Well, slowly but surely we’re get­ting set­tled into our new space (hence my absence from the end of MoFo. FAIL). My new kitchen is HUGE, with tons of counter space and nat­ural light, two things I have been sorely lack­ing for years, so I’m very excited to start churn­ing out hol­i­day good­ies in this lovely new space. Of course, my best kitchen helper is right by my side, per the usual.

All I can think of is hol­i­day bak­ing, it makes my heart swoon. What is bet­ter than the smell of fresh baked goods, waft­ing from a warm oven and the eager antic­i­pa­tion of what is to come? I say to heck with the presents and other tra­di­tions of Gift­mas, gimme the cookies/brownies/pie/cake!

Which brings me to an impor­tant issue, near and dear to my heart. Cocoa.

There are two main types of cocoa pow­der for bak­ing: reg­u­lar and Dutch-processed. In the pic­ture above, the lighter cocoa on top is stan­dard bak­ing cocoa, while the darker, red­der pow­der on the bot­tom is Dutch-processed. When I men­tion Dutch-processed to folks, I am often met with a blank stare, so I thought a lit­tle cocoa les­son might be in order.

Dutch-processed cocoa is cocoa that has been alka­lized to reduce the acid­ity of the cocoa. In doing this, the nat­ural slight bit­ter­ness (appar­ent stan­dard in bak­ing cocoa) is reduced, mak­ing for a richer choco­late fla­vor. I per­son­ally LOVE Dutch-processed cocoa and use it almost exclu­sively in my bak­ing because of that fla­vor. Before dis­cov­er­ing Dutch-pressed cocoa, I always used to add melted choco­late to almost every recipe that called for solely cocoa and no other kind of choco­late, because I felt con­tin­u­ally let down by the lack of choco­late fla­vor. With the Dutch-pressed cocoa, my choco­late hound taste buds are far more sat­is­fied (although a gen­er­ous sprin­kle of choco­late chips never hurt any­one). There is a depth of fla­vor that’s price­less in the fin­ished product.

Tech­ni­cally using Dutch-processed cocoa, being more acid neu­tral, could require more chem­i­cal leav­ener to com­pen­sate (another pinch of bak­ing pow­der), but I haven’t really noticed any dif­fer­ence swap­ping between them and leav­ing the recipe as is.

Dutch-processed cocoa can be harder to find in some areas, but it’s worth look­ing for. Like any­thing, the price can fluc­tu­ate dra­mat­i­cally (I’ve seen pack­ages range from $3-$20) so check around for the best deal.

*Post amended to state the obvi­ous– please buy fair trade when you can! Yes, it costs more, but you are help­ing to pay liv­ing wages for peo­ple who are work­ing for legit­i­mate farms where they are not slaves, but actual employ­ees. The choco­late, cof­fee and dia­mond (and tea and bananas and more!) indus­tries are very dark and dirty busi­nesses to be in. Vote with your dollars!

Choco­late chip pis­ta­chio cook­ies and pump­kin cin­na­mon rolls are in my near future. What hol­i­day bak­ing treats do you see in your bak­ing crys­tal ball?

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16 Responses to how do you cocoa?

  1. Beth says:

    I’m see­ing tons of Sparkled Gin­ger Cook­ies (VWAV) in my future… yum!

    How did the cats han­dle the move?

    • Kris says:

      I am a late lover to gin­ger, hav­ing just come around to it in the past cou­ple of years, but boy do I love it now!

      Yes, we are blessed with cats who can be viewed as either laid-back or dumb, depend­ing on your point of view. We put the car­ri­ers out and rather than run and hide, they walk right in and lay down. Of course, the car ride is never fun for any­one, but after 2 cross coun­try car trips, a 2-hour ride was a blessing.

  2. Tiffany says:

    I agree, bak­ing is def­i­nitely one of the best things about Christ­mas! I see Lemon Drop Cook­ies (from your book, gin­ger­bread and short­bread of course. My fam­ily all love those lemon cookies!

  3. Tamara says:

    Thanks for the expla­na­tion! I just wanted to chime in to encour­age peo­ple to search out fair trade cocoa. Much of the con­ven­tional choco­late that comes to the US is sourced on the West Coast of Africa, where child slav­ery is ram­pant. Here’s some fair trade Dutch processed cocoa I found on Ama­zon — http://www.amazon.com/Frontier-Powder-Dutch-process-Certified-Organic/dp/B001VNFHLC

    • Kris says:

      Ah! Yes! Thank you for point­ing out that I for­got to men­tion that, it’s some­thing that is so sec­ond nature, I for­got to men­tion it! Post amended. :)

  4. LEE ANN says:

    I’ll be mak­ing the gin­ger cook­ies from Vcon and the Pump­kin choco­late chip cook­ies from your book and your pump­kin tester cake.
    l’m glad I’m not the only one with a 4-legged kitchen helper.

  5. Hope says:

    Con­grat­u­la­tions on your new home! I just bought a donut pan, so I have a feel­ing there will be tons of donuts in my future. I tried my first batch last night and they were good but I think I could do bet­ter. Know of a good baked donut recipe??

    • Kris says:

      I do have a baked donut recipe in 100 Best Vegan Bak­ing Recipes, I will poke around the site to see if I’ve posted it. Donuts are the best!

    • Hope says:

      Thanks Kris! I have 100 Best Vegan Bak­ing Recipes and now I feel fool­ish… It’s right there! To be fair though, I did look there first and did not see “donuts” under “D” in the index… :) I will try these ASAP!!!

  6. Abby Bean says:

    I will definit­ley be mak­ing pig­noli cook­ies for the hol­i­day, but I REALLY want to tri to make three-color “rain­bow” cook­ies. Any­one have a recipe?

  7. Courtney says:

    So glad to hear that the move went okay and that you are get­ting set­tled. I am super jeal­ous of your counter space!

    I always make bis­cotti for hol­i­day gifts :-)