Substituting Cocoa Powder for Chocolate

by Kelly Yorke

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.

Chef Kelly

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Tamara March 9, 2013 at 7:53 am

This is great information – thank you!! Could you please tell me how to use Valrhona Cocoa Powder in place of Baker’s chocolate squares in a cake recipe? Thank you so very much!!

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The Kitchen Hotline March 10, 2013 at 6:22 pm

As a general rule, for each ounce of chocolate that is called for in arecipe substitute with 1-1/2 Tablespoons of cocoa powder, 1/2 Tablespoon of unsalted butter, oil, or shortening and 1 Tablespoon of granulated sugar. Since you’re making a cake, you probably want to add a little acid in the form of baking powder to help the cake rise.

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Jiggly bug June 13, 2013 at 9:41 am

How do I make melted bittersweet chocolate from unsweetened cocoa powder. I need it to dip truffles.

Thanks,
– J

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The Kitchen Hotline June 25, 2013 at 12:00 pm

To make chocolate for dipping from cocoa powder, 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.

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mk1212 July 16, 2013 at 12:57 am

is chocolate powder bitter

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The Kitchen Hotline July 17, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Pure cocoa powder can be bitter if it isn’t mixed with any sugar or other sweetener. If the cocoa powder was Dutch processed, or alkalized, it will be less bitter and very dark in color (think Oreos).

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