WHAT IS COCOA POWDER?
The short version is this is what’s left over when you remove most of the cocoa butter (fat) from Theobroma cacao beans. They’re fermented, roasted, dried and ground into a cocoa powder. Higher quality powders will leave a bit more cocoa butter in the mix. There are two types of manufacturing process used, Dutch and natural. Natural retains the normal pH (acidity) of the cocoa beans which is around 5.5. Dutch washes the beans in an alkaline bath raising the pH to around 7.0. This creates a more mellow flavor that easily dissolves, but has lower anti-oxidant levels. One of the more expensive ingredients in the world, it takes over 5 years for a tree to start producing pods which then need to be harvested by hand a.k.a machete. That’s why chocolate manufacturers have metal detectors, to make sure no metal slivers end up in your bar!
WHY IS COCOA POWDER GOOD FOR YOU?
Besides being tasty, it’s low in calories and high in fiber. In terms of minerals it’s a decent source of iron, manganese and magnesium. Caffeine is also present (surprise) so limit consumption if this is a concern. However in terms of vitamins look elsewhere, there’s not much present. Try instead adding other spices to cocoa powder like cinnamon or chipotle to add missing health benefits as well as popular flavors that can be used in a hot chocolate or marinated steak!
WHEN IS COCOA POWDER IN SEASON?
This is a dried powder with a long shelf life and so is available year-round.
HOW SHOULD COCOA POWDER BE STORED?
Room temperature in an airtight container with little to no light is best. Don’t refrigerate or freeze this ingredient, the humidity level in both locations is much higher.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CHOCOLATE POWDER, COCOA AND CACAO?
Cacao has become a generic term but technically it’s the pods and beans from the plant itself. Cocoa powder is what’s left after the fat is removed from the cacao beans. Chocolate is a re-blended mix of cacao and cocoa butter (along with other spices and sweeteners).