Originally posted by paulr
I’ve never had a chance to compare cocoa powders. Have used the usual brands from the supermarket, and some Ghiradelli’s that I found.
Now some recipes that I make use a fair amount of it and it seemed like a good time to upgrade. My first thought was to just order some Valrhona, but then I realized some of you might know better.
I’m leaning towards Dutch processed, since it seems to be called for more often.
Usually, recipes recommend Dutch processed not because it makes any specific difference to the recipe as such, but rather because it gives a darker colour, and this tends to make people think of the resultant creation as probably better (more chocolatey) even though, paradoxically, Dutch cocoa has a *milder* flavour. There are some who might find the taste of natural cocoa (un-Dutched) a little intimidating, but it’s rare, and usually that’s because of experience with low-quality natural cocoa.
In a few recipes use of one type or the other makes a difference, but in those cases, it’s usually natural cocoa that’s being called for because its acidity reacts with an alkali such as baking soda to cause something to rise. Such is the case, for example, with Devil’s Food cake – at least the classic recipes for it. Dutch process does dissolve better in liquids, especially milk, so if that’s an issue, it might have its uses. On the whole though I prefer natural because of its more powerful flavour.
Valrhona, as it happens, is Dutched. Ghirardelli is natural and actually quite good, as long as it’s fresh. I personally prefer Ghirardelli to Valrhona. I tried Domori (natural) as well and was not particularly impressed. Michel Cluizel (natural) is awesome and my favourite, but difficult to find unless you order in 3 kilo bags. Guittard (Dutch) is among the better Dutch processed. I actually quite like Droste too, among Dutch cocoas. I wish there were a good organic cocoa but all that I’ve tried have been uniformly worthless.
One other point that you may need to examine is low-fat vs. high-fat. Low-fat cocoa has about 9% cocoa butter. This gives it fantastic shelf life and excellent mixing properties, but usually diminished flavour. High-fat cocoa (Ghirardelli and Cluizel are both in this category) has about 20% cocoa butter and a much richer flavour, but only when fresh. It has a much shorter shelf life. Mixing can also be difficult if your recipes contain a lot of low-fat liquids. Also, if you’re making something light that relies on whipped egg whites, high-fat cocoa dramatically reduces the volume compared to low-fat cocoa.