It would be nice if you could whip up a rich, creamy chocolate bar from unsweetened cocoa powder the next time the chocolate craving hits. Sadly, this just isn't possible because of the differences in fat content between the two. However, cocoa powder can be used in many other delicious chocolate desserts, and its intense flavor can satisfy the chocolate itch.
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Cocoa powder and chocolate both contain cocoa solids -- which give chocolate its intense flavor -- and cocoa butter -- which provides a rich, buttery texture. High-quality chocolate contains at least 55 percent cocoa butter, while cocoa powder has been pressed to expel up to 90 percent of the cocoa butter, leaving a dry, flavorful powder. It's impossible to turn cocoa powder into a rich, creamy chocolate bar. However, you can use cocoa powder as a substitute for chocolate in baking by combining it with butter, oil or shortening.
Baking With Chocolate
Whether to use baking chocolate or cocoa powder depends mostly on the dessert you're baking and the desired result. Chocolate gives a creamy texture to ganache, truffles, puddings, mousses and cheesecakes that's hard to replicate with cocoa powder. In these desserts, stick with chocolate or add a spoonful or two of cocoa powder for flavor, along with chocolate. Cocoa powder is usually preferable in cookies, cakes and brownies because it offers a rich, chocolatey flavor and moist, tender results when combined with oil or butter. Chocolate hardens at room temperature so baked goods that are made with it are usually drier and harder, as well. Better yet, use cocoa as the main ingredient to add chocolate flavor to cookies and brownies, but stir in a handful of chocolate chips too.
Making the Switch
To substitute cocoa powder for sweetened chocolate, combine 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 4 teaspoons sugar and 1 tablespoon butter, vegetable oil or shortening for every 1-ounce square of chocolate. For unsweetened chocolate, simply omit the sugar. Dutch cocoa powder has been alkalized, which mellows its flavor and also changes how it reacts with leaveners, such as baking powder and baking soda. Stick with natural unsweetened cocoa powder unless a recipe specifically calls for Dutch cocoa powder.
Baked goods aren't the only place to use cocoa powder. Whisk together one part cocoa powder and four parts sugar for a quick hot cocoa powder. Stir a tablespoon or two of this mixture into hot milk for flavorful hot cocoa. For extra creaminess, whisk chocolate chips into very hot milk, along with the cocoa powder mixture.