Episode Six: Cocoa Powder.

Episode 7: Cocoa Powder and Crumbly Cookies


I made a mistake today guys. I winged it on a cookie recipe; I swung and I missed! Okay, these cookies were still pretty tasty. They were crispy and salty-sweet, a thin under-baked brownie layer surrounded by a crunchy exterior. But they’re not what I crave – the soft, yet structural behemoths studded with chocolate chunks, the Costco cookie.

Here’s what happened: I followed Alton Brown’s chocolate chip cookie recipe to the last gram!

…then I added 60 grams of unsweetened natural cocoa powder, about ¾ of a cup.


In 1828, Dutchman Conrad Van Houten sought to invent a less oily version of hot chocolate. He developed a screw press that removed most of the cocoa butter from roasted ground beans, leaving a defatted chocolatey cocoa powder remaining. The Swiss added milk powder to his invention to reduce astringency and smooth it all out. Voila! Cocoa powder was born.


Cocoa powder is mostly carbohydrates and proteins with a few minerals like calcium, copper and magnesium thrown in. Because it has been defatted, cocoa powder acts like flour in recipes and makes cookies crumblier and drier. A decent rule of thumb is to only add up to one part cocoa powder for four parts of flour. My recipe called for 300 grams of flour, so adding 60 grams of cocoa would have been okay if I had reduced the flour content. I should have done 60 grams cocoa, 240 grams flour.

Additionally, the more cocoa you add, the more sugar (a wet ingredient) and moisture you need! Cocoa powder acts like a sponge, sucking up moisture. That’s why my cookies were surprisingly salty. If you add more than a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder you’ll need to add more liquid too.

Some more fun facts

After the press, cocoa powder remains coated with a thin layer of butter, and its fat content will range from 8 to 26%. Natural cocoa powder has a strong flavor, astringency and bitterness. Its pH is 5.

Dutched or alkalized cocoa describes cocoa beans treated with potassium carbonate which raises its pH to a neutral 7 or alkaline 8. It adds an alkaline taste (ever tasted baking soda?) and reduces bitter phenolics and roasty caramel molecules, forming a milder flavor and darker color.

Some recipes rely on acidic natural cocoa to react with baking soda and cause leavening via carbon dioxide. Because alkalized cocoa is neutral it will not react with baking soda (another alkali) so it must be used with acidic baking powder.

http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/10/ask-the-food-lab-on-hot-chocolate-and-whole-wheat.htmlHarold mgee’s bookAlton brown’s book



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