What's the difference between Dutch processed cocoa vs. unsweetened cocoa? And why is one used over the other in recipes?
Source: Bittersweet, by Alice Medrich. 2003 IACP Cookbook of the Year.
Natural cocoa tends to be tart and acidic because these are natural characteristics of cocoa beans (which cocoa powder is basically a concentrated form of), and this is exacerbated by the fact that cocoa is almost always made from beans of "lesser" quality. The best beans go towards making the best chocolate. Natural cocoa is bitter and strong in flavor, but also complex and fruity.
Dutch-processed cocoa is treated with a chemical alkali to make it less harsh, less acidic. It turns the cocoa a deep reddish color. The dutching process strips some of the complexity from cocoa and imparts some of the chemical flavor. The more processed the cocoa is, the darker it becomes and the less chocolate flavor remains.
Dutch processed cocoa will either be labeled as such or the ingredients will say "processed with alkali". Natural cocoa may or may not be labeled as such but the ingredients will say either "cocoa" or "unsweetened cocoa powder".
If the recipe calls for either baking soda or baking powder, you may not be able to swap one cocoa for the other because BS and BP react to the acidity in cocoa. In a recipe withouth BS or BP, you can use whichever cocoa you prefer.
Author recommends the following brands of cocoas: Scharffen Berger (highest rated; natural), Merckens (both Dutch and natural), Valrhona (Dutch), Pernigotti (Dutch), Guittard (natural).
So as to whether or not Dutch processed and natural cocoa are interchangable in a recipe...."it depends". If the recipe calls for natural and uses either baking soda or baking powder, you're going to get a different chemical reaction with the Dutch pocessed cocoa than you would with the natural. Because Dutch processed has a lower acidity, I would imagine the cake may not rise as much.
Wonderful and helpful information. Thank you!
Thank you, HerBoudoir. This is very helpful.
I only use Dutch processed and there a huge difference in taste and quality. I'm in love with the brand Droste. It's expensive, but well worth it.