See also chocolate.
Cocoa powder and chocolate come from a tropical tree called Theobroma. Literally translated, this genus name means "food of the gods."
Cocoa comes from bean pods that grow on the tropical Theobroma Cacao
tree. Once harvested, the beans are fermented, roasted and ground to
produce a dark brown paste called chocolate liquor. After drying, this
hardened paste is ground into the powder we know as unsweetened cocoa.
Unsweetened cocoa should not be confused with cocoa mix, or instant
cocoa, which is actually a mixture of cocoa powder, dry milk
used to make chocolate-flavored beverages. Cocoa mix should not be
substituted for cocoa powder in recipes.
Highly prized by the Aztecs, cocoa beans were used in religious
ceremonies and as a form of currency. Cocoa was also used to make
"chocolati," a luxury drink flavored with vanilla
and spices. According
to legend, Emperor Montezuma drank 50 pitchers of the frothy
concoction each day, served in a golden goblet.
Varieties and Buying Tips
In the baking aisle, you'll find two types of unsweetened cocoa: natural
Dutch (also called European-style) has been processed with an alkaline solution that helps
neutralize the cocoa's natural acidity. If you're looking for a darker, richer flavor (and who
isn't?), this is the one to buy.
Store cocoa in a sealed, airtight container in a cool, dark place. It will keep for up to two years.
Cocoa's uses the kitchen are deliciously endless. It's perfect for
making scrumptious cakes
, and of course, hot cocoa
But it can also be your secret ingredient for more savory dishes as well. Add one or two tablespoons to your chili or meat stews
to create a uniquely rich, husky flavor.
When substituting Dutch cocoa for natural or regular cocoa, omit any baking soda
in the recipe.
Try one of our favorite cocoa recipes:
Mocha-Dark Chocolate Brownies
Mom's No-Bake Cookies
Hot and Spicy Chili