Q. I really wanted to make a recipe of Chocolate Pots au Crème to serve with my fresh raspberries but then I realized I didn’t have any bittersweet chocolate and chocolate chips in my pantry. So I made individual vanilla custards with berries instead. But now I’m wondering, could I have used the powdered coca, which I did happen to have on hand, as a substitute for the chocolate in the recipe that I originally wanted to make? If so, how?
A. Bittersweet chocolate can be substituted with cocoa powder. Bittersweet chocolate, however, is made of a ratio of cocoa liquor (or cocoa solids), cocoa butter and sugar, whereas natural unsweetened (non-Dutch processed) cocoa powder is made of only the dried cocoa solids. Dutch-process (or Dutched) cocoa is treated with an alkali to neutralize the cocoa solid’s acids and reduce its bitterness. Therefore, if you had a can of Dutched cocoa powder and wanted to use it in a recipe that requires leavening (such as a cake), you might need to add some extra acid (say in the form of baking powder) in order to get your cake to raise properly. But since you are making a custard crème that does not require leavening, this is not much of a concern. So, in order to replace the bittersweet chocolate that is called for in your recipe with unsweetened cocoa powder you would need to replace the balance of the missing fat (or cocoa butter) and sugar that would have been included in the recipe had you used the bittersweet chocolate. Therefore, for each ounce of bittersweet chocolate that is called for in the recipe substitute with 1 ½ tablespoons of cocoa powder, ½ tablespoon of unsalted butter, oil, or shortening and 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar. Melt and mix the butter, sugar and cocoa powder together until the cocoa solids are dissolved and the mixture becomes a chocolate syrup; then proceed with preparing the recipe as written.