Monday, February 06, 2006

Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa

Hershey's. They don't often get good reviews in the world of fancy chocolate. Lots of Europeans taste Hershey's chocolate, and say "God, that's sour and tastes like puke!" --- This "sourness" is due to Hershey's process of making milk chocolate, which involves evaporating skim milk under heat, allowing the milk to slightly ferment and produce acids. It is unclear to me whether the average American (e.g. me) can really pick out this sour-flavor in a blind taste test. And there are countless other food snobs that think that Hershey's is too mass-produced, or too cheap to be good chocolate. I don't particularly share in those pretenses. I think that Hershey's can produce good chocolate. (As a disclaimer, I also suspect that some of their chocolate products may indeed be low-quality mass-produced crap --- they probably need all kinds in their lineup).

Which brings us to Hershey's Special Dark Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder. It's available at the Giant Eagle next to their regular cocoa powder, for a 3.99 rather than 3.75 per 8 ounce canister. Thus, its price-class is "inexpensive." I had to pick some up.

Looking at the nutritional information on the side of the box, it seems that it is, for all intensive purposes, nutritionally identical to their regular cocoa powder. The same fat content. The same sugar content. The same number of calories per serving. Etc. The only difference is the ingredients. The regular cocoa powder reads "Cocoa." The Special Dark reads "Cocoa processed with Alkali." This makes me think that their manufacturing process for both is identical, except for the alkalinization step in the dutched version.

Following my cocoa powder ritual, I made some hot cocoa with this stuff. The first surprise was how black the resulting hot cocoa was. Black as tar. Not the lovely brown shade of the Van Houten cocoa, for instance. It's hard to look at this stuff and think "this is cocoa." But, being the adventuresome lad I am, I was able to ignore, and perhaps, even savor the color. My first tasting notes would say that the flavor is much harsher than that of the Van Houten. Not the lovely, round mouthfeel, but more of an "ashy" bite. Overall, the flavor wasn't really bad, and could, in fact, be desirous, but it was a little unexpected. I will have to try further experimentation with this powder, and I will provide updates here as I do so.

Update. I have thought about this for a while, and I have made a second batch of hot cocoa. It has occured to me that Special Dark's flavor is remeniscent of the chocolate in an Oreo cookie. The Great InterWeb confirms that the Oreo flavor comes from cocoa which has been "dutched to death." After some tinkering and experimentation, I've decided that I like the Special Dark in a hot cocoa which has less cocoa and more milk than I'm normally accustomed to. It still, however, is not as good as my precious Van Houten for hot cocoa. If you're making Oreo cookies, however, go with the Special Dark.

I can't find the Special Dark cocoa powder anywhere I look in stores or on-line - any advice on where to buy it?
I bought mine at the local Giant Eagle grocery chain, but you can get it online from lots of places, like Amazon:
The Kroger chain sells it.
The phrase is intents and purposes, not intensive purposes.
how much processing is involved with 'Dark Cocoa powder' it processed to the point where any benefits are obliterated?
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