vgcea Posted 15 May 2013 , 8:17am
post #1 of

So I'm looking up reviews for cocoa powders and stumble upon this. Apparently in a Cooks Illustrated test Hershey's natural cocoa beat all but one of the fancy cocoas (both natural and dutch) that a lot of CC'ers laud in the threads  like Droste and Scharffen Berger. I tried to compare Hershey's natural with Penzeys natural and honestly couldn't tell much of a difference. Have you found a huge difference between different cocoas in your cakes?

 

http://bakingbites.com/2012/10/cooks-illustrated-rates-supermarket-cocoa-powders/

41 replies
FlourPots Posted 15 May 2013 , 11:37am
post #2 of
I have found a HUGE difference in cocoas...
(I've posted about it before, so forgive my repetitiveness for anyone who's heard this already)
 
I made 6" rounds using the altered Hershey Chocolate Cake recipe...(sour cream instead of milk, coffee instead of water, etc.)
 
The cocoas I used were regular Hershey, Special Dark Hershey, Ghirardelli, ScharffenBerger, King Arthur Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa, and King Arthur Bensdorp Cocoa...
 
I wouldn't use either of the Hershey's ever again for chocolate cake.
The others were good, better than Hershey for sure, but...
The hands-down winner was King Arthur's Bensdorp - http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/bensdorp-dutch-process-cocoa-16-oz
 
I've since tested it against Valrhona...and although Valrhona smelled the best of all the cocoas, it didn't beat Bensdorp...

In fact, for me, I detected the slightest bitter after-taste w/ everything I made using Valrhona.
Gerle Posted 15 May 2013 , 11:42am
post #3 of

I use Hershey's the majority of the time.  For dutch process, I use King Arthur's.  Some of the others haven't proved to me to be any better for the money and since I'm just a hobby baker, I don't spend the extra for so little difference.  I like the Cook's Illustrated tests.  It's nice to know someone is out there testing these things for us.

matthewkyrankelly Posted 15 May 2013 , 12:18pm
post #4 of

Hershey's is a great product.  They can beat the others in cost because of volume.  They've been doing it forever and know their stuff.

 

That said, chocolate is like wine.  There are flavor differences between the brands.  But for the most part, they are all pretty good.  Some may strike your fancy in a particular cake or frosting or hot chocolate.  However, I personally have never used one of these brands in a cake or frosting and thought that it wasn't very good, either chocolate or cocoa.  They are often subtle differences.

 

I only avoid generic brands since their only concern is cost - quality may be lacking.

FrostedMoon Posted 15 May 2013 , 12:48pm
post #5 of

I've found like so much in baking, it really depends on personal taste.  My husband loves dark almost bitter chocolate, so anything I make with a high quality chocolate is hands down better than hersheys, even their dark chocolate powder.  I've found the general public doesn't necessarily appreciate the difference between something like Ghiradelli and Valhrona, but they do taste the difference between Hershey's and Ghiradelli, so that's what I use.  The US in general seems to prefer a sweeter more mild chocolate, which is why I think Hershey's ends up being so popular.

JWinslow Posted 15 May 2013 , 1:03pm
post #6 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by FlourPots 

I have found a HUGE difference in cocoas...
(I've posted about it before, so forgive my repetitiveness for anyone who's heard this already)
 
I made 6" rounds using the altered Hershey Chocolate Cake recipe...(sour cream instead of milk, coffee instead of water, etc.)
 
The cocoas I used were regular Hershey, Special Dark Hershey, Ghirardelli, ScharffenBerger, King Arthur Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa, and King Arthur Bensdorp Cocoa...
 
I wouldn't use either of the Hershey's ever again for chocolate cake.
The others were good, better than Hershey for sure, but...
The hands-down winner was King Arthur's Bensdorp - http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/bensdorp-dutch-process-cocoa-16-oz
 
I've since tested it against Valrhona...and although Valrhona smelled the best of all the cocoas, it didn't beat Bensdorp...

In fact, for me, I detected the slightest bitter after-taste w/ everything I made using Valrhona.

 

Wow.  I use Valrhona all the time and never had a bitter after taste.  I'll have to check into Bensdorp cause I am always trying cocoas I've never used before.

jason_kraft Posted 15 May 2013 , 3:01pm
post #7 of

AWe use Hershey Special Dark cocoa powder (mix of regular and dutch process) and it works very well.

ellavanilla Posted 15 May 2013 , 3:38pm
post #8 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by jason_kraft 

We use Hershey Special Dark cocoa powder (mix of regular and dutch process) and it works very well.

 

I just started using this myself. because I wanted a cake with a really dark appearance and it worked beautifully, and i found the taste to be smooth and rich. I personally don't use more expensive chocolate for things that are going to be mixed with a lot of other ingredients, because I don't find that it changes the taste much. However, if it's the main ingredient, I like to use Ghirardelli, because I live in California, especially in my buttercream and chocolate chip cookies or double dark chocolate cake. 

vgcea Posted 15 May 2013 , 8:53pm
post #9 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by FlourPots 

I have found a HUGE difference in cocoas...
(I've posted about it before, so forgive my repetitiveness for anyone who's heard this already)
 
I made 6" rounds using the altered Hershey Chocolate Cake recipe...(sour cream instead of milk, coffee instead of water, etc.)
 
The cocoas I used were regular Hershey, Special Dark Hershey, Ghirardelli, ScharffenBerger, King Arthur Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa, and King Arthur Bensdorp Cocoa...
 
I wouldn't use either of the Hershey's ever again for chocolate cake.
The others were good, better than Hershey for sure, but...
The hands-down winner was King Arthur's Bensdorp - http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/bensdorp-dutch-process-cocoa-16-oz
 
I've since tested it against Valrhona...and although Valrhona smelled the best of all the cocoas, it didn't beat Bensdorp...

In fact, for me, I detected the slightest bitter after-taste w/ everything I made using Valrhona.

So when you compared these cocoas did you adjust the leavening to account for the difference between Dutch vs Natural?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jason_kraft 

We use Hershey Special Dark cocoa powder (mix of regular and dutch process) and it works very well.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ellavanilla 

 

I just started using this myself. because I wanted a cake with a really dark appearance and it worked beautifully, and i found the taste to be smooth and rich. I personally don't use more expensive chocolate for things that are going to be mixed with a lot of other ingredients, because I don't find that it changes the taste much. However, if it's the main ingredient, I like to use Ghirardelli, because I live in California, especially in my buttercream and chocolate chip cookies or double dark chocolate cake. 

Jason and Ellavanilla, did you guys use recipes specific to dutch process cocoa or just substitute Hershey's Special Dark 1 for 1 in recipes calling for natural cocoa?

jason_kraft Posted 15 May 2013 , 9:42pm

A

Original message sent by vgcea

Jason and Ellavanilla, did you guys use recipes specific to dutch process cocoa or just substitute Hershey's Special Dark 1 for 1 in recipes calling for natural cocoa?

We used the Special Dark as if it was dutch process cocoa. The color is deeper and the chocolate taste is stronger but otherwise it works the same as the dutch process.

vgcea Posted 15 May 2013 , 10:36pm

Okay. Thanks Jason.

ellavanilla Posted 15 May 2013 , 10:48pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by jason_kraft 


We used the Special Dark as if it was dutch process cocoa. The color is deeper and the chocolate taste is stronger but otherwise it works the same as the dutch process.

 

 

same. 

lorieleann Posted 15 May 2013 , 11:43pm

i like e.guittard cocoa rouge for my cocoa for basic cakes.  i will go all Valrhona sometimes, but will also blend the two for a bit of cost savings (half and half).  I like the slightly bitter note that the straight Valrhona offers and it works well with some fillings better than others.  I don't use a natural cocoa and will make compensations for recipes that call for natural cocoa by adding an extra acid to the recipe.  I also like Cacao Barry Extra Brute but i find that the Cocoa Rouge is comparable and at a better price with less of a travel footprint.  

FlourPots Posted 16 May 2013 , 1:58am

vgcea...absolutely not...didn't even know I was supposed to, to be honest.

FromScratchSF Posted 16 May 2013 , 3:59am

The recipe and method really makes a big difference, so I don't really love seeing blanket comparisons without seeing more details about the recipe used.  I've made many chocolate cake recipes... butter, oil, chiffon, pound, sponge, biscut etc, all using Guittard and the intensity and actual notes of the chocolate was different in each one.  That tells me it's not the chocolate, it's how one uses the chocolate.

 

My go-to Devil's food cake is an oil-based recipe that calls for blooming the chocolate.  It's rich, has a deep color and flavor, and tastes like a dark chocolate brownie - but it's a fluffy cake.  

ellavanilla Posted 16 May 2013 , 4:13am
Quote:
Originally Posted by FromScratchSF 
.

 

My go-to Devil's food cake is an oil-based recipe that calls for blooming the chocolate.  It's rich, has a deep color and flavor, and tastes like a dark chocolate brownie - but it's a fluffy cake.  

 

and what can we do to convince you to share that recipe?

Gerle Posted 16 May 2013 , 5:25am

If it's anything like her white cake recipe she shared on her blog, it'll be the bomb!  Personally I don't like chocolate cake, but my entire family does.

AnnieCahill Posted 16 May 2013 , 11:13am

I have a cupcake recipe (from ATK) that uses bloomed cocoa as well.  It makes cupcakes that are almost black.  Way too chocolatey for me, but people flip over them.

 

The Hershey's recipe also uses bloomed cocoa.  I really like that cake even though it's a fluffy cake.  I tend to go for the more "lead ball" cakes.  :)

vgcea Posted 17 May 2013 , 5:45am

AAnnie, when you use bloomed cocoa, do you wait for it to cool completely before proceeding with the recipe?

AnnieCahill Posted 17 May 2013 , 10:52am

Yes I do.  For the cupcake recipe, you actually bloom the cocoa in hot coffee, which is what I do for the Hershey's recipe.  Then they have you cool it in the fridge.  For the Hershey's recipe I make sure it's the first thing I do so it's lukewarm but not hot when it's combined with the other ingredients.  Here is that cupcake recipe.  I really like it, but I still sometimes get the ganache sinking to the bottom.  These are so good though and they stay moist for days. 

 

http://www.fiercefoodie.com/chocolate-cupcakes-with-ganache-filling/

 

Also be advised that the batter is really runny, so I put it in a Pyrex and just pour it into the cups.  A cookie scoop wouldn't be practical here.

meriem Posted 17 May 2013 , 11:09am

AAnnie, thank you for the link, have to give it a try :) Quick question: did you use cake flour as the recipe calls? Find that really strange

FromScratchSF Posted 17 May 2013 , 2:02pm

ABread flour? That's interesting. Looks like there is so much fat from all that chocolate plus they want to suspend ganache in the middle they try and compensate by having the extra gluten. Interesting recipe!

meriem Posted 17 May 2013 , 2:06pm

AOh I meant bread not cake flour lol. Yup interesting indeed but it seems to work for the poster, might give it a go

AnnieCahill Posted 17 May 2013 , 2:11pm

meriem, the recipe uses bread flour and that's what I use.  It has more gluten so it's there for the strength of the cupcake.  I had this episode recorded on my DVR a long time ago but deleted it so I had to find the recipe on the web.  The episode does discuss the importance of the higher gluten in the bread flour.

 

These are SUPER moist and they stay that way for several days.  The ganache in the center is nice but I still have trouble with it sinking to the bottom in some cupcakes.  No one cares though because they get torn up in seconds by the chocolate lovers.  Each time I make the recipe I experiment with different ganache amounts chilled for different time periods.

 

These are the cupcakes.

 

http://cakecentral.com/g/i/2318181/a/2319181/scratch-chocolate-ganache-cupcakes-with-fondant-roses/

 

It's hard to tell from the picture, but these are some dark-azz cupcakes.  They are truly for the chocolate lover.  I do recommend pairing it with a slightly sweeter buttercream because the bitterness of the chocolate really comes through.  I have iced them with both American-style buttercream and IMBC.  Both are delicious.

 

I like this recipe because it comes together quickly and I don't even use my stand mixer.  I just put it in a bowl and use my wire whisk.

 

Edited to add that you should watch the baking time.  I start checking a couple of minutes before the lowest baking time indicated in the recipe.  I always slightly under-bake my scratch cakes and cupcakes.

megpi Posted 18 May 2013 , 6:34am

The funny thing is, scharffen berger's owned by hershey's now

meriem Posted 18 May 2013 , 9:49am

AThey look delicious I love chocolatey cupcakes. Will definitely give them a go, thanks for the recipe :)

vgcea Posted 20 May 2013 , 1:43am

A

Original message sent by AnnieCahill

Yes I do.  For the cupcake recipe, you actually bloom the cocoa in hot coffee, which is what I do for the Hershey's recipe.  Then they have you cool it in the fridge.  For the Hershey's recipe I make sure it's the first thing I do so it's lukewarm but not hot when it's combined with the other ingredients.  Here is that cupcake recipe.  I really like it, but I still sometimes get the ganache sinking to the bottom.  These are so good though and they stay moist for days. 

[URL=http://www.fiercefoodie.com/chocolate-cupcakes-with-ganache-filling/]http://www.fiercefoodie.com/chocolate-cupcakes-with-ganache-filling/[/URL]

Also be advised that the batter is really runny, so I put it in a Pyrex and just pour it into the cups.  A cookie scoop wouldn't be practical here.

Thanks for the link and info AnnieCahill, those cuppies look so dark and decadent!

Original message sent by megpi

The funny thing is, scharffen berger's owned by hershey's now

Really? When did this happen?

jason_kraft Posted 20 May 2013 , 2:04am

A

Original message sent by vgcea

Really? When did this happen?

Scharffen Berger was acquired by Hershey in 2005, it's basically just a brand now since the original factories were closed and manufacturing was consolidated with other Hershey products in 2009.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scharffen_Berger_Chocolate_Maker

vgcea Posted 20 May 2013 , 4:25am

AThanks for the link Jason. I wonder if the acquisition led to any changes in the formulas/quality of the product-- if Hersheys kept the processes the same as the original owners.

FromScratchSF Posted 20 May 2013 , 5:53am

AYes it did. Totally different product now.

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