Cocoa powder packs the punch of chocolate, but with less fat

January 18, 1995|By Jimmy Schmidt | Jimmy Schmidt,Knight-Ridder News Service

Cocoa powder carries all the flavor of rich chocolate but with much less cocoa butter.

Cocoa and chocolate come from the same fruit of a tropical evergreen tree. Cocoa is made from milling roasted cocoa beans, called nibs. Milling crushes the beans into a chocolate paste. This paste, commonly called chocolate liquor, is either pressed to remove cocoa butter to form cocoa powder or has cocoa butter added to enrich it to form chocolate. The resulting cocoa powder has between 10 percent to 24 percent fat compared to 30 percent to 80 percent for typical chocolate.

Cocoa powder flavor is developed just like chocolate, from the fermentation of the cocoa beans, the roasting and final blend of solids and cocoa butter. Although cocoa powder is too strong to enjoy straight like chocolate, it is perfect to infuse its chocolate flavor into desserts that rely on lower-fat ingredients.

Cocoa is easier to handle with baked recipes because it can be added with the dry ingredients. It doesn't have to be melted and tempered like chocolate.

Cocoa allows for enjoyment of chocolate-flavored desserts with less fat. The texture is reinforced through good, low-fat baking techniques that use fruit purees instead of butter, creams or oils (see fat-free article on 1E). Reducing the amount of chocolate in a recipe while substituting some cocoa powder for it will lower the fat without losing the flavor.

There are two basic types of cocoa, the standard straight milled cocoa and the commonly called Dutch or Dutched process cocoa. The Dutched process is common in Europe and involves the addition of an alkali or base to neutralize some of the natural acids in the cocoa. This process is best for recipes in which there is little sugar to balance the higher acidity of cocoa powder, such as cocoa milk or hot chocolate. Alkalization is used primarily to darken the color of the cocoa but really does not improve the flavor. You can alkalize cocoa to darken its color in a recipe by adding a little baking soda to the recipe.

Balance the potential slight bitterness or intensity of the chocolate flavor by serving it with frozen yogurt or a little whipped sweetened yogurt.

Also, try fruit purees to balance intense chocolate flavor without additional fat. Remember, slightly moister batters may take a few more minutes to bake than the fatter versions.

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Here's a rich, yet not so rich, chocolate cake.

Chocolate Gateau

Serves 10 to 12

1 teaspoon butter

1 cup granulated sugar

1 lemon, juiced

1/2 cup water

4 ounces extra bittersweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces

2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

5 egg whites

pinch of salt

powdered sugar for dusting

mint sprig for garnish

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 9- or 10-inch springform pan.

In a clean, small saucepan, combine the sugar, lemon juice and water. Bring to a simmer over high heat and turn off heat.

In a medium bowl, combine chocolate and the sugar syrup until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Whisk in egg yolks and vanilla. Sift the flour and cocoa into bowl and whisk until smooth.

In another mixing bowl, whip egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Add 1/3 of whites to batter and fold to combine. Repeat twice more and fold until smooth.

Spoon the batter into the prepared springform pan. Bake on lower rack of the oven until done, about 25 to 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean and hot.

Remove from oven to cake rack and cool at least 2 or 3 hours before serving.

Remove the sides from the springform pan. Dust top of cake with powdered sugar and garnish with a sprig of mint. Transfer cake to the center of a serving dish and serve.

Per serving: 156 calories; 6 g fat; 4 g protein; 26 g carbohydrate; 46 mg cholesterol; 46 mg sodium

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