Versatile Cocoa

Cocoa bean poster at Lindt Chocolate Factory in CologneIt’s Valentine’s Day and it’s time to celebrate the versatility of cocoa.

Cocoa for baking

For much of my baking life, I never understood why anyone would buy unsweetened baking chocolate squares. Why would you, when the can of Fry’s Premium Cocoa had a clear and simple formula for a substitution?

The recipe is still on the can:

Mix 3 tbsp (45 mL) Fry’s cocoa with 2 tbsp (15 mL) melted butter or shortening for each 1 oz. baking square.

Of course, it’s not a completely equivalent substitution. The fat in chocolate is cocoa fat, whereas the fat in the substitution is just butter or shortening.

But you’re not baking for a panel of food critics. You, your family, and your guests will be perfectly content with your homemade batch of brownies when they’re made with cocoa.

The advantages of cocoa powder over unsweetened baking chocolate include, besides money saved, less cupboard space and potentially less waste. When you bake with chocolate less than 4-8 times a year, it’s hard to use up the whole box within its stated “best before” life of one to two years.

By that time, the squares will have acquired a white bloom. The bloom is actually natural and safe, but if you’re like me, you’ll be tempted to throw it out.

Cocoa for drinking

As long as you have milk on hand, there is no reason to buy cans and packets of hot chocolate mix.

Here’s the technique for making a smooth, all-natural drink of cocoa that rivals the best of hot chocolate drinks.

Hot Cocoa for Two

Combine two tablespoons cocoa powder, two tablespoons sugar, a dash of salt, and 1/3 cup of water in a 1.5 quart saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until the cocoa powder and sugar are dissolved and smooth. Add 1.5 cups of milk (more or less) and heat to simmering. Serve.

Spice it up with one or all of these flavour additions:

  • Add cinnamon and nutmeg to the cocoa powder and sugar
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla at the end
  • Serve with a cinnamon stir stick, or sprinkle lightly with nutmeg.

Cocoa expertise and inspiration

This is the best explanation I’ve seen about the differences between using regular cocoa vs. Dutch process cocoa.

This hot cocoa recipe at the Lindt website will inspire you to reserve some of those truffles you received for Valentine’s Day.

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