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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am developing some dessert recipes for a magazine and need some advice on cocoa. Which brand of cocoa has a well-balanced, rich taste--not too acidic, dark brown-red color, and flavor that stands up to other spices and high heat?
I've been singularly unimpressed with Nestle, Hershey, and Ghiradelli cocoas-too light, flavor disappears next to cinnamon and allspice, acidic aftertaste.
Any suggestions from the pastry chefs here?
Thanks a million.
 

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Valrhona!
 

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Back in February, the NY Times (Regina Schrambling) did a taste test of cocoas.

Leaving out the ones that were not recommended, they are:
  1. Fauchon
  2. Valrhona
  3. Master Choice Premium Cocoa surprise!
  4. La Maison du Chocolat
  5. Droste Dutch-process Cocoa
  6. Dean & Deluca Bensdorp Cocoa
  7. Schokinag Christopher Norman Chocolates Ltd.
  8. Green & Black's Fairtrade Organic Cocoa
  9. Scharffen Berger Natural Cocoa Powder
  10. Nestle Toll House Cocoa
  11. Ghirardelli Unsweetened Cocoa[/list=1]

    BTW: "Dutch-processed" means the cocoa has been washed in an alkaline solution. According to Fine Cooking, "The resulting cocoa is consistently darker in color, mellower in flavor, and less acidic than the natural (nonalkalized) powder. ... In cakes and brownies, the Dutch-processed cocoas tend to produce moister and deeper colored baked goods ... ."
 

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I use Patisfrance and am very satisfied with it. It's dark and not too acidic. I prefer Dutched cocoa over natural.
I still haven't found "black" cocoa that I can work with.
 

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It depends on whether you want Dutch process cocoa or not.

From The Art Of Chocolate By Elaine Gonzalez:

Unsweetened cocoa powder is pulverised, partially defatted chocolate liquor. Two types are available in supermarkets: natural (no alkalised) and Dutched or Dutch-process (alkalised), name in honour of the Dutch chemist who invented it, Coneraad van Houten.

Natural cocoa is light in colour and somewhat acidic, with a strong chocolate flavour. In baking, use natural cocoa in recipes that call for baking soda (because it is an alkali). Combining natural cocoa (an acid) with an alkali such as baking soda created a leavening action that allows the batter to rise during baking.

Dutch-processed cocoa has been processed with alkali to neutralise it’s natural acidity, so it is darker (sometimes with a reddish cast), milder in taste, and less acidic than the nonalkalised kind, even though its colour suggests that it is the stonger flavoured of the two. Use Dutch-processed cocoa in recipes that call for baking powder as the primary leavener. If alkalised cocoa is combined with baking soda (another alkali) in a cake recipe, it will create an overabundance of alkali in the batter. As a result the batter will not rise properly, and the cake will have a soapy taste. In recipes where no leavening is required, you can use either one.

Until recently, almost all alkalised cocoa was imported from Europe, but American brands are now available as well. Do not confuse either of these cocoa products with cocoa powder mixes, which contain dry milk powder, sugar and flavourings.

Natural (nonalkalised) cocoa powders include Ghirardelli Premium unsweetened Cocoa, Hershey’s Cocoa and Nestlé Toll House Cocoa.

Dröste Cocoa, Van Houten Cacao and Hershey’s European Style Dutched (alkalised) Cocoa are available in most supermarkets. Bensdorf, DeZaanm Lindt, Pernigotti, Valhrona, Van Leer and Merkens Dutch-process cocoas are sold in specialty food stores and through mail-order catalogs.



P.S. I'm sure Cook's Illustrated has done tests on cocoa at some point. If you become a member for a month, you'll have access to the results of all their tests.
 

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Yes, I remember the CI article. They top rated Van Leer's cocoa. For a couple of years I bought it (for my husband, who doesn't drink coffee but has a cup of cocoa every morning - the wild man!) from King Arthur, then KA stopped carrying it. I saw it in the New York Cake catalog, though.

For easy-to-find cocoa, he likes Pernigotti from Williams Sonoma. We have a huge jar of Cocoa Barry for my baking, and he loves that too. His favorite, however, is the unbelievably expensive shaved Valrhona scraps from Burdicks Chocolates!

That brings up a point - are some cocoas best for baking versus others for drinking? I think Cooks Illustrated has said that people prefer NON-dutch cocoa in brownies, more the flavor we all remember. Do you all think there's a distinction between drinking and baking cocoas?
 

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I'm curious that none of these articles seem to mention the "Van Houten" brand. That's what I used to buy, years ago. Is it no longer being made, or just not available in the States? Anybody know?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thank you for all the useful information, everyone! I wound up using Droste.
Although it's dutched, I find that it has a great flavor and holds its own along with cinnamon and other spices and flavors that I'm combining these desserts with. I also have to be careful that ingredients are reasonably available in most American markets.
 

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Footnfoto will you tell us what magazine your work on this will be in so we can watch for it, please? What a cool job (at least that's how it looks from my seat).
 

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if i were to take up drinking hot chocolate every morning i would use larry burdick chocolate shavings too!!!!!! he is wonderful and his product is to swoon over!

cocoa is a very personal thing i have found! i use cocoa barry at the restaurant and the rich valrohna at home.:bounce:
 

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Thank you...Thank you...Thank you for specifically identifying the alkaline and non-alkaline products by name.  After an hour on the Internet, you were the only one who literally spelled them out!  I just threw out the Hershey's Made with Alkaline, and opened the Nestle Toll House box that said 100% Cocoa.  AND, the Toll House was a much lighter color than the Nestle, which was very dark.  I want the flavonoids preserved and the alkaline process removes most of the flavonoids.  And I didn't want to spend $15 for a foreign brand to get that.  So thank you to the person who spelled this out.
 

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I hope I'm in the right place here but I'm new, so please bear with me.  I love eating 100% pure baking cocoa.  I break up a full baking bar and eat one square per day -- bagging the rest for the week ahead.  I break up the 1 square in little pieces and put it in plain fat-free yogurt.  The yogurt kills the bitterness, while the broken pieces of chocolate give the yogurt a different and intriguing texture.  But like this current post, which 100% cocoa baking bar brands boast non-Dutch processing?  Thanks in advance for your specific brand answers.....
 
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