Did you know that there are two common types of cocoa power on the market? Dutch-process and natural.
Natural cocoa, which is simply the cocoa beans that have been roasted and powdered, is naturally acidic. Dutch-process cocoa comes from a process of neutralizing the acid in the cocoa beans before they are roasted and powdered.
When I was thinking about this, a few questions came to mind. How do you tell the difference? What kind is my usual store brand? Can they be used interchangeably? Well, let’s find out. I went for some advice online and found a couple helpful sites. If you check out the sites I list at the end you will learn the following. Dutch-process cocoa has a bold, reddish colour to it, whereas natural cocoa is a lighter shade of brown; and dutch-process has a lighter flavour, while natural has a bitterness but gives a fuller chocolate flavour in the final product.
The kind you buy in tins at the grocery store is likely natural, unless it is specifically labeled ‘dutch-process,’ and therefore most common recipes you use will work well with natural cocoa. I did get some cocoa powder at a bulk store once and noticed it had a reddish colouring, but at the time didn’t realize that there might be a difference between that and a tin from the store. I can’t remember if it affected my recipes.
So can they be used interchangeably? Apparently it can go one way, but not the other. Natural cocoa is acidic, so in recipes that call for baking soda it is a good fit, because you need an acid to make the soda work (as you may recall from an earlier blogpost). Dutch-process has had the acidity removed, so it needs baking powder in order to make a recipe work, since baking powder has an acid included. Since dutch-process does not have the acid, it will not work well in a recipe that calls for baking soda; however, natural cocoa can probably be used in a recipe that calls for baking powder, it will just have a bit more acidity to make it work. I haven’t done any experimenting, so I don’t know if it would affect the flavour, but that can be something for a future post.
For more detailed info on cocoa, you can go to the following links: