Cocoa is both a powder crushed from the beans of the tropical American cacao tree, and the hot drink made from it. The beans are fermented, dried, roasted and turned into a thick paste, from which the fat (cocoa butter) is removed. The mixture is then ground. There is also a ‘Dutch-processed’ variety, which is made from beans treated with a potassium solution that neutralises their acidity and gives them a milder flavour.
Ensure that the cocoa has not been bulked up with flour or cheaper ingredients. The best variety, known as Caracas, is from Venezuela.
Store in a cool, dry place, avoiding direct sunlight.
Mix cocoa with hot milk or boiling water to make a drink, or add to cakes, puddings and icings to give them a chocolate flavour.
Article by Sejal Sukhadwala
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