor of the black cocoa cake was most assertively dark chocolate; the natural, a tiny bit acidic.

If you’re a fan of older recipes – think those well-loved cards in your recipe box, passed down from Grandma; or recipes from older cookbooks – then you might encounter a recipe like the following, from the 1961 Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Cookbook.

Side note: The book includes illustrations by Andrew Warhol (yes, THAT Andy Warhol), simple pen and ink drawings of rolling pie crust and beating eggs – clearly done before he gained traction in the art world (although perhaps Amy taught him to appreciate the beauty in a can of tomato soup).

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Notice this recipe is leavened with baking soda; doesn’t include any acidic ingredients; and calls for “powdered cocoa,” without specifying what kind.

You’ll find many older recipes like this; they’re best made with natural cocoa.

Why?

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While it’s a bit hard to see in this picture, “F” (natural cocoa) yielded the highest-rising cake among all the cocoas tested, thanks to the reaction between baking soda and the cocoa’s acidity.

Natural cocoa also gave the cake a reddish color – which is exactly why chocolate cakes were often called devil’s food cakes (red devil, get it?), back when natural was the only cocoa available to most bakers.

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Black cocoa cake on top, natural cocoa cake below – a striking difference in color, eh? (Ignore the rise; these were made in different-size pans.)

And flavor? As always, the black cocoa cake was assertively DARK CHOCOLATE. But this time around, the cake made with natural cocoa had the best flavor: “chocolate-y” flavor, with a richness and depth I hadn’t tasted with natural cocoa before.

Meanwhile, the Dutched cocoa cakes tasted just a tiny bit flat or “off,” probably due to their failure to neutralize the baking soda’s flavor.

So, here’s where we are so far: in recipes calling for baking powder (or predominantly baking powder, with a lesser amount of soda), use either type of cocoa.

In recipes calling for baking soda (or predominantly baking soda, with a lesser amount of baking powder), and without any acidic ingredient (e.g., yogurt, vinegar), use natural cocoa.

What about recipes that don’t have any leavening at all?

Take Hot Fudge Sauce, a delicious, thick, rich combination of cream, sugar, cocoa, butter, and vanilla.

What kind of cocoa should you use in fudge sauce? Or chocolate icing? Or hot cocoa in a mug?

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Whatever floats your boat. Without any leavening, and usually without many competing ingredients,  you’re going to taste the cocoa above all else.

And here’s where our five Dutch-process cocoas come in: which of them is “best”?

Depends on your taste – and your eyes. (Since many of us “eat with our eyes,” color can be important.)

I’ve used all five of these cocoas, tasted and seen the results, and here’s my personal opinion – as well as those of some of my fellow bakers:

Black cocoa: I seldom use this alone, except in our Faux-Reo cookie recipe, where I want that signature black Oreo color. Instead, I mix it with other cocoas, for both dark color, and a bit of bitter chocolate flavor.

No specific formula here; simply substitute black cocoa 1:1 for part of the Dutch-process cocoa in your recipe, tweaking the balance of the two until you get the effect you want. Another thing you can try is adding (not substituting) a tablespoon of black cocoa to a recipe using natural cocoa, for darker results.

Double Dutch Cocoa Blend: This is my long-time favorite. I feel it’s the perfect balance between regular Dutch-process and black cocoa. Baked goods made with this are darkly chocolate without any unwelcome bitterness; and aside from black cocoa, Double Dutch yields the darkest color.

Adds Charlotte, our Baker’s Catalogue test kitchen baker, “The Double-Dutch makes the most decadently chocolate-y looking brownies.” Amy, our gluten-free maven, adds, “I agree with Charlotte, as far as brownies go.”

Triple Cocoa Blend: Perfect if you only want one cocoa in your pantry. Since it includes both natural and Dutch-process cocoas, you don’t have to worry about sifting through the recipe to see what kind of leavener it uses; and, if baking soda, whether there’s something acidic in the other ingredients. Triple Blend offers ease of use; good, balanced flavor, and good color – nicely dark, with a hint of red.

Susan Reid, editor of our Baking Sheet newsletter, says, “I like our Triple Cocoa Blend for a number of reasons: the blend is nicely balanced (natural/acidic with Dutch-processed/alkaline); you can swap it into almost any recipe without making any adjustments, and the color is nice and rich in the finished baked good. For people who just want to throw up their hands at too much choice (or not enough pantry space), it’s a great place to land.”

Bensdorp Dutch-Process Cocoa: This cocoa, imported from Holland, offers classic European flavor – a bit stronger than American cocoa. Baked goods made with Bensdorp are subtly red-hued. It really shines in unleavened applications, though, like icing, hot chocolate, and sauce. It’s our highest-fat cocoa, and has a certain richness that comes through in simpler recipes, where it can really strut its stuff.

Cocoa Rouge: This is a favorite of many of our customers, at whose behest we’ve recently brought it back. Like Bensdorp, Rouge has rich mouth-feel; and its vibrant, red-hued color and fudge-like flavor are undeniably compelling. Says Amy, “I like the Rouge for chocolate cake!”

And what about natural cocoa? Is it a thing of the past?

Not quite. Susan swears by natural cocoa in both icing, and hot chocolate. Here’s why:

“When I was developing our Super-Simple Chocolate Frosting recipe I was on a quest for a deeply chocolate-flavored frosting that approached the piping and spreading consistency of buttercream without the gyrations of using a cooked sugar syrup. Most of us reach for Dutch-process when deep chocolate is the target (not least of which because looks matter, and darker comes across as more chocolate-y). I was no different, but when I made the frosting with Dutch-process it was more gray than dark brown, and it just plain didn’t taste as good. My thinking is the higher acidity of the natural cocoa works as a balance to the sugar in the frosting, and the fruitier notes of the cocoa really sing out in the mixture.

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“Now that Super-Simple frosting is a go-to for a huge number of bakers, inside and outside KAF.”

She adds, “I grew up on Hershey’s natural in the square can. My first cocoa revelation was at a friend’s house in high school. Their family made hot cocoa from scratch, using said Hershey’s, but they used way less sugar than anyone I’d ever met. The first sips were pretty much tart, with just enough richness from a bit of butter and vanilla that you for sure went back for a second sip. I make my hot chocolate from scratch their way still. Although if I’m in the mood I’m not above adding a shot of Bailey’s or Bourbon…

“In a medium saucepan, melt and stir together –
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup natural cocoa
1/2 cup brown sugar
“Add 2 cups milk, a quarter cup at a time, stirring and returning to a simmer between additions. When all the milk is in and warm, add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, just before serving.”

Congratulations – you now know more about cocoa than probably 95% of the American public! And I’d like to leave you with one more bit of wisdom, this from our King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion cookbook, a compendium of LOTS of fascinating little nuggets like this –

If a recipe calls for natural cocoa and baking soda, and you want to use Dutch-process cocoa, substitute an equal amount of Dutch process cocoa but replace the soda with twice the amount of baking powder, leaving the remaining ingredients the same.

If a recipe calls for Dutch-process cocoa and baking powder, and you want to use natural cocoa, substitute an equal amount of natural cocoa but replace the baking powder with half the amount of baking soda, leaving the remaining ingredients the same.

Happy (cocoa) baking!

 

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Amy Rae

    This is awesome. I love to bake but am allergic to chocolate, so I am constantly relying on various taste testers when it comes to chocolate recipes. This info really gives me a good jumping off place to improve some of my recipes.

    I like to bake chocolate items. It allows me to enjoy the baking process without adding to my “bottom line.”

    Reply
    1. nario

      Has anyone ever “painted” an unbaked pie shell with chocolate…. then added a pecan bourbon pie filling and baked it.

      my soul sister is doing a southern party and wants a chocolate bourbon pie… i think mixing chocolate in would be a disaster… thoughts?

    2. The Baker's Hotline

      Hmm, I would not do this to an unbaked pie. Maybe add 1/2 cup of chocolate chips to the pie filling before baking? This is a pretty common practice to make a chocolate pecan pie. Jon@KAF

  2. Lorraine Fina Stevenski

    Thank you PJ for enlightening us about cocoa. Now I know what to use and when for all my baking and how to substitute different cocoas. You are the best baking teacher!

    Reply
    1. Valerie Armagno

      Thak you for the cocoa article. I now have a new appreciation for the various cocoas. I will no longer need to determine which to use, i’ll just reference a printed copy of the article when i bake.

  3. Dana

    Wow, I had no idea. I knew there were different kinds but thought they were all basically interchangeable. It’s going to take a number of readings of this post, and some note taking before I’ve got it straight, but thanks so much for explaining all the varieties and where each is appropriate. Much appreciated!

    Reply
  4. Jenn

    Wow! Thank you so much! So very informative. I currently have your black, Bensdorp and Double-Dutch Dark in my cupboard and I tend to use the black and Bensdorp together 1:1 for dark and rich brownies. I’ll have to expand and get some lovely Cocoa Rouge next time!

    Reply
  5. Nancie Waterman

    Really interesting article. I’ve never really had a clue about the various types of cocoa or what to do with them other make a cup of hot chocolate. I really learned something here. The brownie recipe I’ve always used over the years uses unsweetened bar chocolate. I’ll give your cocoa version a try to compare, but I’m wondering if there is a reason that you like using powdered cocoa better?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Nancie, I’ve just never unsweetened solid chocolate very much; I’m sure it makes a great brownie, just not what I’m used to. You can substitute 1 ounce unsweetened solid chocolate for 3 tablespoons cocoa + 1 tablespoon butter in most any recipe that doesn’t rely on solid chocolate’s ability to set when cold (e.g., candy). You migth ant to give that a try in our cocoa brownie recipe, see how you like it. Good luck – PJH

  6. Paul from Ohio

    SCHOLARLY AWESOME! Now THIS is one BLOG to PRINT AND READ SEVERAL TIMES, before you truly understand the complexities of this very serious topic. Chocolate is a biggie to me, and boy do I love my Cocoa Rouge (Chocolate Dreams), but learning why, and when to choose others is just what I was looking for. My Cocoa Rouge can is justabout gone and I have Bensdorp coming in the next shipment. Looks like I’ll need to get the others to fully test the words written here, to finally come to a real knowledge about why I use which one. Thanks PJ

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Paul, you’re one of the reasons we got the rouge back – you’re such a fan of it! Thanks for adding your thoughts here – “Dream” on! :) PJH

  7. Brandy

    I’m so glad I read this article! Thanks so much! I’ve always wondered what the difference in the cocoas were. Now I have something else to experiment with. :)

    Reply
  8. Ariella

    I recently made four different batches of my hot cocoa mix with black, double-Dutch, Bensdorp and rouge and three of us did blind taste-tests with the resulting prepared mix. Of the three of us, we all said the black was too much (uncut) for cocoa mix. And all three of us chose rouge or Bensdorp as the top & second choice (two choose rouge top & one reversed which was preferred)…very intense, rich chocolate flavor…delightful! Thank you so much for the above article!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Ariella, I noticed when simply mixing cocoa powder with water and a bit of sugar, the Bensdorp and Rouge definitely had a “creamier,” richer mouth feel; I’d guess that’s what you experienced with your hot cocoa test. Interesting – thanks for sharing here. PJH

    2. Paul from Ohio

      Ariella – and you did mix a bit of the cocoa into a paste with some of the hot milk, to blend it in, then added more and more milk (gosh I never use water in Hot Chocolate PJ!?). Cocoa Rouge hot chocolate has been my ‘treat’ these past really cold cold nights….Bensdorp is due to be delivered today, so it will be ‘whipped’ up into Hot Chocolate tonight. Yuuuuuuuuuuuumy for true!

    3. Paul from Ohio

      ps – I did also mix the sugar and cocoa (2 TBL of @ per recipe on the Cocoa Rouge can!) AND a pinch of salt…and if I wanted a bit more espresso tasting, a 1/4 tsp of Espresso Powder!

  9. Sally Crofford

    Your article on Cocoa is outstanding. I’ve copied it for handy reference, and will certainly be ordering from you. Thank You!

    Reply
  10. Laurie

    PJ, I love you.
    I make a quick hot chocolate for my daughter every morning. Add 1 tsp. cocoa, 1 tsp sugar, and an inch or so of water to a mug. Microwave until very hot (30-40 seconds) and whisk to dissolve. Add milk to the top of the mug, stir, and heat until warm. Adjust sweetness if needed. It’s not fancy, but it sure beats the processed stuff sold in packets.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Laurie, what a lovely, simple recipe. I’m going to try that tomorrow morning; it’s not like I don’t have plenty of cocoa on hand… :) PJH

  11. KC

    This was FASCINATING! As a professed chocoholic, I usually prefer a piece of chocolate over chocolate cake, but could never understand why. Now I’m going to have to study the recipes a bit more and see if using a different type of cocoa could make cake as equally delicious as a piece of chocolate. Just what I need, another excuse to “play” in the kitchen.
    Thank you kindly!

    Reply
  12. Noreen Lambert

    What a fabulous and complete primer on the wonderful world of cocoa! I am going to have to share this information in one of my online videos! People are going to find this information so great and for the people who share with me, they are going to fully understand why it is important to choose wisely, when using cocoa. Thanks so much! Always sharing your site as a “go-to” for baking information. You are simply the best!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Noreen, thanks so much for sharing – that’s what baking is all about, in my book. “It takes a village,” right? PJH

  13. Heidemarie Vukovic

    I am a chocolatier and pastry chef. I felt this article about cocoa powder was very informative and a good source for everyone, home bakers as well as chefs.
    thanks for the research done.
    heide

    Reply
  14. Nell

    Sigh… My problem is that I’m in Europe where I can get two kinds of cocoa: some that’s very dark (not black). The package says nothing about the process by which it is made, only claiming that it is dark, aromatic, and irreplaceable for drinks and baking. The fat content is given at 10-12%. If I make it into cocoa to drink, it looks greyish-reddish-brown – not an attractive color, though it is what I usually put into something I’m baking because there it seems to have a stronger flavor than my other option. Since I don’t have any idea if it’s ‘dutched’ and I didn’t know anything about the information above, I’ve never paid attention to how it behaves with leaveners. It’s definitely not black, but it’s darker than any of the others above. In color, I’d place it between A and D or E. In taste… milder, perhaps, but similar, I think, to the Hershey’s (which I haven’t tasted in 20 years, so who knows?).

    The other option looks more like B above, only a shade darker (the same kind of brown as B). Perhaps because it ‘looks’ more like I think of milk chocolate looking, it’s my go-to for hot cocoa, but I never feel like it’s as chocolatey as the darker stuff in baked goods (maybe that’s just tasting with my eyes, though). This calls itself ‘fat reduced’ cocoa, but then the ingredients label puts the fat content at 11%, so it doesn’t seem to be substantially lower-fat than the other.

    Now that I bother to taste them one after another, I find that the darker one tastes smoother and almost ‘nutty’ compared to the lighter one, which tastes almost bitter on the tip of my tongue.

    That’s all the concrete information the labels offer me. Do you have any guess what I may be working with here, and why one is labelled ‘extra dark’ and the other is not? Is one ‘dutched’ and the other not?

    And what’s the point, by the way, of taking the fat out? Does the fat change the flavor? Or would the fat just go off and turn the powder rancid? I saw a ‘natural’ cocoa in a health-food store (on the same shelf with full cocoa beans and crushed cocoa beans) and if I remember it had a fat content of something like 20%. What would one do with that, and why would it be worth getting?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Nell, I’m sorry, I thought I could help you with a trick I used to use to tell cocoas apart: stir cocoa with a little bit of water, then add a pinch of baking soda. If it’s natural cocoa; it’ll fizz; if Dutch-process, it won’t. I just tried the test using Ghirardelli natural, though – and no fizz. So I don’t know if it’s just the Ghirardelli, or that all natural cocoa is being somewhat deacidified. At any rate – you could try that, and if one of them DOES fizz, it’s natural. Beyond that, I’m just not familiar with European cocoas, so don’t know what they’d be – have you checked the manufacturer Web site? That’s what I’d do. As for fat, fat does tend to change “mouth feel,” giving an impression of richness; but unless you’re using the cocoa in a very plain application (e.g., hot cocoa, or chocolate frosting with little more than confectioners’ sugar, cocoa, and milk), then I don’t think you’ll really notice a difference in full-fat vs. 10%-11% fat cocoa. Will the fat go rancid? Eventually, like any fat. If cocoa isn’t used within several months, it would probably be best to freeze it. Hope this helps – PJH

  15. retchef5

    Great info on the various cocoas….. Testing products and informing folks of the results (good or bad) makes us all better at what we do. Although retired, I still test recipes (some of yours and others).
    Former CIA grad (1956).
    Thanks for what you do….
    Dick Dearden

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Thanks so much, Dick – your words mean a lot, coming from such a veteran chef. I can only imagine how tough the CIA was back in ’56! I’ve heard the teachers have softened up a lot recently – no more drill-sergeant approach. Bet you got a great education. Thanks for connecting with us here – PJH

  16. Nancy R

    Wow, I have been wondering about this for quite some time. I have a large pantry and therefore the luxury of purchasing several variations of a particular ingredient. When it comes to chocolate, I sometimes get stumped on which to use. Nice job KAF for this article. In-depth analysis on an ingredient is very welcome as far as I’m concerned – keep them coming.

    Reply
  17. tck130

    Thanks so much! I have always struggled with this issue. Extremely helpful to know the science behind it. As a chocolate lover, I was DROOLING over the photos!

    Reply
  18. Denise L

    Oh! You are speaking my language today! Thanks for the informative and mouth-watering post. I’ll be making your hot chocolate recipe for movie night tonight, thank you very much!

    Reply
  19. Mara Jones

    Thank you PJ for the thorough examination of cocoa – very informative. It was interesting to see the differences in color between the raw cocoa and the baked goods. I have recipes handed down from my Mom that don’t specify the type of cocoa to be used but after reading your blog now I know! Thanks again.

    Reply
  20. Dianemw

    Wow! This is awesome!!! Wonderful explanation and break down of the types of cocoa. I’ve been baking for many years (and always looking for an excuse to bake something chocolate), and never knew the differences between them. Going to take advantage of KA free shipping on cocoa this weekend to stock up on some variety!!! Thanks PJ! Love your blogs!!

    Reply
  21. Kathleen Eldridge

    Thank you so much for a detailed and perfectly understandable discussion on this subject. I am an engineer and a lack of science dooms most cookbooks and recipes for me.

    Reply
  22. Susan

    Nice review. I knew some of this but didn’t appreciate the leavening factor. This makes much more sense in the cooking process. I have made many chocolate things in my life and had developed a sense for which chocolate worked. I now appreciate why and think this explanation will help me remember.

    Reply
  23. mumpy

    this made me very curious about what i’ve been using, since i buy my baking cocoa at a little store where they bag things with their own label….it says “dutch process cocoa, 10 to 12 percent fat”, and it looks like a cross between the bensdorp and the cocoa rouge….it seems to be a nice all-purpose baking cocoa but now you have me wondering if there are recipes where a higher fat cocoa would be needed?…and why?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Mumpy, I don’t think a higher-fat cocoa is ever truly necessary; unless you’re using a LOT of cocoa in the recipe (and most recipes use 1/2 cup or less), then the amount of difference between a cocoa that’s 10% fat vs. 20%, in absolute terms, won’t be great. That said, higher-fat cocoas do increase the richness factor, the “mouth feel;” so if you’re going for the ultimate decadent experience, using a higher-fat cocoa can help take you there. PJH

  24. anne

    Thank you for the info especially the ‘geeky’ science stuff. I love knowing why I’m doing something, and I appreciate seeing photos that demonstrate differences in color and texture. It’s a useful tutorial.

    Reply
  25. Pauline Rakich

    What a great article! It was very understandable and useful. Great use of photographs, too. Since my favorite baked goods are chocolate, this information will be tremendously useful.

    Reply
  26. Diane Beil

    This article was very interesting. I’ve become more of a “foodie” in my older years, wanting better quality and outcome in everything I prepare. Now, if I could just remember all of the rules that go along with using different cocoas.

    Thanks for this informative article.

    Sincerely, Diane

    Reply
  27. Snow White

    The cocoa recipe is quite surprising, since the butter and the milk are essentially a substitute for whipping cream in any recipe that the cream is not whipped. No wonder it tasted so good.

    Reply
  28. Tiara aka luvpyrpom

    Thank you, PJ, for the picture comparisons of the different types of cocoas! I have long wondered about the term “Dutch-processed” and if they were interchangeable in recipes. My mom is a serious choco-holic and I’m always looking for that intense cocoa flavor. Recently purchased your black cocoa and I have been adding it to a lot of our family favorites baked chocolate goods to make it even better. This past holiday I had added the black cocoa to a fudge cookie recipe to give out as gifts and everyone raved about it. Said it was their favorite! Thank you again for the comparison and making baking so much fun!

    Reply
  29. Comtessa de Metoncula

    First complete article I have ever read about cocoa and baking!
    Personally, I like bitter dark being born in Belgium where they have some of the best chocolates in the World..A good chocolate, is a fresh chocolate, not the kind that has been sitting on shelves for several months!
    The most popular and the healthiest chocolate is the “Pure” or darkest bitter chocolate!
    Being initially a sacred Mayan wedding drink, it was perfected by the Dutch who added sugar.
    But there is also a dark side to the cocoa beans and one must make sure that it is “Fair Trade” where they do not use children forced labour.

    Reply
  30. Terese

    Holy cow! This was great! I’ve always wondered why some recipes seemed to taste better than others using the same cocoa. Now I know why. I will be sharing this with other baking “nuts” like me who will appreciate it. Thank you for taking the time to make it so clear and easy to understand. (BTW, Bensdorp cocoa has taken my hot cocoa mix to a new level.)

    Reply
  31. Camille

    Who knew? I have been baking for over 40 years without any of this ‘know how’ with chocolate – just knew that my goodies always got eaten up rather quickly. Although I found this a fascinating study (learning something new is always fun) the simple solution is to follow the recipe and use what is called for there – so far you folks are the only ones who consistently create recipes using all of these difference flavors…maybe to increase sales? Hats off to PJ for an in depth study!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Our philosophy is Inform, Educate, Inspire – and that matters to our employee owners as well as the customer/bakers who awe and inspire us every day. Happy Baking!

    2. Dorothy Leonard

      Thank you for such a informative article. As someone else posted…I knew there was a difference ..but wasn’t really knowledgeable of the real details. Plan to keep the article..for reference…I only Dutch Process in my cabinet, but looks like I need to have a choice. Really appreciate the info I have received when speaking to or emailing your bakers.
      Again…thanks PJ.

    3. PJ Hamel , post author

      Glad you liked it, Dorothy – and happy you’ve discovered our wonderful resource, the bakers who man the phones and email. They’re the heart of the company, for sure. Cheers – PJH

  32. Carolyn

    Talk about overload! LOL … I am actually going to print your information for my file. You folks at KAF are simply the best!! I love the information, and now can put my cocoa’s to better use instead of guessing. Thank you from the bottom of each pan I bake something wonderful and deliciously chocolatety.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I know what you mean, gentle baker – sometimes I still need to print off info and highlight – It’s great to remember what kind of learner we are to plant these seeds in our memory! Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

    1. Pam

      Wish the basics were listed in something smaller so I could easily include it in my personal recipe book. I, too, am overwhelmed by the differences.

    2. PJ Hamel , post author

      Pam, the basics are, use natural cocoa (or our Triple Blend) in recipes calling for baking soda (esp. if they don’t have another acidic ingredient); use Dutch-process in recipes calling for baking powder; and use either in recipes that don’t use chemical leavening. Hope that helps – PJH

  33. Eli

    EXCELLENT article. One further observation: Some recipes, such as the exceptional Chocolate Pound Cake in “The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion”, call for coffee or espresso (liquid or powder) to enhance the chocolate flavor. This works really well in many cases, however when I substitute black cocoa for some of the Dutch-process or natural cocoa in these recipes I generally also reduce the quantity of the coffee ingredient to avoid excess bitterness.

    Specifically in the case of the above-mentioned Chocolate Pound Cake, try either using 50/50 Dutch-process/Black cocoa blend or the Double Dutch Cocoa Blend and reducing the espresso powder by half to 1 1/2 T. I can’t make enough of these cakes to satisfy demand!

    Reply
  34. kathy

    thank you so much for an amazing article!
    in my family we always used vinegar in the chocolate cake. it wasn’t until after I was married that I realized most people don’t.
    I still think it makes the best cake.

    Reply
  35. Sue

    What an interesting and informative article. I have often wondered what cocoa to use when a recipe calls for it & this offers a lot of helpful information on the subject. Thank you very much!
    Sue

    Reply
  36. barb quinn

    I found this article to be so interesting that I copied it to use for reference. I had always wondered which cocoa to use for different recipes, and this has answered many of my questions. Thank You.

    Reply
  37. jtee4short

    Fascinating post; I feel like I just had a class at culinary school. I will be referring back to this post, I can promise you!

    Reply
  38. Carrie Seeman

    Fantastic post! You explained it so clearly that I finally understand all of the differences and how to personalize my chocolate recipes. I love the color pictures of the different cocoa powders and how they effect the color of baked goods. I now feel impowered to select a cocoa powder – for me, I loved the look of B (Double Dtuch) and C (Triple cocoa blend) in the baked goods. I just want to reach into my screen and taste them. Thank you for this in depth, useful article.

    Reply
  39. Emily Silver

    Ahhh You are amazing!!! Thank you so much for all of the blog posts and recipes but I really LOVE LEARNING about the hows and whys and configuring substitutions. YOU are so awesome for doing this for us! So proud to be in the 5% of Americans who know about cocoa differences now!

    Reply
  40. Karen

    Excellent Article! Always confusing on when you can change cocoa, I have read in the past, not to switch natural for Dutch, but never explained why!! Thanks!!

    Reply
  41. Sue

    What would be nice are flash cards so we could reference when we are baking. I read the article slowly and probably absorbed only parts of it, a little reference would help allot.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Sue, just remember: use natural cocoa, or our Triple Cocoa Blend, if the recipe calls for baking soda (or baking soda predominately); use Dutch-rocoess if it calls for baking powder; and use either when no leavening is used. Does that help? PJH

  42. Kelly

    I used the Double Dutch cocoa in my hot fudge sauce this year and was told it was the best batch ever! Thanks for the lesson on cocoa and for having so many options available for all of our baking needs!

    Reply
  43. tigermom24

    If I am now in only 5% of American public in cocoa knowledge, the I hope many more take time to read this! I learned more than I ever expected when I started reading the article! I have baked, cooked and made candies for more years than you need to know and I was totally fascinated with this presentation. It was very clear to see and imagine the differences. Photos were great, too, as many people function with “a picture is worth a thousand words.”. I really appreciate the time and effort that your staff used to develop and share this information!!!

    Reply
  44. Sherry

    A wonderful article. I really enjoyed this. I summarized the info on a notecard to tape up in my cupboard so I always choose the best cocoa for the job from now on!

    Reply
  45. Mary

    For current or former migraine headache sufferers, chocolate can be the trigger of a beastly headache. I have discovered that Dutched chocolate does not trigger a headache for me but natural cocoa does, so I convert or pass by natural cocoa recipes. I contacted your hotline some time ago and Frank gave me conversion information in a more compressed form, but this is a comprehensive overview of a very interesting topic. Thank you, PJ.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Mary, that’s interesting – and good to know, as other migraine sufferers might want to try Dutched cocoa, if they haven’t. Thanks for sharing – PJH

  46. Betsy

    Interesting, & helpfull. My Mother in law a baker always used Dutched cocoa. I didn’t know there were 5 types. Now I can better make better & more flavorfull sweets. Thanks for a great site

    Reply
  47. Kerry

    Thank you for a very useful and fun-to-read reference article. Side effect: Am experiencing a strong craving for anything chocolate! Any plans to do a similar write-up for solid chocolate types or the various flours?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Great ideas, Kerry, both – I’ll put them out there and see which of the bloggers will “bite” (literally!) Stay tuned for a “how to temper chocolate” blog post, end of this month. Cheers – PJH

  48. Diana

    Who would have known? Very interesting, informative, & now I’m craving something chocolate! Thanks for the class. Can’t wait to shop the next time I’m in VT.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      We look forward to your visit, Diana – LOTS of chocolate up here! Including the chocolates being made at our bakery. Oh, my… :) PJH

  49. Jennifer

    Great article! Very interesting and I too love the science-y experiments. I also appreciate that you openly use Hershey’s name. It is refreshing to read the appreciation you have for their place in the powdered chocolate market.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Jennifer, we all grew up on Hershey’s. It’s a good, solid cocoa, and many love it because “it tastes like home” – what we’re all used to. Interesting story: when Hershey’s chocolate bars were first being produced, demand soon outstripped supply; and in the course of making the bars, for awhile the milk that was used was very slightly sour, due to storage issues. Once those issues were worked out, and “fresh” milk was used, customers complained – the chocolate didn’t taste like it was supposed to! So, to this day, Hershey’s chocolate has a slightly acidic, “sour” note to it, in order to honor is original flavor. Interesting, huh? PJH

  50. tigermom24

    Absolutely the greatest “quick education” I have had in a long time! I have been baking, cooking, and making candies for longer than you need to know and was amazed at the cocoa varieties. I sure hope this article moved the educated to more than 5% of the population…this could solve many of the comments I see about “didn’t like the taste” etc. while others of the same recipe say “it’s the greatest.” I knew of a couple of different cocoas but never realized the complexity of how many and the extreme taste differences. Thanks to the staff for the compilation and presentation of this article. the photos are great (for some “one picture is worth a thousand words” was certainly covered with these. I, personally, really appreciate the availability of articles like this one, and thank you, again, for the resource.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      And thank you so much for your kind words and enthusiasm. We love to teach people about baking; did you know King Arthur is the largest educator of home bakers in the world? I find this blog is a wonderful teaching tool, given its ability to combine pictures with words in an unhurried, “take your time” format. Glad you liked it! PJH

  51. Mary

    I have learned so much from this article about Cocoa’s. Who knew there were so many types.
    Thank you KA for such a great article. I have made notes for future reference and can’t wait to make my favorite Chocolate Cake now.

    Reply
  52. Tom

    Great blog. Concise, clear writing and excellent coverage of subject matter. Thanks! Looking forward to more in the same vein! I was able to pull together snippets of cocoa knowledge and form a foundation of chocolate theory.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Tom, I hope you’re putting your theories into action! This weekend might be a nice time, eh? Hope your weather’s OK out there and you’re keeping warm… PJH

  53. GinPetty

    But…but…what kind of cocoa do I put in my chili??? :) Great information, PJ, and very well presented. Off to place my order.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      HAHA, Gin – now, is there baking soda in your chili, or baking powder? Hmmm…. Interestingly, I just saw a beef stew recipe calling for cocoa the other day and thought, I gotta try that. :) PJH

  54. Bonnie

    As a senior citizen who has been baking since I was ten years old I can say I have never seen such a great tutorial on cocoa. I’m passing this on to my daughters who always wonder why their recipes don’t turn out like mom’s.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Bonnie, thanks so much for “paying it forward” – hopefully someday they’ll have daughters of their own to share with. And thanks for your very kind words. :) PJH

  55. patricia summers

    Thanks for this work up. I really do appreciate the deeper look into the products I use. By the way I use KA’s black cocoa for my Road Oil Cake (does look like). Got the recipe from Cook and Tell, a newsletter from the dinosaur days when such were printed, sent by mail and paid for.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Patricia, I got Cook and Tell right up to when Karyl quit putting it out, last year. Bought her book, too. That was one wonderful newsletter, and she’s a heckuva nice person, too. I miss it! And now that you mention it, I remember that Road Oil Cake – I’ll have to try the black cocoa, thanks for the suggestion. PJH

  56. BBGrammy

    SO much valuable info. But my senior brain won’t retain all of this. Is there any way you could put together a print-friendly version? I really want to print it out as a valuable reference. Thanx if you can. If you can’t, I’ll just print the whole thing.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Sorry, BB – this blog platform doesn’t have any “print friendly” option. Here’s what you need to remember: For recipes using baking soda (or mostly baking soda), without any other acidic ingredient, use natural cocoa. For recipes using baking powder (or mostly baking powder), use Dutch-process cocoa. For recipes that don’t use any chemical leavening, use either, choosing the one whose flavor/color you prefer. Hope this helps – I totally hear you about “senior brain!” :) PJH

  57. Cynthia

    A++ I can’t say I didn’t know about all of this – as a young bride who loved to bake, a Dutch friend turned me on to “her” chocolate years ago. Through MANY failures in the kitchen, I taught myself the different uses of cocoa. (oh well, that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger…or smarter, right?) Honestly, I could never find a reasonable explanation for friends who were thinking of experimenting w/ a new kind of cocoa; all I could say was, “Oh dear, no…that won’t work – you’re NOT going to be happy with that – trust me, it won’t rise!” etc. I’m going to send them a link to this article. They will LOVE it and hopefully become customers as well! You guys are the best!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Cynthia, you definitely earned your knowledge through hard experience, eh? Well, when you learn that way you never forget, do you? Please do share this piece with your friends – we love reaching new readers. Bake on! PJH

  58. Rosie

    This has got to be one of my favourite posts :) And the Super-Simple Chocolate Frosting is amazing — I’ve made it before and it’s awesome.

    Reply
  59. TDH

    What a delight to read this! Not just because of all of the great useful information contained, but because it took me back to the first issues of the Baking Sheet I received-probably 1992-1993. THIS was the type of information that kept me subscribing, buying the cookbooks, and often your products…factual, useful, written with clarity and yet in a very “friendly” voice. I have been able to help so many cooks and bakers understand the hows and whys using the information Brinna, Susan, you, and all of the rest have provided over the years. There have been times when I have missed this type of information as the Baking Sheet has morphed and now I am hopeful that we can look forward to more of such wonderful posts. Thank you SO much!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      You’re very welcome, Don. I love doing pieces like this; though they’re long and time-consuming to work through, they’re also very engaging, as you experiment and see what happens. Kitchen alchemy! Thanks for being such a long-time subscriber to our Baking Sheet! PJH

    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Sandy, you can see the nutrition label for each cocoa underneath the price on its product page; only Cocoa Rouge doesn’t have a label online yet. Check out all the cocoas here. Calories counts range from 10 to 30 per tablespoon. PJH

  60. Genevieve

    After reading your article I suddenly feel the need to bake brownies! Can’t wait to see what your topic will be next time.

    Reply
  61. marianne

    great information on chocolate. i see many chocolate recipes that call for expresso powder also. i am absolutely not a coffee drinker. is the expresso power essential or is there a substitute or should i just ignore it?? does it have a coffee taste at all or is it just the thought in my mind.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Marianne, it’s not essential to the recipe; it’s simply there to enhance chocolate’s flavor. Espresso powder won’t add coffee taste, in the small amounts used; it just makes chocolate taste more chocolate-y. So you can ignore it; but you also might want to try it sometime, just to see what you think. PJH

    2. marianne

      thanks for the return post. i will get brave and try the expresso powder and let you know how i like it.

  62. Anne

    An odd question: Are any of the cocoas you sell *not* made on equipment that also processes peanuts/tree nuts? I love your Double Dutch cocoa but can’t use it in treats or bake sale items for my son’s school, which is nut free. It seems a lot of schools are going that route, so it would be nice to know before buying. I’m getting tired of sending Blondie’s and vanilla cakes to school. ;) Thanks for the tutorial!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Unfortunately chocolate companies also tend to have a lot of nuts and other ingredients in their facilities. As such, the cocoas we carry are not nut safe. Jon@KAF

  63. Denise AtTCR

    I so loved the comparisons of your cocoas and an explanation of the effects of using each with certain other ingredients in a recipe. That really explained a lot for me and my baking results.

    I enjoyed KAF black cocoa very much, but it has it’s place in certain recipes. I love to use it for a special deep chocolate taste. I tried the Bensdorp and really like it for my “all-purpose” chocolate. I recently bought the cocoa rouge and it is so different than the other two I’ve tried. It has been fun to taste the differences. Now I know how and why to choose which cocoa in a recipe. I don’t feel like I’ll be taking a shot in the dark anymore when I choose a cocoa to bake with. Thank you again for the education on cocoa.

    Reply
  64. CH

    Having felt rather virtuous about my morning hot cocoa habit, I was a bit dismayed to read a story published by the Center for the Study of Science in the Public Interest that the flavanols in cocoa solids are removed by the dutching process – it’s only natural cocoa that has them. (Of course, that hasn’t changed my habit).

    Reply
  65. Linda

    Great article! Who knew there was so much to know about cocoa. Thank you for demystifying cocoa. I can’t wait to get into the kitchen to start testing.

    Reply
  66. Joni M

    This is one fabulous article here! I’ve often wondered about the chemistry involved for different cocoa and almost speed read this to get to the answers of questions I’ve always just pondered on while baking. Thank you so much, and I’ll be printing this as well so the next time I am wondering just which one to use, I’ll have the info at hand…I too adore the cocoa rouge and was so glad when it came back. I’m so thankful for the many choices of cocoa, and now I know which one to use for what! I already have 4 choices of cocoa in my pantry, but will now venture out and order the black cocoa to try…thank you again, you all are the bestest!

    Reply
  67. Kate

    Lots of times people say to add expresso powder or coffee to recipes with chocolate. How would that change things, if I did one of them? Should I change type of cocoa if I do it? Thank you for your help.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Kate, if you’re going to substitute brewed coffee for the liquid in a recipe using baking soda, then the coffee becomes the acid that’ll balance the baking soda, and you can use either natural or Dutch-process cocoa. But if you’re simply adding 1/2 teaspoon or so of espresso powder in the same situation, I think I’d still use natural cocoa. For recipes using baking powder (or no leavening), don’t worry about the cocoa; it won’t be affected. PJH

  68. Laura

    Thanks for the wonderfully informative article! Could you tell us a bit about cocoa storage? I find bags or small tins of cocoa annoying to deal with when I’m baking, and would like to store my cocoa (I have 2 kinds in my pantry) in glass canisters or plastic buckets the way I store my flour and sugar, but have heard that cocoa should be in an opaque container. Is this true? And what about shelf life? Do natural cocoa and Dutch cocoa have different shelf lives? Is it better not to buy cocoa in large quantities if you’re not going to use it up within a few months? Thanks again!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Laura, I transfer my cocoa to recycled glass jars; pasta sauce jars are usually a good size, or if you want to spring for mason jars, those are good, too. I then keep the jars of cocoa in a dark cupboard, one that’s not prone to getting very hot; everything does better when it’s stored cool and dark, and I don’t think cocoa is any more or less susceptible to light degradation. As with anything else, its flavor gradually fades over time; and the higher-fat the cocoa, the more likely it is to start having a slight bit of rancidity. But if you use it up within several months, it should be OK. For longer storage, I’d freeze it. Hope this helps – PJH

  69. Jo

    I started making my own hot chocolate when I started Weight Watchers and a mug of milk, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 dutch chocolate powder, 1 Hershey’s always hit that chocolate craving. Now however my sister and I are frantically trying to find a hot chocolate mix that doesn’t have surcalose! It’s not just the “No sugar added” ones either, they all have it. Swiss Miss, Nestle, everywhere I look there it is.

    I may treat her to some fancy cocoa powder since all I have left is the Hershey’s and she doesn’t like the hot chocolate I make with it.

    Reply
  70. MarkCC

    Great and helpful article. I may have to try one or two of these at some point. But I do wonder what happened to the “All Purpose Baking Cocoa” that I have in my kitchen?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Mark, we simply changed the name to Triple Cocoa Blend, to better reflect the three different cocoas we use – thanks for asking, I needed to clarify that and forgot. ;) PJH

  71. member-Crg1

    Thanks for the great article. I have always been confused about the use of cocoas in recipes, you have certainly cleared that up! Easy to read and understand. Thanks for all the great info.

    Reply
  72. alissa

    Great information! I love the Black Cocoa. It makes a decadent brownie but oh does it make our hearts race — physically. I now use a different cocoa. I love that Amy Vanderbilt cookbook. The banana bread recipe that you mix in a blender is a favorite. And that hot cocoa recipe, well, I think I might just go try it right now.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Here’s what Wiki says: “Cocoa powder can vary in the amount of theobromine, from 2% theobromine to at least 10%. There are usually higher concentrations in dark than in milk chocolate.” PJH

  73. J English

    THANK YOU! You answered in detail and with clarity the many questions I’ve had about cocoa. Our family frequently does taste-testing of various recipes to determine which ones we like the best. This one will definitely be our next! Any chance you could do a similar blog with vanilla?

    Reply
  74. Amy P

    I taped the instructions for substitutions to the top of my huge, Costco-size dutch cocoa container so I don’t inadvertently use it without remembering to switch b. soda for b. powder. I didn’t realize when I bought it that dutch process and natural were different beyond the colour/flavour, so this was an incredibly helpful post! Thanks for explaining everything in such detail – I loved it!

    Reply
  75. cmocva

    Does anyone know what happened to Hershey’s Dutch Process Cocoa? It came in a silver can… i loved the chocolate flavor it delivered and now they don’t make it anymore. The Special Dark cocoa make everything taste like an oreo cookie :0(

    Reply
  76. Linda J-H

    This was a great great article! Truly informative. Do you know whether the acidity of the cocoa affects the rise of the baked goods at high altitude. I live at 7000 feet, and notice that some items rise more than others – never thought about whether the cocoa would have anything to do with it.

    Reply
    1. Linda J-H

      Yes, PJ, I have. I should mention that I also bake gluten free. Every recipe (especially those from the family) is a new adventure with the combo of high altitude and gf.

  77. Julie

    Thanks for the post.

    Question: I want to try a cookie recipe that is supposed to rise in the oven and then flatten out when it’s baked, and chewy in texture. The recipe uses b. soda, but the blogger who gave the recipe suggested using Ghiaradelli cocoa which is dutch. Do you suppose if I used my cocoa blend that has both types of cocoa I will end up on the puffy cookie side or flat chewy, the latter being the desired outcome? Thanks.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Julie, there’s just no way of telling, unfortunately. I’d say make a half recipe and see what happens – that way, if it doesn’t turn out flat/chewy, you can amend the next time. Good luck – PJH

  78. helena

    After baking up about 40 batches of different brownie recipes I have decided that I prefer brownies made with cocoa powder (instead of melted chocolate). Now I am trying to decide which cocoa powder will produce the taste/texture that I want. I have tried Nestle, Hershey’s, Trader Joe’s, Valrhona and Scharffen Berger and I did not like those cocoas for varying reasons. I am now game to try other cocoas, including the KAF ones, and I am wondering which one will produce the taste I want. I am looking at the King Arthur dutch-process cocoas, Pernigotti, Callebaut, Rodelle, M Cuizel, etc. Some of these are high-fat cocoas. I am looking for a cocoa that is smooth, has NO bitterness but yet will yield a very chocolatey brownie. I want a dense, fudgy brownie that tastes like fudge. Not dark chocolate fudge, but like the sweet hot fudge sauce you would get at an ice cream parlor. I want that in a square, with some height.

    Which cocoa powder will yield a fudgy brownie with ZERO bitterness and that fudge flavor?

    Reply
  79. Cedarglen

    Oh, what a wonderful post. And who does not use cocoa at times. In fairness to Hershey’s, whose various forms of cocoa and chocolate have fueled America generations, there is nothing wrong with their products. That said, for ~~the same cost (perhaps a little more, but often a little less) one CAN usually do far better. The this post’s guidance, it is easier to select cocoas that both suit personal taste and our different projects better than will one type. Personally, I use two very different types and once in a while even a third. (OK, I like the stuff!) IMO, a most helpful post. -C.

    Reply
  80. Merci

    Whew!!! You are right…almost more information than I need….. But I will go back and read it again, like studying!! But I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate the information. Actually, I was going to make brownies over the weekend and had no chocolate squares. I had some cocoa in the cabinet, but wasn’t sure how to convert it…. or whether it would work!!! I like working with cocoa better than the melted chocolate, but don’t have a great number of recipes for it. Now I have three more!!! Thank you so much for helping make me look like a great baker to my family!!!!

    Reply
  81. Cathy

    Hi PJ,

    This was a GREAT read, very informative! I’m confused about a particular thing though, why do some recipe include both baking soda and baking powder that are equal quantities but doesn’t have an acidic ingredient? I chanced upon this recipe that called for 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda and 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder. The type of cocoa (dutch or natural) to use was not stated, so I don’t know if what type of cocoa to use. I currently have your Bensdorp Dutch-process and I really want to use it. Any advice on what to do? Should I replace the soda with twice the amount of baking powder, meaning it would have a total of 4 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder? Hope you could help me. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It is possible that your recipe contains acid from an ingredient you may not think of being acidic (brown sugar is a common example). For recipes that call for both, you can really use either type of cocoa. Your Bensdorp will be fine without any alterations. Jon@KAF

  82. Charlie

    I have two questions.

    Why am I able to eat european chocolate, but North American gives me migraines.

    Also, dark chocolate is better for you, but also gives me migraines faster than milk.

    Any ideas???

    Thank you

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Charlie, so sorry about your migraines! We’re qualified and happy to answer baking questions, but these issues around your health should be discussed with your doctor, OK? Good luck – PJH

  83. DMI

    This is just amazing, and so informative (and fascinating for baking geeks). Thank you. KAF should make a laminated card with the basics on it so we can all put it on our fridges or pantry doors. It should be brown (several lovely browns, actually) !! Like a little flow chart with arrows? “If your recipe uses . . . then (arrow(s). I’d buy one!

    Reply

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