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Cocoa Powder  

Many of us may remember cocoa powder in the pantry, going into the baked goodies our mothers made for a birthday, holiday or other special occasion.

Cocoa powder has been a cooking and baking staple for many years. We know it makes for tasty cookies and cakes and has a connection to that other favorite, chocolate, but where it comes from, so many of us seem to have no idea.

What Goes Into Making Cocoa Powder

When cocoa beans are processed, two products are created: cocoa butter, which is the fatty component of cocoa, and a thick paste known as cocoa liquor. Cocoa liquor does not contain alcohol and should not be confused with chocolate liqueur. The paste is then dried and ground into a powder. This powder is a light brown color with an acidic taste, and is known as “natural” cocoa powder, because it has not been modified.

Cocoa powder that has undergone an alkalizing process (link to Dutched chocolate page) is known as “Dutched” powder. This process is entirely safe. By adding a mild alkali solution, the powder is given a dark brown or reddish tint and a milder flavor by raising the PH content. Dutched powder also dissolves more readily in beverages, and its milder, less bitter taste may be preferable in chocolate milk or hot chocolate. Foods such as chocolate brownies, where there is a lot of fat and/or sugar, may benefit from natural cocoa’s more intense flavor.

The Dutching process, however, has been found to reduce antioxidants in cocoa powder. Much has been written recently about chocolate, cocoa and antioxidants, which are molecules that slow down or prevent the oxidation of other molecules.

For more on the nutritional and health aspects of cocoa powder, cocoa beans and chocolate, please see the Chocolate and Health section of this website.

The cocoa butter, or fat, content, which varies according to the process used, also defines cocoa powder. Traditional pressing leaves the powder’s fat content at 10 to 12 percent. “Breakfast” cocoa powders usually have a fat content of 20 percent or more. Additional extraction methods used after traditional pressing can bring cocoa powders in the low fat or reduced fat categories.

Sources: Wikipedia and www.hersheys.com