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Cocoa powder comes from cocoa beans that grow in pods on the cacao tree. The beans are fermented, dried, roasted and cracked; the nibs are ground to extract about 75% of the cocoa butter, leaving a dark brown paste called chocolate liquor. After drying again, the mass is ground into powder (unsweetened cocoa). Dutch cocoa is treated with an alkali to neutralize the cocoa's natural acidity. There are two types of unsweetened baking cocoa available: Both are made by pulverising partially defatted chocolate liquor and removing nearly all the cocoa butter.
· Natural cocoa (like the sort produced by Hershey's and Nestlé). Natural cocoa is light in colour and somewhat acidic with a strong chocolate flavour. Natural cocoa is commonly used in recipes which call for baking soda. Because baking soda is an alkali, combining it with natural cocoa creates a leavening action that allows the batter to rise during baking.
· Dutch-process cocoa (such as the Hershey's European Style Cocoa and the Droste brand). Dutch-process cocoa is processed with alkali to neutralise its natural acidity. Dutch cocoa is slightly milder in taste, with a deeper and warmer colour than natural cocoa. Dutch-process cocoa is frequently used for chocolate drinks such as hot chocolate due to its ease in blending with liquids. Unfortunately, Dutch processing destroys most of the flavonols present in cocoa.
How to select Dutch cocoa is preferred for beverages and frozen desserts, and for dusting baked goods. Recipes for baked goods usually use nonalkalized cocoa powder. You can often substitute one type of cocoa for the other, but if the recipe includes baking soda, it may be counting on the acid in natural cocoa in order to react.
· Cocoa powder is essentially used as flavor in biscuits, ice cream, dairy drinks and cakes.
· Apart its use as flavor it is also used in the manufacture of coatings for confectioners or frozen desserts. Cocoa powder is also consumed by the beverage industry for example for the preparation of chocolate milk.
· Reach for cocoa to dust cakes with delicate designs: Place a doily or a paper cut-out of a heart on top of a cake, and sift the cocoa powder over it.
· Whip up a quick dessert sauce by dissolving equal parts cocoa and sugar in warm milk or cream, then adding a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg.
· In a recipe, cocoa powder can also be substituted for unsweetened chocolate--just mix together three tablespoons of cocoa powder with one tablespoon melted butter or vegetable oil for every ounce of unsweetened chocolate in a recipe.
· Still, the best thing to do with cocoa may just be to ... make cocoa. Simply dissolve two teaspoons cocoa powder and one tablespoon sugar in one tablespoon hot water, and then stir in one cup hot milk. The rich, chocolaty flavor of this easy concoction will win you over for good--and warm you up for the rest of the winter.
How to store
Store cocoa powder in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark, dry place. Stored properly, cocoa powder will last indefinitely.
· Chocolate and cocoa contain a high level of flavonoids, specifically epicatechin, which may have beneficial cardiovascular effects on health. The ingestion of flavonol-rich cocoa is associated with acute elevation of circulating nitric oxide that acts as a vasodilator thereby maintaining a regular blood flow.
· Foods rich in cocoa may help to reduce high blood pressure.