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Cocoa: Elixir to the Gods!

by Pam Williams

From the earliest records of the Aztecs and Incas to today in Angelina's in Paris, cocoa has been an favored indulgence. Used primarily to flavor drinks, cocoa forms the basis for scrumptious chocolate desserts as well. Cocoa powder is produced when the roasted cacao beans are finely ground into a powder. Manufacturers remove a little or a lot of the cacao butter before the grinding process to produce more or less expensive cocoa powder.

The cocoa powder North Americans buy over the counter contains around 7% cocoa butter, specialty and European cocoa powders contain approximately 12-24% and ice cream/dessert manufacturers can use cocoa powder with up to 33% cocoa butter content in their products. In Holland in the early 1800's, Van Houten invented a process called "Dutch process" that adds alkaline chemicals to the cacao beans to combat cocoa's acidity, darken the color and make it dissolve more readily in liquids. Many European cocoa powders are Dutch processed. When deciding on a cocoa powder, I suggest that you buy a specialty or European product as the flavour will be richer. Thankfully, Angelina Chocolate is now available in the United States at Dean & Deluca stores.

With the trend to "no fat" products, cocoa powder with little or no cocoa butter is used as a substitute for chocolate in most no or low fat products. Cocoa powder imparts the taste of chocolate without the fat. You can substitute cocoa powder for chocolate in your favorite recipes but you will have to replace the lost cocoa butter with another fat or fat substitute. Also if the recipe calls for semi-sweet or sweet chocolate, you will have to increase the sugar content as well. Be prepared to do a fair bit of experimenting before you get a final product that is similar to the original.

Classic Hot Cocoa

1 cup 250 ml Water
1/4 cup 50 ml Cocoa powder
3 tablespoon 45 ml Sugar
1/2 teaspoon 2 ml Cinnamon
3 cups 750 ml Milk

In a heavy bottomed saucepan bring the water, cocoa powder, sugar and cinnamon to a boil. Boil for two minutes.
Add the milk to the cocoa mixture, stirring to combine. Bring the mixture almost to a boil stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and let the mixture remain over the heat for a few minutes to thicken slightly (5 - 10 minutes depending on your willpower). Beat the mixture before serving. Garnish with marshmallows, whipping cream and/or ground chocolate.

Chocolate Cheesecake Cupcakes
makes 12 cupcakes

Cake batter:
1 cup 250 ml Flour
1/2 cup 125 ml Sugar
3 tablespoons 45 ml Cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon 2 ml Baking Soda
1/2 cup 125 ml Water
1/4 cup 50 ml Vegetable oil
2 teaspoon 10 ml White Vinegar
Cream cheese filling:
4 ounces 125 g Cream Cheese
1/3 cup 75 ml Sugar
1 Egg

Beat the cream cheese, sugar and egg until light and fluffy. Set aside.

Topping: 6 ounces 180 g Semi sweet Chocolate bits
Preheat oven to 350ÉF (180ÉC). Use cupcake papers to line muffin tin or lightly grease with butter or shortening.

For batter: combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl until well mixed. In another bowl, mix the water, oil and vinegar until just combined. Add to dry ingredients, mixing until well blended.

Fill muffin tins just 1/3 full with the batter. Top with a tablespoon full of the cream cheese filling. Sprinkle with semi-sweet chocolate bits.

Bake for 20 minutes. Cool muffin tin on wire rack for a 5 to 10 minutes. Then remove cupcakes from tin to rack to cool completely.

Pam Williams is founder and lead instructor of Ecole Chocolat Professional Chocolatier School of Chocolate Arts.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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