The Wonderful World of Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

pinit fg en rect gray 28 The Wonderful World of Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

Group of cocoa powders new The Wonderful World of Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

Love is in the air: This is post two of the second annual Love Rules! All Chocolate! All Month! celebration at LunaCafe. For additonal chocolate recipes inspired by the season of love, see the All Chocolate! recipe archive.

With the proliferation of cocoa powders available today, how is a cook to know which is the “best” to use for any particular purpose?

To complicate the selection process, there are three types of cocoa powder: natural, alkalized (Dutch process) and super alkalized (black or onyx). Often, it doesn’t matter which one you use, but if you are baking with chemical leaveners, it does.

If your recipe calls for baking soda (alkaline) as the leavener, you need to counterbalance with a natural cocoa powder (acidic), unless the recipe calls for sufficient other acidic ingredients to activate the baking soda. An alkalized cocoa powder, which is neutral, will not activate the baking soda.

If your recipe calls for baking powder (balanced alkali and acid) as the leavener and contains no additional acidic element, you do not want the cocoa powder to shift the balance, thus you need an alkalized (neutral) cocoa powder. If an acidic element is also present, however, you might want to balance it with an alkalized cocoa powder.

Next five new The Wonderful World of Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

To make sure we keep these straight, keep in mind that:

  • Natural process cocoa has no added alkali. It has an intense bittersweet flavor with high natural acidity and full fruity flavor.
  • Alkalized cocoa (also called Dutch process cocoa) is treated with an alkali, which helps neutralize cocoa’s natural bitterness and acidity. The alkalization process produces a powder that is typically darker and redder than naturally processed cocoa. Don’t assume, however that darker color implies deeper flavor. Alkalized cocoa is typically milder in flavor than naturally processed cocoa.
  • Super-alkalized cocoa (also called black or black onyx cocoa) is alkalized to the extreme, producing an almost black cocoa powder. It contains less fat than other cocoa powders, and this lack must be compensated for in any recipe in which it is used.

To ascertain what the “best” cocoa powder is for you or for a specific culinary creation, purchase several cocoa powders (some natural, some alkalized) and conduct a taste comparison.

And remember that “best” is a relative term. Everyone’s taste buds are different, and you may appreciate a cocoa powder that I don’t, or vice versa. In addition, sampling a cocoa powder straight on with only a little sugar and water may give a different perception than the same cocoa powder baked into a brownie or blended into a pudding. So you may want to put a few of your favorite cocoas through a couple of basic baking tests as well.

Cocoa Powder in bowl The Wonderful World of Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

To Sample a Range of Cocoa Powders

  1. Set a small, narrow, clear glass in front of each cocoa container. A shot glass is perfect for this exercise.
  2. To each glass, add 2 teaspoons cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon superfine sugar, and 1 tablespoon hot tap water.
  3. Stir to dissolve the cocoa and sugar. Set a clean spoon in front of each glass.
  4. Now, start on one end of your row of samples and taste your way through the cocoas, making sure not to mix the spoons.
  5. Take brief notes as you taste. Note color, aroma, texture, flavor notes, balance, and finish. Try not to jump to an immediate conclusion. Taste again very slowly and deliberately.

For my taste comparison, I assembled the following seventeen unsweetened cocoa powders, all of which I found locally in Northwest specialty shops and grocery stores. My conclusions follow, with one to three asterisks after the brands I especially liked. It’s interesting to note that almost all of my two and three star cocoas are natural process. The exception is Valrhona.

  1. Askinosie Soconusco Mexico ** (natural process)
  2. Askinosie Davao Philippines *** (natural process)
  3. Cacao de Pernigotti * (alkalized process)
  4. Dagoba Cacao Powder (natural process)
  5. Domori Cacao ** (natural process)
  6. Droste Cocoa * (alkalized process)
  7. E. Guittard Cocoa Rouge Cocoa Powder (alkalized process)
  8. Equal Exchange Organic Baking Cocoa (natural process)
  9. Ghirardelli Cocoa (natural process)
  10. Green & Black’s Organic Cocoa Powder * (alkalized process)
  11. Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa (natural and alkalized process)
  12. Hershey’s Cocoa (natural process)
  13. Nestles Cocoa (natural process)
  14. Pralus Cacao Poudre Plantation *** (natural process)
  15. Scharffen Berger Natural Cocoa Powder ** (natural process)
  16. Trader Joe’s Organic Cocoa (natural process)
  17. Valrhona Cocoa Powder *** (alkalized process)

Three favorites new The Wonderful World of Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

Comparison Tasting of Seventeen Unsweetened Cocoa Powders

Askinosie **

Origin: Soconusco Mexico, single origin.
Purveyor: Cacao, PDX.
Type: Natural process.
Color: Medium dark brown.
Aroma: Unusual bright, almost pungent aroma.
Texture: Super thick and lush with a bit of non-objectionable fine granularity to the finish.
Flavor: Soft floral and woody notes with balanced acidity.
Conclusion: Lovely cocoa.

Askinosie ***

Origin: Davao Philippines, single origin.
Purveyor: Cacao, PDX.
Type: Natural process.
Color: Medium dark brown.
Aroma: Classic dark chocolate aroma.
Texture: Super thick and lush with quite a bit of non-objectionable granularity to the finish.
Flavor: High-bright lemon and fresh herb notes. Complex, intriguing, well-balanced, and absolutely delicious.
Conclusion: Stunning cacao.

Cacao de Pernigotti *

Origin: Italy.
Purveyor: Williams Sonoma.
Type: Alkalized process.
Color: Very dark, rich color with red undertones.
Aroma: Highly aromatic hot chocolate with soft vanilla notes.
Flavor: Complex flavor; bright, high notes and low notes; a lot of earthy vanilla notes, also caramel and woodsy notes.
Texture: Almost velvet mouth feel; lush, thick, creamy.
Conclusion: Well balanced and delicious. The vanilla notes would be great when you want them but may not be suitable for every application.

Dagoba Organic Chocolate 

Origin: Ashland, Oregon.
Purveyor: City Market, PDX.
Type: Natural process.
Color: Dark reddish brown.
Aroma: Distinct, bright, aromatic.
Flavor: Immediate high-acid, bright notes followed by soft floral and woodsy notes. Lingering, almost too sharp finish. Somewhat one dimensional.
Texture: Thin bodied with noticeable talc residue on the tongue.
Conclusion: It is an interesting cacao but not as complex or multi-dimensional as some of the best on this list.

Domori Cacao **

Origin:  Italy, single origin.
Purveyor: Cacao and Foster & Dobbs, PDX.
Type:  Natural process, 22-24% cacao.
Color: Medium rich brown.
Aroma: Round, rich, soft aroma.
Flavor: Turbo-charged flavor with both high and deep notes in vibrant harmony. Classic full chocolate flavor with bright lemon-lime notes.
Texture: Very thick, smooth, lush mouth feel. Slight talc texture remains on the tongue.
Conclusion: Wow!

Droste Cacao * 

Origin: Holland.
Purveyor: City Market, PDX.
Type: Alkalized process.
Color: Very dark reddish-brown.
Aroma: Full, hot chocolate aroma with soft vanilla notes.
Flavor: Full, high, bright flavor to begin, then woodsy with vanilla notes on the finish.
Texture: Thick, lush, super creamy mouth feel with a very slight talc-like dryness on the tongue to finish.
Conclusion: Well balanced with all notes in harmony. Not as distinctive as some of the other superb cocoas on this list but very fine indeed nonetheless.

E. Guittard Cocoa Rouge

Origin: Burlingame, California.
Purveyor:  Sur La Table.
Type: Alkalized process.
Color: Deep red-brown.
Aroma: Off putting initially with medicinal note and then burnt wood, tobacco, cherry, and vanilla notes.
Flavor: Balanced flavor notes with no one note dominating. Mild overall with perhaps insufficient acidity.
Texture: Medium thick, smooth, and creamy with slight talc finish in the tongue..
Conclusion:  To my palate, here is something slightly off tasting about this cocoa powder. In any case, it doesn’t hold my interest.

Equal Exchange Organic Baking Cocoa

Origin: The Netherlands and Dominican Republic via Massachusetts.
Purveyor: Whole Foods.
Type: Alkalized process.
Color: Rich dark brown.
Aroma: Faint classic chocolate with woody note.
Flavor: Immediate highly bright floral notes that sustain to the finish.
Texture: Thin with gritty finish.
Conclusion: One dimensional flavor doesn’t hold my interest. Acidity dominates.

Ghirardelli Cocoa

Origin: San Leandro, California.
Purveyor: Whole Foods and City Market, PDX.
Type: Natural process.
Aroma: Full, chocolate brownie aroma.
Color: Rich reddish-brown.
Flavor: Starts soft, finishes very acidic, almost harsh. Assertive cherry, lemon, and vanilla notes.
Texture: Medium bodied, smooth and creamy with lingering sharp talc and tannic (puckery) finish on the tongue.
Conclusion:  I don’t enjoy this cocoa straight on, but it’s sharp boldness may be an attribute in baked desserts.

Green & Black’s Organic Cocoa Powder *

Origin: Italy.
Purveyor: Whole Foods and City Market, PDX.
Type: Alkalized process.
Aroma: Full, flowery aroma.
Color: Dark, reddish-brown color.
Flavor: Intense, high, bright, floral and citrus notes dominate with a lingering, woodsy after taste.
Texture: Lush, smooth mouth feel. Not as thick as Valrhona but nice nonetheless.
Conclusion: I like this cocoa a lot.

Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa

Origin: Pennsylvania.
Purveyor: Safeway.
Type: Blend of natural process and alkalized process cocoas.
Color: Very dark color; darkest of this group.
Aroma: Soft chocolate aroma.
Flavor: Deep, balanced flavor.
Texture: Slight talc mouth feel.
Conclusion: Satisfactory, but not very interesting.

Hershey’s Cocoa

Origin: Pennsylvania.
Purveyor: Safeway.
Type: Natural process.
Color: Medium dark, reddish color.
Aroma: Soft chocolate aroma.
Flavor: Distinctive, unpleasant flavor; metallic and musty. (Could be old. No expiration date indicated on container.)
Texture: More than slight talc mouth feel.
Conclusion: Won’t use this cocoa.

Nestle Cocoa

Origin: Ohio.
Purveyor: Zupan’s, PDX.
Type: Natural process.
Color: Dark reddish brown.
Aroma: Classic dark chocolate aroma, like brownies just out of the oven.
Flavor: Sweet, mild, nicely acidic. Finishes sweet and bright on the tongue. Classic chocolate flavor but not particularly complex or memorable; doesn’t hold my interest.
Texture: Light bodied compared to some of the other sampled cocoas.
Conclusion: I wouldn’t hesitate to use this cocoa powder in a pinch or on a budget. There’s nothing objectionable about it. It just isn’t remarkable.

Pralus Cacao Poudre Plantation ***

Origin: France.
Purveyor: Cacao, PDX.
Type: Natural process.
Color: Rich dark brown.
Aroma: Full baked bittersweet brownie with vanilla and caramel notes. Wonderful!
Flavor: Deep, full, rich, complex with floral, cherry, caramel, vanilla, and woodsy notes. Beautifully balanced acid level. High notes don’t dominate as in many of the other cocoas here. Harmonic perfection.
Texture: Very thick, lush, creamy. Slight talc residue at the finish.
Conclusion: Amazing cocoa. I could add only water and a little sugar, stir, and eat it as a pudding or ganache. To my palate, this cocoa is perfection.

Scharffen Berger Natural Cocoa Powder **

Origin: California.
Purveyor: Williams Sonoma and City Market, PDX.
Type: Natural process.
Color: Medium brown color.
Aroma: Pleasant soft aroma.
Flavor: Very distinctive, memorable flavor with very bright (acidic), high, fruit-forward notes mingling with deep chocolate notes. Packs a flavor wallop!
Texture: Slight talc mouth feel.
Conclusion: This is an excellent cocoa powder. I love the bright flavor.

Trader Joe’s Organic Cocoa
Origin: Peru/USA.
Purveyor: Trader Joe’s.
Type: Natural-process.
Color: Medium brown.
Aroma: Full, almost wine-like aroma with a very slight metallic note.
Flavor: Very bright, distinctive, lively. High flavor notes dominant from start to finish; floral, earthy, metallic, and acidic.
Texture: Unpleasant talc mouth feel.
Conclusion: The acidity overpowers the dark chocolate notes, which limits its usefulness in the OtherWorldly Kitchen as an all-purpose cocoa. Might be perfect in a cocoa-chocolate combo recipe as an addition to a bittersweet bar chocolate that needs a lift.

Valrhona Cocoa Powder ***

Origin: France.
Purveyor: Sur La Table and City Market, PDX.
Type: Alkalized process.
Color: Very dark reddish-brown.
Aroma: Full and tantalizing, like chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven.
Flavor: Distinctive, complex, intense, deep, and well-balanced with floral and woodsy (cedar or fir) notes dominating.
Texture: Thickens to a lush, smooth texture almost immediately after mixing with water. Wonderful mouth feel.
Conclusion: It’s easy to see why so many pastry chefs prefer to use this cocoa in their restaurant desserts. Incredible cocoa.

Resources

Chocolate Making
Cocoa Powder: Dutch, Natural and Black Onyx
Cocoa Powder’s Processing, Origin Play Key Roles in Taste
Enjoying Chocolate
Tasting Cocoa Powder

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About Susan S. Bradley

Intrepid cook, food writer, culinary instructor, author of Pacific Northwest Palate: Four Seasons of Great Cooking, and founder of the Northwest Culinary Academy.

Comments

  1. This blog is older, so probably moribund, but I was researching cocoa for health purposes and came across it. Thought I’d share some nutrition information.

    The flavor of a chocolate seems to be inversely related to its health benefits. The raw theobroma seed is bitter because of the (epi)catechins and flave3ols it contains. They are there to protect the seed against all the nasty things that want to eat it in the tropical environment. They are also the source of all the wonderful health benefits that theobroma provides. Processing the seed is what yields the rich flavor of chocolate. Most important is the fermenting of the seeds, since it destroys the most (epi) catechins, and thus bitterness. Roasting destroys more of them, though less than fermenting. And Dutching or alkalizing, completely eliminates them. But, oh, it does wonderful things for the flavor.

    So, there is a trade off between health and flavor. Of all the chocolates you tested, the one whose taste description by you comes closest to raw cocoa powder is the standard Hershey. It probably provides the most health benefits, by sacrificing chocolate flavor. Guess it depends what you want the cocoa powder for. Maybe a raw(er) one for health (a teaspoon a day) and a more processed one for flavor is the way to go.

  2. Thanks to The Chocolate Garage in Palo Alto, CA, I could have told you that these top picks would have emerged! Love love love craft chocolate.
    Lorna´s last blog post ..Holiday food fun: Knit pie & a gingerbread villageMy Profile

  3. Hi! Which cocoa powder do you think can be a substitute for Valrhona Cocoa Powder? Do you think Callebaut Cocoa is a good one?

    • Jen, I have always liked Callebaut chocolate but have not actually tried the cocoa powder. I’m not sure where it is available except by special order. Any of the 2 or 3 star chocolates that I list taste especially good to me.

  4. I recently purchased a 2.2lb bag of Valrhona for baking. Using your method of taste testing I noticed a very peculiar taste so dominant that it took away the joy of the chocolate flavor. I went ahead and baked
    a batch of bouchons, thinking that the odd taste would be eliminated. It wasn’t and when I served them
    everyone commented on the odd flavor. Can you add any light on this? I don’t know if I have an inferior
    unit of product or if this is how this product tastes.

    • Lee, that is very odd. Valrhona usually tastes like heaven. Is this the first time you’ve tasted it? It sounds like something went wrong in the manufacturing or packaging process. Please alert the manufacturer.

      • I have tasted Valrhona cocoa used in baked products before and never noticed an odd smell
        or flavor, however, I never have used it personally. I am taking it back to the restaurant supply
        tomorrow. I will email the manufacturer. Thanks for your help.

  5. Awesome blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it
    from somewhere? A theme like yours with a few simple adjustements would really
    make my blog jump out. Please let me know where you got your
    theme. Appreciate it

  6. Jonathan Clarke says:

    I really loved this post! I live in Canada and was wondering how I could go about procuring any of the cocoa powders mentioned above?

  7. Pralus Cacao is my favorite too! What a splendid exercise you prepared. I wonder if Claudio Corralo in Seattle sells cocoa powder? I’m obsessed with his 100% cocoa mass,I snack on it when I can get my hands on it. Also I think TCHO sells cocoa powder, they make a ht Ochoa shot which is essentially the same recipe you employ for tasting.
    Heather in SF´s last blog post ..Greek Comfort Food – Gigandes Plaki (Baked Giant White Beans)My Profile

  8. Offshore Company says:

    Again, awesome weblog!

  9. Thank you for this comprehensive comparisons! I just tasted Scharffen Berger cocoa for the first time, and it’s spoiled me. I could have it unsweetened. Might make the leap to Askinosie, but it is pricey. So many choices!

  10. My recipe has both baking powder and baking soda, so which type of cocoa should I use?

  11. I meant to say to avoid chocolate where point of origin of the cocoa is the Ivory Coast. Obviously you can’t tell anything by the country where the final product has been produced.
    Mary (Fit and Fed)´s last blog post ..Chocolate Orange Jalapeno SorbetMy Profile

  12. Quite the tasting service you’ve provided! I recently bought some cocoa, I wanted something fair trade and organic, since that would also insure that it would be slavery-free (organic certification includes a labor quality standard). Another way to avoid slave labor is to avoid chocolate produced in the Ivory Coast. I chose between the three kinds at PCC co-op. Guess I’m glad I didn’t pick Equal Exchange since you really didn’t like it. I chose Rapunzel which isn’t on your list, and while it worked in my recipe, I’m not convinced it’s the best I can get. Dagoba is fair trade, you didn’t seem to like it either. Fortunately, so is Green & Black which you liked a lot better. I will try that next time.
    Mary (Fit and Fed)´s last blog post ..Chocolate Orange Jalapeno SorbetMy Profile

  13. It would have been interesting to see the results of a blind taste test and know the origin of the cocoa beans for each brand but thanks for the information. I’m always in pursuit of the best products to use in my baking and you’ve given me some new ones to evaluate.

  14. A sophisticated palate and complementary evaluations! Thanks for the feedback.

    I had ignored cocoa powders until this year (except for an occasional cold day hot cocoa drink). I did not know that such variety exists. Might we hope for a business to offer an introductory box containing many samples?

    • Thank you, Rob, and you have a great idea there. It was VERY costly to purchase all those cocoa powders, but I get a little thrill now whenever I open the cupboard dedicated to their storage. :-) At my former cooking school, Northwest Culinary Academy, we did extensive chocolate tastings, which were always interesting. It was only later though that I realized cocoa powders were just as diverse in flavor.

  15. The Tessera de Cocoa recipe (online, using Black Cherry Concentrate) was created with Ghirardelli Natural Unsweetened Cocoa for its characteristics (as described in this comparison list), but also for its general availability, price and assumed level of antioxidants. Do the higher rated natural process cocoa powders in this list also rate higher in antioxidant level?

    • Rod, I am guessing that antioxidant levels are similar in these quality cocoa powders. Please note that the rating here is entirely subjective, based on only my palate. My intention with the comparison is to get folks to conduct comparisons themselves. Also, while I may prefer some of the pricier cocoas, I do consider cost when choosing which cocoa to use in any given recipe.

    • I tried adding chocolate nibs to the Tessera recipe to increase the antioxidant level and create chewiness. After the cocoa powder was mixed with virign coconut oil, I soaked the nibs in hot water, drained them and added them to the heated chocolate mixture in the pan. Lesson learned: oil and water don’t mix (the remaining water in the nibs separated, creating a gooey mess). Next time, I’ll just grind the nibs a bit in a coffee grinder and add them directly to the warm chocolate mixture.

      • Rod, oh yes, I have many a hard lesson with chocolate myself. But why do you want to grind the nibs? They have a lovely crunch. I’m afraid if you grind them that they will lend only grittiness. Let me know what happens.

        • Susan,

          The granular size of the nibs is not complementary to the Tessera recipe concept. I had to purchase another bag of nibs for today’s testing and discovered that some brands are better than others (tastier, less gritty fiber).

          But I first tried simmering the nibs in vigin coconut oil: crispier nibs (I should have known), but an interesting option for snacking, dessert toppings and some recipes!

          Then, I ground the nibs in the coffee grinder: as you expected, the grittiness was still present. However, a new food item was created: natural chocolate flavoring for brewed coffee! I’ll keep a supply next to my ground coffee (or mix the two ahead of time).

          Analysis: no nibs for this recipe (but nibbling on the side is nice).

        • Clarification: the simmered nibs were not used in the coffee grinder. Also, I was reminded to not lick spoons used to stir hot oil – nibs or not!

        • Comment: Cocoa powder clogs coffee filters – the ground nibs should have the same texture as regular ground coffee. Using 1 tbsp ground nibs to 2 tbsp ground coffee, the chocolate flavor is subtle, but pleasing.

        • Comment (again): the ground nibs and coffee are very good! (even as reheated coffee). Unlike adding flavoring or chocolate powder (or syrup) to brewed coffee, the nibs add flavor depth similar to ground coffee beans.

        • I’ve already settled into a coffee brewing routine using the “cacao brewing nibs” (1 tbsp brewing nibs per 2 tbsp ground coffee). The nibs seem to mellow the coffee slightly (perhaps like chicory) as well as give it a light chocolate note. My inexpensive coffee grinder creates some cocoa powder, so I use a strainer to isolate the brewing nibs. This coffee flavor is such pleasing accompaniment to chocolate desserts that I’ll need to wear a seat belt when the dessert cart rolls by!

        • I should have said “creates some cacao powder” since cocoa powder involves more processing than just grinding nibs.

      • Adding the moistened nibs to the heated Tessera mixture in a pan on the stove was the mistake. This procedure is best (for the recipe quantity):

        1. Soak 1/3 cup nibs, covered in very hot coffee, for 30 min. (cover the container wihle the nibs are soaking). Then drain well with a strainer and allow the strainer to set on paper towels while the Tessera mixture is prepared.

        2. Before pouring the Tessera mixture into the bowl, spread the moistened nibs evenly in the bowl. Then, slowly pour the mixture over the nibs.

        3. Refrigerate, then slice as per the recipe.

        Nibs soaked in coffee (or hot water), then drained well, may also be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for later use. The nibs remain very chewy, but not so crunchy.

        • A final comment about adding goodies: spread dried black currants and/or raw sunflower seeds on the wax paper (instead of the nibs) for healthy “energy squares”.

        • My previous comment posted before editing was completed. It should have read:

          More experience: Cacao nibs that are not moistened grind best when cool (more oil might be separated from nibs that are warm).

          Also, 3/4 cup of black currants (or dark zante currants) perfectly complement the quantity of chocolate mixture in the Tessera recipe when creating “energy squares”. Don’t like currants? Try diced, dried cherries or dried wild blueberries!

  16. i’ll f/u – thanks so much !

  17. great post — have not been able to find out where to purchase Pralus Cacao Poudre Plantation in the US. Can you please direct me? thanks

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  19. http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=173712330669

    What about the new Trader Joe’s unsweetened cocoa powder from Columbia made from Tumaco cocoa beans?

  20. Thanks for all this information – really helps clarify for me, and I’ll know where to start, with so many options!

  21. Hi! This post was awesome, I had only recently found that there are so many better options for cocoa powders that are not Hershey’s. I have a question though, if the recipe doesn’t specify whether or not to use natural or Dutch, and the baking soda & baking powder are of equal quantity, what would be better to use?

    • Thank you, Ida. In my recipes, I try to always specify which cocoa powder I used to get the results described and shown. However, in the case you mention, if the cocoa powder type is not specified, I would assume the author intended natural process cocoa powder. Either would likely work though. Hope this helps.

  22. what would you recommend as the best chocolate powder to be used for a rich dark chocolate flavor with non fat yogurt, I make a great chocolate like mouse sweetening it with stevia…been using Hersheys dark chocolate powder and wondering about trader Joes if it would be dark flavor enough…I would like a darker chocolate flavor than that Hersheys as well…thanks ….Linda

    • Linda, all unsweetened cocoa powders on the list have a deep chocolate flavor. However, overall flavor varies considerably. To my palate, Hershey’s cocoa powder has a distinctive, unpleasant flavor that is both metallic and musty. Per my tasting notes on Trader Joe’s organic cocoa, the acidity level may not be what you want with yogurt. Perhaps try Valrhona cocoa power instead.

  23. I’m going to make a chocolate beet cake that has 2 teaspoons of baking soda but also has the beets. Makes me wonder whether I should be using natural cocoa as you suggest or alkalized. Important as we’ve got a dessert competition going on Christmas Eve! Thanks for your post.

    • Gail, of course there are always recipes that feature exceptions to the rule, but in general, baking soda (an alkaline) interacts with acid (natural cocoa powder) to create the leavening action. You’re correct to suggest that the beets also provide acidity. However, with this extreme quantity of baking soda (1/4 teaspoon baking soda = 1 teaspoon baking powder), my inclination would be to use a nautural (non-alkalized) cocoa powder. Check out the Heavenly Chocolate Beet Tea Loaf I created earlier this year: http://thelunacafe.com/heavenly-chocolate-beet-tea-loaf/. It uses a small amount of baking soda to offset the natural cocoa and then baking powder as well. So you have options here. Hope this helps. Happy baking! …Susan

  24. Here is a question you may or may not be able to assist with… this post is delightfully helpful in finding the best cocoa powder, but I have a recipe that presents a bit of a problem… it is a cake, and it uses both baking soda AND baking powder.

    Now this is my scientist side coming out… there is a considerably larger amount of baking soda than baking powder (2 teaspoons of soda to 1/2 teaspoon of powder). My logic would dictate, then, that I should probably use a natural cocoa powder, since there is more of the alkaline soda than of the neutral powder… do you think this would be a safe assumption?

    • Sarah, your conclusion is correct. You need acid (natural chocolate) to react with the baking soda (alkaline). However, that’s a ton of baking soda; the equivilent of 8 teaspoons of baking powder. It will be interesting to see how that turns out. Do let us know.

  25. My Trader Joe’s has an alkalized cocoa powder. I haven’t tried it, but none of the other grocery stores carry descent alkalized cocoa powders, so I was thinking of trying it. Can anyone recommend it?

  26. Can you post the stores where you buy your preferred cocoas?

    • Karen, the stores are listed under each cocoa in the Purveyor line. I also linked each cocoa to the producers web site, in case you want to purchase the cocoa online. I bought all of these cocoas in Portland Oregon at either City Market, Pastaworks, Sur La Table, Williams Sonoma or Cacao. Hope this helps. Best…Susan

  27. Wow! This is an excellent post that I’m sure is going to be a resource that I’ll rely on for all of my future cocoa needs. To be honest, I couldn’t afford to sample this many cocoas. I’m getting into truffle-making, so it really is a treasure. Thanks, Susan.

  28. looking for a dark chocolate unsweetened powder to use for drinking with milk…can the dark chocolate powders you listed here be used for this simple purpose or are they meant exclusively for baking?

  29. great idea for a post. this makes me want to go try a lot of different cocoas!

  30. Amazing post–and I am totally impressed by your tasting expertise! (I tried to do the same with wine once. . . sadly, I just got tipsy). Also worth mentioning that the natural process (unalkalized) is higher in flavonoids that act as antioxidants in the body–more natural, and much healthier, too!
    .-= Ricki´s last blog ..Apple Pumpkin Crumble Bars (ACD Friendly) =-.

    • Ahhh Ricki, thanks for mentioning that aspect of the natural versus alkalized cocoa conundrum. I recently read that the original reason for the alkalization process was to make bad (rough, bitter, overly acidic) cocoa beans palatable. Okay, that makes sense. However, now the quality of beans that the best producers use is so high that alkalization is not necessary. Best…Susan

  31. Bravo! I been baking with Green & Black and Cacao di Pernigotti — both alkalized. Glad to see they got stars! I see I have to try some natural cocoas and you’ve provided such a great resource to get me started. Many thanks.
    .-= Nancy @ TheSensitivePantry´s last blog ..Chocolate Crumb Cake =-.

  32. What an excellent post. I’m in awe at all the many varieties of cocoa powder you have there and your knowledge about them. I’ll be sure to increase my supply of cocoa powder soon based on your advice. Thank you.

  33. OMG! i love cacao! :) but no also so many types of turkey :(

Trackbacks

  1. […] to one website, taste test results of 12 Natural Unsweetened Powders rate the winners in this order. The first […]

  2. […] link above for photos and pointers to all past chocolate posts. And don’t miss the post titled, The Wonderful World of Unsweetened Cocoa Powder, which details 17 fabulous cocoas, including my picks for top honors. Now back to the […]

  3. […] link above for photos and pointers to all past chocolate posts. And don’t miss the post titled, The Wonderful World of Unsweetened Cocoa Powder, which details 17 fabulous cocoas, including my picks for top honors. Now back to the […]

  4. […] link above for photos and pointers to all past chocolate posts. And don’t miss the post titled, The Wonderful World of Unsweetened Cocoa Powder, which details 17 fabulous cocoas, including my picks for top honors. Now back to the […]

  5. […] The Wonderful World of Unsweetened Cocoa Powder […]

  6. […] And the flavor? It’s as good as the cocoa powder you use. Just that simple. Of course, use the best cocoa powder you can get. […]

  7. [...] While most sites say that baking soda can be replaced with baking powder, I do not think that would be the case for our cupcakes. Baking powder, though also a leavening agent, has a neutral pH and cannot balance the acidity of the cocoa powder. According to this site, it does alter the taste much if you do not balance the acidity of cocoa powder. In conclusion, you probably do not need to substitute baking soda with anything when baking chocolate cupcakes. Another option would be to use alkalized, or Dutch cocoa powder. [...]

  8. [...] The thought is to use cocoa powder that’s unsweetened so we don’t get high sugar/glucose spikes in your bloodstream after celebration or eating cocoa powder. You can pacify cocoa, if indispensable with a splash of stevia. Or we can supplement a small almond milk. Maybe you’d like to supplement your possess spices such as cinnamon, cloves, or chili powder.  See,  The Wonderful World of Unsweetened Cocoa Powder | LunaCafe. [...]

  9. [...] to fit into its poor little cabinets. Also, if you want a comparison of cocoa powders, I recommend this here, which is way more put together and informative than anything I could ever do, even if I were [...]

  10. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by LDGourmet, SMS Bradley, SMS Bradley, Vivian Boroff, Vivian Boroff and others. Vivian Boroff said: RT @LunaCafe: Askinosie natural cocoa powder tops my list of favorites at http://tiny.cc/hTecQ. Amazing flavor! (@askinosie) [...]

  11. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by ddh77: RT @LunaCafe: Love Rules! All Chocolate! All Month! Post 2: The Wonderful World of Unsweetened Cocoa Powder. http://tiny.cc/nW9qi #foodblogger…

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