Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dutch Process Cocoa Brownies

Today is Queen’s Day, sponsored by the Dutch Community. It is being celebrated at the Windmill in the Queen Wilhelmina Garden in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, 11am-5pm.

So planning for the celebration today, I realized I have never mentioned anything about Dutch Cocoa here on How often have you seen a recipe that called for Dutch cocoa and wondered exactly what that means.

Actually, there's nothing very Dutch about Dutch Processed Cocoa. It's called a Dutching process because the person who invented it, Coenraad J. van Houten, was a 19th century Dutchman who pioneered the use of the hydraulic press to defat chocolate liquor. Van Houten's solution lay in simple chemistry. Cocoa in its natural state is slightly acidic, as indicated by its pH value of around 5.4. By soaking the cocoa nibs in a basic (or alkaline) solution, he found he could raise the pH to 7 (neutral) or even higher. The higher the pH, the darker the color. And, the acids present in natural cocoa were neutralized, reducing its harshness.

These developments greatly expanded the use of chocolate, which had been mostly used as a beverage in Europe up until that point. Because Dutch process cocoa has a neutral pH, and is not acidic like regular cocoa, it cannot be used in recipes that use baking soda as the leavening agent and that rely solely on the acidity of the cocoa to activate it; it can instead be used in recipes that use baking powder for leavening.

To learn more about the differences between Dutch-processed cocoa and natural cocoa, read this article in Cook's Illustrated.

Planning to bake with cocoa? Here's advice from David Lebowitz.

Because natural cocoa powder hasn’t had its acidity tempered, it’s generally paired with baking soda (which is alkali) in recipes. Dutch-process cocoa is frequently used in recipes with baking powder, as it doesn’t react to baking soda like natural cocoa does.

Many classic American recipes, like Devil’s Food Cake, use natural cocoa powder. There is also a reaction between natural cocoa powder and baking soda that occurs in recipes, which creates a reddish crumb, like Devil’s Food Cake.

There are exceptions to each, of course. And according to Fine Cooking magazine, “You can substitute natural cocoa powder for Dutch-process in most recipes (though not vice versa). Flavor and texture can be affected, but generally only in recipes calling for 3/4 cup or more.” However when a batter-based recipe calls for natural cocoa powder, do not use Dutch-process cocoa powder. But I always advise folks to follow what the recipe says. For sauces and ice creams, they can be swapped out. For cakes and cookies, I don’t recommend it, as your results may not be the same if you make substitutions.

If a recipe calls for either, the main different is that Dutch-process cocoa will give a darker color and a more complex flavor whereas natural cocoa powder tends to be fruitier tasting and lighter in color.

Here are a few cocoas I like that are great in brownies, devil's food cake and other chocolate treats: King Arthur Flour  Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa,  Callebaut, Guittard, Valrhona and Ghirardelli.

The following recipe is adapted from Alice Medrich for Cocoa Brownies. Cocoa brownies have soft centers and crunchy 'crusts'. I love these, and as I've said before, you can never have too many brownie recipes. Use the very best cocoa!

Cocoa Brownies

10 tablespoons sweet butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder Dutch-process
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Madagascar vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Position rack in lower third of the oven and preheat to 325°F.
Line bottom and sides of 8 x x8 baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving overhang on two opposite sides.
Combine butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in medium heatproof bowl and set  bowl in wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until butter is melted and mixture is smooth.
Remove bowl from skillet and set aside briefly until mixture is warm, not hot.
Stir in vanilla with wooden spoon.
Add eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one.
When batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with wooden spoon or rubber spatula.
Spread evenly in lined pan.
Bake until toothpick comes out slightly moist-20 to 25 minutes.
Cool completely on a rack.
Lift up ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer brownies to a cutting board.
Cut into squares.


yummychunklet said...


KateH said...

Uh, what is the ending of the sentence, "Stir from time to time until butter is melted and mixture..."?

What's Baking?? said...

Thanks for the very intresting information about cocoa..

Janet Rudolph said...

Kate, sorry about that.. until mixture is smooth.. :-) Just accidentally cut off the text.