« Other People's Pantries #6 | Main | Fregula sarda (Recipe: fregula sarda with leeks and sausage) »

Cocoa powder (Recipe: chocolate-orange sorbet)


In high school biology class, I chose Bill to be my lab partner for the year.

Bill was tall, blond and athletic -- all invaluable qualities in a lab partner. More important, he could dissect a frog without turning green. I held my nose, wrote up our reports, and prayed for the school year to end quickly.

We continued our collaboration in junior year chemistry class. I wasn't terribly interested in chemistry, so I documented our experiments while Bill measured and mixed, and washed the test tubes. I should have known then that precision in the kitchen would never be my forte.

I didn't grow up to be a chemist, or a baker, or a good dish washer -- but I did become a chocolate lover who keeps chocolate bars, chocolate chips, and cocoa powder in the pantry.

Cocoa powder is made by putting chocolate liquor through a press to remove at least three-fourths of the cocoa butter. The remaining solids are processed into a powder, essentially an unsweetened, concentrated form of cocoa bean. From there, the powder can be left natural, or treated ("Dutch processed") with an alkaline solution to neutralize the acids, resulting in a deeper color, with a more balanced and less bitter taste.

Whether Dutch processed or not, cocoa powder offers more intense chocolate flavor at less "cost"; per 100 grams, it's lower than dark chocolate in calories (452 in cocoa powder, 544 in dark chocolate), carbohydrates (35.0 to 52.5), and fat (25.6 to 35.2). And, some day, cocoa powder may even be good for your heart.

When baking, be sure to use the type of cocoa powder specified in the recipe. In general, Dutch processed cocoa reacts with baking powder, and natural cocoa with baking soda. (If I'd paid more attention in chemistry class, I would understand why this is so.) Don't be deterred by having the wrong type on hand, though; to substitute, here's the formula:

  • For 3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa, use 3 tablespoons natural cocoa powder plus 1/8 teaspoon baking soda.
  • For 3 tablespoons natural cocoa, use 3 tablespoons Dutch processed cocoa plus 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar or vinegar.

The experts at Cooks Illustrated suggest "blooming" cocoa powder, by dissolving it in hot water or coffee to deepen the flavor. They tested various brands of cocoa powder, and voted Drostë the best supermarket brand, whether you're making biscotti, cookies, brownies, meringues, a chocolate-y cake, or vegan cupcakes.   

By the way, I lost track of my lab partner after graduation. I hope he's a chef; he had great knife skills in biology class.

Chocolate-orange sorbet

Inspired by several recipes, including one from the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, this sorbet doesn't require any baking at all! Makes 3 cups.


1 -1/4 cups sugar
2-1/4 cups water
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
Pinch of salt
2 tsp minced orange zest


Combine the water and sugar in a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat to dissolve the sugar.

Add the cocoa powder and stir until it is dissolved and smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Stir until it is completely melted.

Strain the mixture into a bowl, and stir in the salt and orange zest. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and cool to room temperature. Chill for several hours or overnight, then process in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Cocoa-cumin-allspice rub
Chocolate truffles
Outrageous brownies

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I really love Dutch cocoa... and now pairing with orange, sound too good! But what a shame I don't have an ice-cream machine...
but it's ok, your great story on this hunky Bill kind of comforts me :D

I really do hope it's good for my heart =) Chocolate and orange is one of my favourite choc combos, sounds yummy.

Mmmm! This Choco orange sorbet sounds positively divine, especially on this windy, windy Sunday.


So interesting. What little we often know when we pick up a box in the supermarket. The fact that Dutch processed is better with baking powder is something I didn't know. I'd also managed to convince myself that cocoa powder had far fewer calories, but it still packs a wallop. Guess I'll have to stick with the "low carb" excuse!

I'm turning a year older in a far away place right now, but that picture of the Droste label reminds me of the orange flavored wafers we used to get for Christmas. Totally off topic, but thank you none the less.

Even when I think I know the ingredient you focus on, I always learn something new! I'd never known you could substitute one for the other or the blooming trick--definitely something I'll keep in mind in the future!

The sorbet sounds like it should be very tasty, and you know where I stand on ice cream and its relatives! ;-)

I love the chocolate and orange combo!

Just can't get my taste buds around chocolate and citrus. But I do have to look up the cocoa chemistry every time.

Great information here, I echo Mike's sentiments 100%. Every time I think I know the topic, I always learn something new!

As for the hunky lab partner in high school biology & chemistry class, why didn't I have one of those? It would have made dissecting baby sharks so much more interesting...

Yes it is important to learn the difference between dutch processed and natural cocoal. I learned that the hard way in some of my chocolate recipes.

Gattina, I have a very inexpensive ice cream maker, the kind where you freeze the canister and then just plug it in. I don't use it often, but I'm glad I have it.

Kelly-Jane, Paz, Brilynn: chocolate and orange together reminds me of one of those ice cream bars (I can't remember the name of it) that we'd get from the truck that rolled up and down the streets of the neighborhood each summer when we were kids.

TW, it does have fewer calories, carbs and fat -- but it seems that anything reduced to a powder should, in all fairness, have zero calories, carbs and fat! The world of sweets can be a cruel place....

Joel, wherever you are, happy birthday -- and thanks for visiting The Perfect Pantry on your vacation!

Mike, thanks so much. I'm happy if I can share one new thing about each of my pantry items. I figure that the more we know, the more fun we'll have when we get down to the cooking. (And I stand right next to you, at least vis a vis chocolate ice cream and its relatives!)

MyKitchen, I have a hard time with the chocolate-raspberry combination, but with orange it really works for me. Go figure. And obviously my lab partner got all of the chemistry smarts; I have to look it up each time, too.

Sandie, thank you! And trust me, the cute lab partner wasn't cute enough to make me forget my distaste for dissection. But it did mitigate the unpleasantness, just a little bit.

Veron, in a way your comment makes me feel better, because you are a professional baker! I am still a confirmed bake-o-phobe, and I have to look it up every time.

Just drinking for me. The only time I use cocoa powder for baking is for tiramisu. :P

Oh yeah Dutch cocoa! Lovely. i have been thinking about a chocolate sorbet but the combo with orange sounds wonderful. Thanks!

Tigerfish, tiramisu is wonderful!

Meeta, I'll be watching to see what new things you do with cocoa powder. My repertoire is a bit limited, so I'm always looking for new ideas!

You forgot to mention "cute", isn't that important for distraction from the dissection part? As for chocolate and orange, I was in the 7th grade when I tried this pairing, it was a cake and I felt suddenly so grown up and exotic.

With my daughter recently going away from sweetened breakfast cereals, I'm sure it's only a matter of time before she gives up Milo & Quick for the real thing, so much more flavour and I'm thinking, looking at what you wrote about nutrition, probably better for her.

Callipygia, cute was a very important part of my choice -- I cannot deny it!

Neil, for years my mother told me that chocolate was good for her health, and I never believed her. Now it looks like science is proving me wrong, and I'm delighted.

We don't have Dutch processed cocoa powder here, Lydia, so I always use the regular type. So far, no problem. :)

That sorbet has my name all over it, my friend. Citrus and chocolate? I'm in!

Chocolate and orange make a wonderful combination but I've never had a chocolate orange sorbet! Mmmm! Nice post.

Patricia, Hillary: you both must try chocolate and orange! Like chocolate and raspberry, it is one of the great flavor combinations.

Another thing to consider when you are stocking cocoa powder in your pantry is whether it was produced with the help of child slave labor. You can avoid that by purchasing organic or fair trade cocoa (and chocolate). The problems are in West Africa, so avoiding products made with beans from Ivory Coast or Ghana also works (though that might take a little more research). Search on "slave free chocolate" and the brand you are interested in for quick info. Droste is listed as being OK on at least one list.

I've made a chocolate orange sorbet, too. Made my own variation (with heat from jalapeno, some vanilla and rum). I used the chocolate sorbet recipe from Pure Dessert for reference, which included the step of bringing the cocoa plus water and sugar to a simmer to start-- didn't know why that was helpful or that it was called blooming the cocoa, though. Thanks for teaching me something new!

Does white Cacao existe ??

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.