What is Dutch processed cocoa vs natural cocoa?

Successful baking with cocoa powder depends on how the cocoa beans were processed. Developing chocolate flavor begins with drying and roasting cocoa beans. Then, processing removes the roasted beans from the shells. The results from this process are pieces referred to as cocoa nibs. These nibs are naturally acidic. Cocoa powder’s journey to Dutch processed cocoa vs natural cocoa now begins.

Dutch Processed Cocoa

The Dutch process washes the nibs in an alkaline solution of potassium carbonate, consequently changing the acid pH to neutral. Dutch processed cocoa is deep reddish brown in color. This coloration becomes darker as alkalinity increases.

Natural cocoa or (non alkalized cocoa or non Dutched cocoa)

When making natural cocoa, the nibs are not washed in an alkaline solution. This means that the nibs remain acidic. Packaged and sold as such, non alkalized or non Dutched cocoa is light to medium brown in color.

Natural cocoa powder can be more or less acidic. In addition, the coloration of cocoa powder made from beans with higher natural acidity will be lighter brown.

Making Cocoa Powder

The process of making chocolate and cocoa, in my opinion, is as much poetic as it is seductive. Chocolate is a topic I never tire searching and reading. However, the primary topic of this post is baking with cocoa powder. For that reason, I refer the reader to another source to discover how chocolate is made.

The International Cocoa Organization provides a straight forward, step by step description of turning cacao into chocolate.The cacao to chocolate process is located on their website using the link about cocoa processing.

Baking with Dutch processed cocoa vs natural cocoa

From an earlier post on leaveners: baking powder is a balanced mix of acid and alkaline. It reacts with the neutral batter to create a rise. Dutch processed cocoa is pH neutral and won’t change the baking powder’s reaction ability. A recipe using Dutch processed cocoa will only list baking powder as the leavener. Conversely, recipes that use natural cocoa will list both baking powder and baking soda as leaveners.

As stated, natural cocoa added to a batter with baking powder alone results in little rise. To achieve a full rise, we must add alkaline baking soda to the now acidic, non Dutched chocolate batter.

Especially relevant is this: knowing how to calculate the combined quantity of baking powder and baking soda for a stable rise is crucial to this discussion.

Natural cocoa combined with alkaline baking soda will function like baking powder. Consequently, both are acid/alkaline mix and will react. In review, the leavening ratio for 1 cup of flour is 1 teaspoon of baking powder or 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. To achieve a stable reaction in rising 1 cup of flour, reduce each of the two leaveners to stay in ratio, i.e. 1/2 teaspoon baking powder mixed with 1/8 teaspoon baking soda per cup of flour.

Ready for Cocoa

In conclusion, to achieve full chocolate flavor add 1/3 cup cocoa to 1 cup flour. When baking with non Dutched cocoa, I’ve observed a full reaction and rise by adding 1/2 teaspoon baking powder mixed with 1/8 teaspoon baking soda per cup of flour. This leavener ratio relates to the measured flour only and excludes the measured amount of cocoa.

The light to dark hue of each brand of cocoa powder is a good indicator of the pH.

Artistry In Forms coursework uses ingredient ratios rather than recipes. Using this method students easily learn to create recipes. In our class, we extensively cover the pH of ingredients.