Chocoholics: Get to Know Cocoa Powder

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Dark chocolate

A starring ingredient in brownies, chocolate cake, and cookies, this pantry staple packs more flavor than any other form of chocolate ounce for ounce. Cocoa powder also makes a delicious addition to chili and sauces (think mole sauce), and when used to make hot cocoa, produces the deepest, fullest-flavored experience. But not all cocoa powder is the same. The difference in pH among three differently processed cocoa powders results in three different flavor profiles:

Dutch Cocoa Powder
Dutch cocoa powder is made by treating the cocoa bean paste with an alkalizing agent, creating a less tart, more rounded and familiar cocoa flavor. In hot cocoa, its flavor pairs well with nutty add-ins, such as almond and hazelnut, as well as spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. It has a darker brown color and dissolves more readily with less whisking. Don’t swap it for regular cocoa powder in recipes that rely on baking soda for leavening, because Dutch cocoa powder can’t activate the baking soda in the same way as natural cocoa powder.

Natural Cocoa Powder
Natural cocoa powder is made by pressing the cocoa bean paste with no additional processing after the cocoa butter is removed. Natural cocoa powder retains some of the tart, raw flavors and slightly more of the unaltered antioxidants found in the cocoa bean. In hot cocoa, its flavor pairs well with fruity add-ins like orange, raspberry and cherry. It has a lighter brown color and is slightly less soluble in liquids than the other cocoa powders.

Black Cocoa Powder
Black cocoa powder is a more heavily alkalized version of Dutch cocoa powder and has a dark black color. Black cocoa powder has a deep, one-note yet intense chocolate flavor that pairs well in hot cocoa with bold add-ins like peppermint and coffee.

How to Make Authentic Hot Cocoa
Don’t mistake instant hot cocoa for the real deal made with cocoa powder. Only unrefined cocoa powder, with all the cocoa bean solids intact, produces the deepest, fullest-flavored cup of hot cocoa. The beneficial cocoa solids in cocoa powder tend to settle to the bottom of your mug, so always serve it with a spoon for stirring as you drink it.

This recipe pairs black cocoa powder with equally striking peppermint flavor to create a hot cocoa reminiscent of the ever-popular candy confection.

1 cup whole milk
1 heaping tablespoon Frontier Organic Black Cocoa Powder
1 tablespoon Frontier Organic Cane Sugar
1/8 tablespoon Frontier Peppermint Flavor

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring milk to a simmer, stirring frequently.
2. Add cocoa and sugar, then whisk vigorously until fully dissolved and frothy.
3. Whisk in peppermint flavor, then serve.

Chef Suggestions
Top with whipped cream and shaved dark chocolate. Include a peppermint candy stick for stirring. For an adult version, replace peppermint extract with 1/2 jigger (3/4 fluid ounce) peppermint schnapps.

If dairy is a concern, substitutes such as soy, almond and coconut milk can be used to brew your hot cocoa. Alter the sweetener if need be, being careful not to overheat and curdle the milk.

Courtesy of Frontier Co-Op.