Cocoa powder is the dry residual fibre left after the extraction of cocoa butter from the cocoa beans. When simply pressed and ground, it is called natural cocoa powder. Natural cocoa powder is highly acidic and does not dissolve in milk or water easily. To solve this problem, the 19th century Dutch chemist, Coenraad Johannes van Houten, devised a method to treat cocoa with alkali salts. This type of cocoa is called Dutch-process or alkalised cocoa. Alkalised cocoa powder is fluffier, and has a deeper colour and a more palatable taste than natural cocoa.
Both natural and alkalised cocoa powders have distinct flavour profiles and niche uses in the culinary world. In recipes that use baking soda, natural cocoa powder is preferred, since its acidity creates the right leavening environment for the batter to rise. Alkalised cocoa powder is preferred where water solubility is important, such as in hot cocoa and other chocolate drinks.
Small differences in ingredients can often make or break a recipe. Learn to keep it all together in our comprehensive chocolatier program.