how do you cocoa?

2 Dec

Well, slowly but surely we’re getting settled into our new space (hence my absence from the end of MoFo. FAIL). My new kitchen is HUGE, with tons of counter space and natural light, two things I have been sorely lacking for years, so I’m very excited to start churning out holiday goodies in this lovely new space. Of course, my best kitchen helper is right by my side, per the usual.

All I can think of is holiday baking, it makes my heart swoon. What is better than the smell of fresh baked goods, wafting from a warm oven and the eager anticipation of what is to come? I say to heck with the presents and other traditions of Giftmas, gimme the cookies/brownies/pie/cake!

Which brings me to an important issue, near and dear to my heart. Cocoa.

There are two main types of cocoa powder for baking: regular and Dutch-processed. In the picture above, the lighter cocoa on top is standard baking cocoa, while the darker, redder powder on the bottom is Dutch-processed. When I mention Dutch-processed to folks, I am often met with a blank stare, so I thought a little cocoa lesson might be in order.

Dutch-processed cocoa is cocoa that has been alkalized to reduce the acidity of the cocoa. In doing this, the natural slight bitterness (apparent standard in baking cocoa) is reduced, making for a richer chocolate flavor. I personally LOVE Dutch-processed cocoa and use it almost exclusively in my baking because of that flavor. Before discovering Dutch-pressed cocoa, I always used to add melted chocolate to almost every recipe that called for solely cocoa and no other kind of chocolate, because I felt continually let down by the lack of chocolate flavor. With the Dutch-pressed cocoa, my chocolate hound taste buds are far more satisfied (although a generous sprinkle of chocolate chips never hurt anyone). There is a depth of flavor that’s priceless in the finished product.

Technically using Dutch-processed cocoa, being more acid neutral, could require more chemical leavener to compensate (another pinch of baking powder), but I haven’t really noticed any difference swapping between them and leaving the recipe as is.

Dutch-processed cocoa can be harder to find in some areas, but it’s worth looking for. Like anything, the price can fluctuate dramatically (I’ve seen packages range from $3-$20) so check around for the best deal.

*Post amended to state the obvious- please buy fair trade when you can! Yes, it costs more, but you are helping to pay living wages for people who are working for legitimate farms where they are not slaves, but actual employees. The chocolate, coffee and diamond (and tea and bananas and more!) industries are very dark and dirty businesses to be in. Vote with your dollars!

Chocolate chip pistachio cookies and pumpkin cinnamon rolls are in my near future. What holiday baking treats do you see in your baking crystal ball?

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16 Responses to “how do you cocoa?”

  1. Beth December 2, 2010 at 3:52 pm #

    I’m seeing tons of Sparkled Ginger Cookies (VWAV) in my future… yum!

    How did the cats handle the move?

    • Kris December 3, 2010 at 3:27 pm #

      I am a late lover to ginger, having just come around to it in the past couple of years, but boy do I love it now!

      Yes, we are blessed with cats who can be viewed as either laid-back or dumb, depending on your point of view. We put the carriers out and rather than run and hide, they walk right in and lay down. Of course, the car ride is never fun for anyone, but after 2 cross country car trips, a 2-hour ride was a blessing.

  2. Tiffany December 2, 2010 at 4:23 pm #

    I agree, baking is definitely one of the best things about Christmas! I see Lemon Drop Cookies (from your book, gingerbread and shortbread of course. My family all love those lemon cookies!

    • Kris December 3, 2010 at 3:26 pm #

      I make them annually this time of year, too. They have a sort of classic old-timey appeal, I think.

  3. Tamara December 2, 2010 at 4:57 pm #

    Thanks for the explanation! I just wanted to chime in to encourage people to search out fair trade cocoa. Much of the conventional chocolate that comes to the US is sourced on the West Coast of Africa, where child slavery is rampant. Here’s some fair trade Dutch processed cocoa I found on Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Frontier-Powder-Dutch-process-Certified-Organic/dp/B001VNFHLC

    • Kris December 2, 2010 at 6:11 pm #

      Ah! Yes! Thank you for pointing out that I forgot to mention that, it’s something that is so second nature, I forgot to mention it! Post amended. πŸ™‚

  4. LEE ANN December 3, 2010 at 8:36 am #

    I’ll be making the ginger cookies from Vcon and the Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies from your book and your pumpkin tester cake.
    l’m glad I’m not the only one with a 4-legged kitchen helper.

    • Kris December 3, 2010 at 3:25 pm #

      They are the best, so long as you’re not tripping on them. πŸ™‚

  5. Hope December 3, 2010 at 8:56 am #

    Congratulations on your new home! I just bought a donut pan, so I have a feeling there will be tons of donuts in my future. I tried my first batch last night and they were good but I think I could do better. Know of a good baked donut recipe??

    • Kris December 3, 2010 at 3:24 pm #

      I do have a baked donut recipe in 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes, I will poke around the site to see if I’ve posted it. Donuts are the best!

    • Hope December 4, 2010 at 6:59 pm #

      Thanks Kris! I have 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes and now I feel foolish… It’s right there! To be fair though, I did look there first and did not see “donuts” under “D” in the index… πŸ™‚ I will try these ASAP!!!

  6. Abby Bean December 3, 2010 at 9:12 am #

    I will definitley be making pignoli cookies for the holiday, but I REALLY want to tri to make three-color “rainbow” cookies. Anyone have a recipe?

    • Kris December 3, 2010 at 3:24 pm #

      Ooh, pignoli cookies. Yum.

      Would you use a cookie press for the 3-color cookies?

  7. Courtney December 3, 2010 at 2:48 pm #

    So glad to hear that the move went okay and that you are getting settled. I am super jealous of your counter space!

    I always make biscotti for holiday gifts πŸ™‚

    Courtney

    • Kris December 3, 2010 at 3:21 pm #

      Do you have a good biscotti recipe? My biscotti sucks.

    • Courtney December 5, 2010 at 3:26 pm #

      Sure! What kinds/flavors are you looking for?

      Courtney

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