Jim Coleman | He's loco for cocoa - but should he go Dutch?

Posted: September 06, 2007

Q. Can you please send me some recipes using cocoa powder? A friend of mine made some unbelievable brownies and said the secret was cocoa powder. I also wanted to know if Dutch-processed cocoa powder and regular unsweetened cocoa powder are interchangeable in recipes. Keep up the good work.

- Ryan N.

A. Hey, Ryan, what kind of friend lets you taste his great brownies, tells you about a secret ingredient and then doesn't give you the recipe?

Let me answer your last question first. No, Dutch processed and regular cocoa powder cannot be substituted for one another in recipes. Let's play a little game. Look at a bunch of baking recipes using either Dutch processed or regular cocoa powder, and tell me what you notice 95 percent of the time. If you actually wasted your time doing this, I'm sure you noticed that when a recipe calls for Dutch processed cocoa powder, the leavening agent it almost always calls for is baking powder. Recipes that list regular unsweetened cocoa powder in the ingredients usually call for baking soda.

Here's a quick rundown of baking powder vs. baking soda. Baking powder is actually a combination of baking soda and an acid - normally cream of tartar. When a recipe calls for baking soda (if the final product is supposed to rise) it will also call for some kind of acid, too, so the soda can react and create leavening.

Dutch processed cocoa powder is treated with an alkali to neutralize its acids, so it needs baking powder if it is used in recipes for baked items that are supposed to rise. All that is needed to create a rise in baked goods using regular unsweetened cocoa powder, which is already very acidic, is baking soda. Both types of cocoa powder will give you a rich, chocolate flavor and color in cakes, cookies or brownies.

Here are a couple of brownie recipes for you. Tell your friend that the secret is out. *

Chef Jim Coleman, corporate chef at Normandy Farm and Blue Bell Country Club, is the author of three cookbooks and is the host of two nationally syndicated cooking shows – "A Chef's Table" on WHYY (91-FM) at noon Saturdays and "Flavors of America," on Channel 12 at 1 p.m. Saturdays and CN8 Monday through Friday, 4:30 p.m.

RYAN'S BROWNIE EXPERIENCE

cup butter, melted

1 1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon almond extract

4 eggs

cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup chocolate chips

Blend melted butter, sugar, vanilla and almond extract in a mixing bowl. Add eggs; beat well. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; gradually add to egg mixture until well blended. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips. Spread in greased 8-inch square pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until brownie begins to pull away from edge of pan. Cool; cut into squares.

RYAN'S BROWNIE EXPRESS

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup cold butter

1 can (14-ounce size) chocolate sweetened condensed milk

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

8 ounces chocolate chips

cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350. Line 13x9-inch baking pan with foil; set aside.

In bowl, combine 1 cup flour and sugar; cut in butter until crumbly. Press on the bottom of pan. Bake 15 minutes.

In another bowl, beat milk, cocoa, eggs, remaining 1/4 cup flour, vanilla and baking soda. Mix in chocolate and nuts. Spread over prepared crust. Bake 20 minutes or until set.

Cool. Use foil to lift out of pan. Cut into bars. Decorate with icing or gels if desired. Store covered.

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