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I’ve been a chocolate fanatic for years, sometimes seeking out great chocolate dessert recipes, other times inventing them. I’m always trying to learn more about the inner workings of baking.
In a recent quest to create my ideal flourless chocolate torte, I researched a lot of existing recipes. Most are very simple concoctions of chocolate, eggs, butter, and sugar. Besides proportions, the greatest difference is in the amount of leavening from the eggs (they range from very light, souflee type recipes with beaten egg whites, to dense baked custard type recipes with mixed whole eggs and yolks.)
But I also notice that some recipes use cocoa powder in addition to chocolate (with, i assume, additional sugar and butter to balance it). I’m wondering what the advantage of the cocoa is. If added bitterness were the idea, I’d think cutting back on the sugar, or mixing in a portion of unsweetened chocolate, would do the job.
My general impression is that the best cocoas lack the depth of flavor of the best chocolates. Am I wrong about this? The only reason I can imagine is that there’s some textural advantage to substituting fat types … cocoa lets you replace some of the cocoa butter with dairy butter. But I’m not convinced.
September 30, 2004
you can alter the flavor profile with cocoa powder – it’s much more concentrated flavor than liquor. is it better? that’s a loaded question! what is better – a red car or a blue one? depends on your preferences and the criteria you use to define what better means. you’re also going to get much less fat with ccp than with liquor, which will definately affect texture – for some they want the extra flavor they can’t get with liquor alone, because sufficient liquor to achieve the desired flavor profile results in far too much fat. the available range of colors is also larger with ccp. for some mfrs, ease of use is also important – with liquor you’re going to spend more time/energy in melting it, whereas cocoa’s ready to use right out of the bag, and usually more easily measurable.
that’s interesting. I’m still curious, though, because the recipes I’m looking at with the cocoa powder use it in addition to chocolate, and in addition to other fats (typically collosal amounts of butter)
which means it’s not likely being used to make things easier (it’s an added step) or to reduce total fat (there’s piles of butterfat that could be reduced if needed) or to reduce sweetness (there’s added sugar that could be reduced).
So I’m woneering if it’s because 1) there’s a fundamentall different flavor available from the cocoa or 2) there’s a fundamentally different texture available from using a different proportion of dairy butter to cocoa butter.
Any thoughts on this?
Sometimes it’s chemistry as well as flavor. Certain recipes will recommend a dutched powder, for instance, to add emulisfying capacity to the whole mass. With flourless cakes I’ve often found that to be the case…
September 30, 2004
mmm..i’ve not seen anything to suggest that the dutched powders will aid in emulsification (sometimes it affects leavening due to the residual alkali). paulr in your case, i’m going to say it’s strictly a flavor play. powders are at the simplest level liquors that’s had most of the cocoa butter squeezed out of them – so ostensibly you should be able to recombine the two and end up with the original liquor – however, in practice this isn’t really the case, as the flavors do change in the pressing process. my guess (not knowing the formula) is that the butters there to provide moistness (if you had equal amounts of cocoa butter replacing the milk fat, it’d be soft initially but eventually it’d crystallize and you’d get a very brittle, hard product – depending on how much was present of course and what other ingredients are).
A dutched powder is certainly going to behave differently with the water content of the recipe than either an undutched/natural powder or whole chocolate. And as Sebastian points out, whether alkalized or natural, cocoa powder will contribute a different flavor profile than any solid chocolate would.
Another issue at work is probably just history. Many recipes are passed down, and it’s a pretty recent development that we have so many good options for baking chocolate. Back in the day (which is not really too long ago cocoa powder probably just made good economic (cheaper) and logistical (available) sense for many recipes.
April 20, 2006
Originally posted by paulr
that makes a lot of sense.
are there any good rough guidelines for substituting chocolate for cocoa? the unsweetened chocolates I see specify 100% cocoa, but they don’t break down the percentage of cocoa butter.
100% chocolate should be in the neighborhood of 51-55% cocoa butter give or take a bit.