Cocoa powder comes from cocoa beans that grow in pods on the cacao tree. The beans are fermented, dried, roasted and cracked; the nibs are ground to extract about 75% of the cocoa butter, leaving a dark brown paste called chocolate liquor. After drying again, the mass is ground into powder (unsweetened cocoa). Dutch cocoa is treated with an alkali to neutralize the cocoa's natural acidity.
Ethnicity: Southeast Asia, Africa, Hawaii, Brazil, South Amer
Season: available year-round
How to select: Dutch cocoa is preferred for beverages and frozen desserts, and for dusting baked goods. Recipes for baked goods usually use nonalkalized cocoa powder. You can often substitute one type of cocoa for the other, but if the recipe includes baking soda, it may be counting on the acid in natural cocoa in order to react.
How to store: Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to 2 years.
Substitutions: 1/4 cocoa = 1 oz unsweetened chocolate + decrease the fat in the recipe by 1 1/2 tsp. OR Carob powder