JohnRgt

Cocoa Powder Test Completed --

20 posts in this topic

Over the last week or so, I've been rethinking recipes with cocoa powder. I've never been thrilled with the powders I've worked with, be they ridiculously expensive or cheap. (I was so displeased with these flavors that I had gotten to the point where I was ready to accept that, no matter how much I need cocoa and chocolate flavors in my life, my palate was a bit off.)

Well, it may still be off, but I've found an all-puspose cocoa powder that works incredibly well. The results -- ice cream, sorbet, mousse, pot au creme, cookies, sponge cakes, both dry and soaked, as a dust coating, hot chocolate, fudge, brownies of various intensities and densities, sorbet, etc -- also impressed the few palettes I trust enough to poll.

The Oscar goes to the same brand that Cooks Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen went for, namely, Callebaut Cocoa Powder. (Best retail price I've found is here. I know two + pounds of cocoa is a lot for a household, but if it's stored in a Zip Lock freezer bag with the air squeezed out before sealing, and then put in the smallest possible Tupperware, it will keep very well in a room temperature pantry.*)

What I liked was that the product had a clean flavor that came up quick and stayed there in a very gratifying, rich way. (Those with an haute palette amy want to weaken or strengthen this cocoa for a given application, as it's presence can border on the relentless.)

Just to show you how EZ it is rationalize: I've never been big on Callebaut's chocolate -- too much fruit and acid in the aftertaste, too gritty when stronger than ~ 60%. So while I've worked withy this cocoa before, I never really put it to the test. I just checked gloss and viscosity of whatever I was mixing, tasted for sweetness and balance, and off I went.

I'm a little surprised that CI and I agree on a staple ingredient -- they're too New England Puritan for me. (If I had just taken their word for it, I could've saved $100s of dollars, who knows how many hours, and several pounds of flab around the waist.

RayK: HELP! ;-)

*One quick way to go through tons of this cocoa:

Wet the inner surfaces of a heavy 2-3 quart saucepan with water. Add one quart of whole milk and set over medium heat (we wet the saucepan to prevent/minimize milk solids from separating, which gibes us better texture and easier cleaning.)

Add 1/2 cup cocoa. (Using a 1/2 cup measure, scoop out enough cocoa to go past the measuring cup's upper lip, then scrap off the excess.)

Add a 1/4 cup sugar.

Slowly stir with anything but a whisk for as long as your forearm can stand it. (Cocoa powder gets suspended -- it never really combines. If you don't stir, you don't get that velvety texture, and you may overheat enough of a % of the cocoa that settles to the bottom to throw off flavor.)

When bubbles start to form on the perimeter, count to 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly. (The bubbles will get bigger and the liquid will thicken.)

Strain with a fine sieve and serve. (For better texture and a more fussed flavor, refrigerate in an air-tight container over night. Heat up on med-low heat until so much steam is rising that it's about to boil. Serve.)

A dollop of whipped cream, infused with your favorite extract, liquor, grated spice or pulverized dry herb is a nice touch.

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The best hot cocoa I've had is from Marie Belle in NY.

http://www.mariebelle.com/

The way they recommend making it is equal part (in volume) cocoa powder and water, brought to hot on the stove and served in demi-tasses once unctuous. The absence of milk gives it a super-powerful, un-mitigated chocolate taste. Non-Objectivists would call it sinful - of course, I call it virtuous...

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The best hot cocoa I've had is from Marie Belle in NY.

http://www.mariebelle.com/

The way they recommend making it is equal part (in volume) cocoa powder and water, brought to hot on the stove and served in demi-tasses once unctuous. The absence of milk gives it a super-powerful, un-mitigated chocolate taste. Non-Objectivists would call it sinful - of course, I call it virtuous...

Sounds great!

La Maison du Chocolat used to sell a bottled hot chocolate in the USA that was made with skim. They then raise the richness by adding cocoa butter. It was great, though nowhere near as intense as I think what Joss describes would be.

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Yeah - if you think about it, it's basically melted chocolate, diluted to slightly more than 50%!

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Yeah - if you think about it, it's basically melted chocolate, diluted to slightly more than 50%!

Only chocolate has fat in it, which cushions/rounds out some of the impact of the cocoa [solids]. The drink you refer to, Joss, one I'm trying next time I'm in Mariebelle's neighborhood, BTW, has no fat. We're talking uber-intense, "pure" flavor.

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Only chocolate has fat in it, which cushions/rounds out some of the impact of the cocoa [solids]. The drink you refer to, Joss, one I'm trying next time I'm in Mariebelle's neighborhood, BTW, has no fat. We're talking uber-intense, "pure" flavor.

Oh no, this is chocolate indeed - there's cocoa butter in it.

http://www.mariebelle.com/product.cfm?id=36

"MarieBelle™ Aztec Hot Chocolate is made with rich, single-origin Colombian cacao. This smoky, perfectly smooth hot chocolate comes in 4 flavors: Aztec Original (63%), Aztec Dark (72%), Mocha and Spicy. Remarkably, easy to prepare, mix with boiling water to create a full-flavored cup of European-style hot chocolate, or with milk for more traditional American-style hot chocolate. Refrigerate the European version to transform into a dark Creme de Chocolat, perfect alone or in pies."

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I'm not sure if the Mariebelle products Joss is recommending are hot chocolates/hot cocoa mixes or cocoas/cocoa powders. I suspect that they are quality cocoa powders that are being marketed as quality, special occasion mixes. (The food industry is great at finding ways to either dress up a common staple, or to get consumers to buy a higher quality staple by labeling it as if it's designed for a specific/special use.)

Given a tradition of “flexibility” in the labeling of chocolate products the only way to draw this line is to look at the relevant ingredients lists and nutritional info tables (even these tables can be inaccurate.) I don't expect to be in SOHO this week, so I can't stop by Mareibelle's retail store. Two attempts to call Mariebelle retail and one call to their wholesale extension only got me to their voicemail system.

Some basics:

All quality chocolate products are derived from pulverizing the center of the cocoa bean. This yields a thick, luscious liquid called chocolate liquor. This product contains 50-58% cocoa butter, with most brands hovering around 53%.

By pressing approximately 75% of the cocoa butter out of cocoa liquor, we get cocoa. There's really no such thing as a quality cocoa mix or powder that doesn't have some cocoa butter in it.

Dutch processed cocoa, also referred to as breakfast cocoa, contains 22-25% cocoa butter.

Unprocessed cocoa, also referred to nonalkalized cocoa, contains 10-21% cocoa butter.

When discussing cocoas, saying that it “has cocoa butter” usually means that its cocoa butter percentage is higher than the above percentages.

Chocolate mass refers to the percentage of cocoa solids and cocoa butter in a given product.

Bittersweet chocolate, at least as the US Gov defines it, contains 49.5-53% chocolate mass, of which 27% has to be cocoa butter.

These numbers make clear that it's easy for a concern that's marketing at the retail level to label its cocoa powder as made with real chocolate. In a sense, all quality cocoa mixes and cocoa powders meet the minimum requirements to be labeled as “made from real bittersweet chocolate,” or “made from real chocolate.”

Anyway...

The product I've recommended in this thread is a cocoa powder, not a hot cocoa/hot chocolate mix, though it can easily be used to make a rich beverage. I've never heard of anyone using a quality hot cocoa/hot chocolate mix for anything but its intended purpose, but anything is possible in the food world. I've also never heard of anyone using cocoa powders with high cocoa butter percentages as all-purpose cocoas – the cost of the richer product would be prohibitive in a commercial context and yield no real advantage for that added cost -- but the possible uses of a given food product are more or less limitless.

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John,

Thanks for the explanations. I have here a box (now sadly empty... :P ) of Maribelle's hot chocolate powder. It says that the ingredients are:

Venezuelian chocolate 60-70%, cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, sugar, milk, cornstarch, soy lecithin, natural flavoring may include: coffee, chipotle, ancho chile, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

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John,

Thanks for the explanations. I have here a box (now sadly empty... :P ) of Maribelle's hot chocolate powder. It says that the ingredients are:

Venezuelian chocolate 60-70%, cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, sugar, milk, cornstarch, soy lecithin, natural flavoring may include: coffee, chipotle, ancho chile, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

I can't wait!

;-)

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La Maison du Chocolat

A significant percentage of the business done by notable food establishments is attributable to research being done by others in the food industry.

I have a very small group of people with whom I do this "research". Again and again, we go out to "research" and come back with the same basic conclusions: We know it all and could decimate any of the hot food places if only X (X can stand for any of a dozen or so standard excuses.)

The only place we never have anything to say about is La Maison du Chocolat. This incredible chocolatier is so good that I/we haven't entertained the idea of opening a chocolate shop since we devour everything we found at the Madison Ave location some fifteen years ago - there's simply nothing left to say in that medium.

For those interested, I suggest you get a letter of credit from your banker and head there soon. There's a new man in charge and he's making the sort of changes that may adversely impact this untouchable marvel forever. I don't know if this refreshing is market-mandated or a reflection of the new director's style, but there's a definite attempt to make this elegant temple more folksy.

Get there while you still can, folks.

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We have one downstairs from our apartment on avenue Victor Hugo. We bought so much stuff the last year that we won 2 prizes, one of which is a chocolate tart for 4. I'm picking it up tomorrow.

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We have one downstairs from our apartment on avenue Victor Hugo. We bought so much stuff the last year that we won 2 prizes, one of which is a chocolate tart for 4. I'm picking it up tomorrow.

I HATE YOU ON BOTH COUNTS!

(No winky emoticon!)

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We have one downstairs from our apartment on avenue Victor Hugo. We bought so much stuff the last year that we won 2 prizes, one of which is a chocolate tart for 4. I'm picking it up tomorrow.

Three times in a month, someone I know walked out of the Madison Ave location with generous samples. This from a shop which, for the last fifteen years or so, was known for adding the sample you were offered to your order when it was time to weigh up your purchase, assuring the shop was compensated for the sample mandated by your ignorance.

So it's not just the Maison product line that's going through changes; the whole experience may be getting a revamping.

Problem?

I worry that the principle at the bottom of this slippery slope is one that leads to a product line that's market-driven, not one that reflects what some of the most skilled and elegant chocolatiers in the world are excited about.

Parallel example:

Back in the very late 1980's, Porsche almost vanished. One of the surveys they commissioned to help rethink things showed that the US market felt that Porsche was arrogant (arrogant meaning uncompromising in the fundamentals of dynamics design.) Porsche then went from commercials like this one, to an image captured in commercials like

While the cars still reflect incredible engineering, the new design specs have robbed the product line of crucial sports car characteristics.

So, like we said: If you are nuts about chocolate, head to Maison ASAP.

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Case in point, the chocolate tart was good but nothing to write home about.

In fact, when we want really good chocolates, we go somewhere else, to chocolatier & sculptor Patrick Roger. His stuff is amazing

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So it's not just the Maison product line that's going through changes; the whole experience may be getting a revamping.

Problem?

I worry that the principle at the bottom of this slippery slope is one that leads to a product line that's market-driven, not one that reflects what some of the most skilled and elegant chocolatiers in the world are excited about.

I am not sure I follow this logic (though I love the chocolate!). Shouldn't a more market-driven approach lead to a better product? Either the market works or it doesn't, and I thought we all agreed here that it works?

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Just to show you how EZ it is rationalize: I've never been big on Callebaut's chocolate -- too much fruit and acid in the aftertaste, too gritty when stronger than ~ 60%. So while I've worked withy this cocoa before, I never really put it to the test. I just checked gloss and viscosity of whatever I was mixing, tasted for sweetness and balance, and off I went.

This quote may explain why I never realized how great this cocoa is:

Mixes well with cold products as well as develops flavor while cooking.

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The best hot cocoa I've had is from Marie Belle in NY.

http://www.mariebelle.com/

The way they recommend making it is equal part (in volume) cocoa powder and water, brought to hot on the stove and served in demi-tasses once unctuous. The absence of milk gives it a super-powerful, un-mitigated chocolate taste. Non-Objectivists would call it sinful - of course, I call it virtuous...

I just had the American style version of this product (milk instead of water). I don't think I've ever had a better cup of bittersweet hot chocolate anywhere.

It's easy to make a one-dimensional hot chocolate that's memorable; melt your favorite chocolate bar in milk, adjusting with either more chocolate, some cocoa, cream or sugar. This product, though, lets you experience the bitterness dark chocolate fans adore, and the fruit, and an intense cocoa essence, without any one of these components either dominating or getting lost. It's a hell of an achievement. (I tasted Valrhona's 70% cru in here. If I'm right, it was the fruit that gave it away.)

~$9 for 12oz cup and worth every penny, IMHO.

Before the winter is over, I hope to taste both the milk chocolate hazelnut and white chocolate variants (not big on white chocolate anything, but Mariebelle is too good at what they do for us not to sample everything they offer. $$$)

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Great John. If I recall correctly, the mix powder isn't outrageously expensive. You owe it to yourself to taste the water-based mix. It's awesome.

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