Super Dutch cocoa powder goes dark side

I recently made a batch of brownies and sent a photo of them to a chocolate-loving friend. She responded with a few rewarding oohs and aahs before asking for my recipe.

The secret is that this is not the recipe that owes brownies with such a rich brown color that they are almost black. It’s cocoa.

Dark cocoa powder is Dutch cocoa powder, which means it has been alkalized to remove its acidity. The process makes it darker while allowing it to dissolve in liquids more easily than natural non-Dutch cocoa.

Dutching also means that the resulting cooca is not bitter – Now who doesn’t want to know about dark cocoa before putting their finger in a can of Hershey cocoa and then putting it in their mouth as a child? – although some say it also takes away some of the flavor from the chocolate.

In the case of dark cocoa, you could say that the powder is doubled. It is even more alkalized than regular Dutch cocoa, giving it an even darker color and even milder flavor. It looks more like potting soil, although it tastes much better.

Dark cocoa is the secret to Oreo cookies and should be any baker’s secret in needing dark frosting on a cake. It will provide the color needed without the nasty flavor and black tongue that comes with most black food coloring. Think about it on Halloween, when you or your kids are going through a Gothic phase, or whenever you want to add a little wow factor to a cocoa recipe.

It can usually be replaced in any recipe that requires cocoa, although its lack of acidity means it won’t react with the baking soda, so stick to using it only with recipes that require baking powder or no leavening agent at all.

To make my batch of brownies, I started with the King Arthur Baking recipe for Deep-Dark Fudgy Brownies before choosing the items I wanted. I left out the espresso powder, brewed coffee, nuts, and chocolate chips, largely because I wanted to see how dark cocoa performed on its own.

I was hesitant that it didn’t call for baking powder – or baking soda, for that matter – but the end result was dense and chewy without being flat and chewy. And the call for powdered sugar and granulated sugar, rather than just granulated sugar, was confusing. But everything was still working fine.

The brownies turned out almost black (without nearly burning) and were moist and flavorful, both on their own and with a dollop of peanut butter frosting on top.


Dark cocoa brownies

adapted from a King Arthur Baking recipe


⅔ cup of dark cocoa

1½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup of powdered sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup of vegetable oil

2 tablespoons of water

3 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease an 8 or 9 inch square pan. Put aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together cocoa, sugars and flour. Add oil, water and eggs, mixing until blended.

Pour the mixture into the pan, smoothing the top.

Bake brownies 33 to 35 minutes for the 9 inch pan or 40 to 45 minutes for the 8 inch pan. Test doneness and continue baking the brownies until moist, but not shiny or cold.

Remove the brownies from the oven and let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 1 hour before cutting them. Cover and store on the counter for up to five days or wrap and freeze for up to 3 months.

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