Cocoa powder, chocolate, and chocolate chips are ingredients used in paleo/grain-free baking. Here’s the what to look for to get the best results and taste in your baking.
Cocoa powder is made from pulverized roasted cocoa beans. There are two types of cocoa powder on the market: natural and Dutch-process. Natural cocoa powder is naturally acidic and light in color. The acid found in natural cocoa powder reacts with baking soda in a recipe to leaven baked goods.
Dutch-process cocoa is treated with a potassium solution to neutralize the acidity. It’s very dark in color and has a strong chocolate flavor. Since the acid has been neutralized, baking powder is needed to leaven recipes that use Dutch-process cocoa powder.
A favorite of many paleo bakers, cacao and cocoa powder are the same thing. Many brands of cacao powder carry a raw claim on the package. No legal labeling requirements exists for products labeled “raw.” Use this product if you enjoy the taste. However, be wary of any health claims listed on the package. As with cocoa powder, use Natural or Dutch (alkalized) Cacao powder as the recipe requires.
Baker’s Note: Is it okay to swap natural and Dutch-process cocoa powders?
There are times when it doesn’t matter which cocoa powder you use. And there are times when it does matter. You can use either natural cocoa powder or Dutch-process in puddings, icings, hot cocoa, and sauces. But in recipes where there’s baking soda or baking powder, it matters which cocoa powder you use. Since natural cocoa powder is acidic, it works better in recipes that use baking soda. Dutch-process cocoa powder has had its acid neutralized, so it requires baking powder for leavening. All recipes in this book specify which cocoa powder to use.
There’s nothing quite like a piece of good chocolate. Since chocolate varies in flavor from producer to producer depending on the source of the chocolate, the amount of cocoa butter the chocolate contains, and how it was processed, what tastes good to me might taste not as good to you. If you don’t already have a favorite chocolate bar, try a few different ones (hard work, I know!) until you find one that you love. Look for a soy and dairy-free dark chocolate with 72% cacao content or higher. Recipes like truffles made with a lower percentage of cacao won’t set up correctly.
Chocolate Chips or Chunks
Most chocolate chips contain dairy and soy lecithin. When you want to make something like chocolate chip cookies, look for soy and dairy-free chocolate chips. I like Enjoy Life dark chocolate morsels. If you are unable to find dairy-free and grain-free chocolate chips, chop a soy and dairy-free chocolate bar into small, bite-size pieces and use that in place of chocolate chips. I like to keep mini and regular chips and chocolate chunks in the pantry. They are great for cookies and icing.
Don’t use chocolate chips for truffles or any recipe that calls for a specific amount of cacao. Most chocolate chips don’t contain enough cocoa butter to make truffles and other chocolate treats.
This is part of the Paleo Baking 101 series.
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