Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ten Things...Number Five

Inhale. Exhale. Cocoa.
It has not only an intoxicating scent, it has a color that is difficult to mimic as well. It is chocolate, but it is chocolate in its purest form. Cocoa powder is the ground product of the cocoa bean solids- solids being the bits left after the cocoa butter has been extracted. It is in the butter where the fat resides- the powder is fat free. The powder also contains the antioxidants so good for your health. Yet another reason to rejoice! In natural form, cocoa powder is a yellow brown hue. If it has been "Dutched" it is that deeper palish brown that is so pleasing to the eye. Dutching is the process of treating the bean with an alkaline solution prior to extracting and grinding. Dutching rids the cocoa of its acids giving it a much more smooth palate. Dutched cocoa is more mild than natural cocoa and bakes up a little differently in the oven. Simply put, Dutch cocoa needs an acidic partner like baking powder if you wish your baked goods to rise.
The cocoa tree, Theobroma
cacao, is native to the Americas.
It's use seems to reach clear back to the Mayans, who made a thick
drink from roasted cocoa beans, water, and spices. Today, cocoa beans
are grown in most areas twenty degrees to the north and south of the
Equator, with about seventy percent of the crops grown in West Africa.
It is interesting to note that the Greek origin of the word "Theobroma"
is "Theo" meaning God, and "brosi" meaning food. Cocoa is literally
The Food of The Gods.
In my pantry, I prefer Green and Blacks Organic Cocoa Powder which is Dutched. It is Fairtrade which is an important factor to consider when so much of the cocoa crops come out of the Third World. I prefer the Dutched cocoa for its smooth flavor, and most of my baking with cocoa tends to be more elegant in style, and less bakery "fluff" in style- so the lack of rising is usually not a problem. Green and Blacks also makes an incredible glass of cold chocolate milk, and a hot cocoa version that is to die for. Never cook your hot cocoa over the stove top. Place it in a crock pot on low heat and let it simmer for hours. This method does not scald the milk and the richness in flavor of the cocoa is not lost. Here is my all time favorite cocoa dish straight from the kitchen diva herself...Martha Stewart. And if you ever tell a soul I passed along a Martha Stewart recipe, I will emphatically deny it.