Ahhhh... where would the world be without brownies, chocolate muffins and chocolate cake!?  More of my favorite comfort foods.  I usually make my brownies with unsweetened baker's chocolate, but I also love the rich taste of cocoa brownies. Nothing satisfies me like a rich cup of cocoa made from scratch, either.  The yummy taste of pure sugar, hot milk, a splash of vanilla and cocoa in a cup.  Warms the heart and the tummy!

Chocolate makes the world a better place as far as I am concerned!  The cacao tree originated in South America and sometime in the fifth century, the beans were carried into Mexico by the Mayas.  Columbus took cacao seeds back to Spain.  Spain wasn't interested, so it wasn't until Cortes brought beans back to Africa that anyone took notice.  The Spanish sweetened the drink Cortes was served by the Aztecs with honey and flavored with with cinnamon and vanilla.  The French didn't find out about this cacao until over a century later, and the rest is history. 

Natural Cocoa:  Cocoa sold in the US contains between 11 percent and 24 percent cocoa butter. In the UK, cocoa must contain at least 20 percent fat.  Fats are the carriers of flavor and if you remove too much fat, the cocoa looses its flavor.  Natural cocoa is light brown and is very acidic.  This acidity is why you most often use baking soda instead of baking powder when baking with cocoa.  Since natural cocoa is lighter in color and has a unique flavor, natural cocoa is used to make the beverage itself along with frosting, fudge and chocolate sauce.

Dutch-Process Cocoa:  Dutch-process cocoa is either neutral or slightly alkaline. When you bake with it, you will most often use baking powder instead of soda.  Baking powder contains the acid needed to make things rise that has been removed from the cocoa in the dutching process.  Dutched cocoas are best in cakes and cookies.   How can you tell what type you have if it doesn't say on the container?  Stir some cocoa into water, add baking soda. If it fizzes, it is natural cocoa. If it doesn't fizz, it has been dutched.

Black Cocoa:  This cocoa has been "extra" dutched. This extra dutching intensifies the flavor and makes it darker.  This is the cocoa that makes Oreo cookies so dark.

Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa: A blend of Dutch process cocoa and black cocoa.

Go out and have something with cocoa!  YUM!