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I'm trying to add unsweetened non-dutched cocoa powder to a biscotti recipe (this one).

I've read that this type of cocoa is strongly acidic. Will I need to make any changes to the quantities of baking powder? Should I just use baking soda instead of the baking powder? Any other suggestions would be welcome.

I put in the biscotti recipe as an example. My actual question is quite generic as I tend to add cocoa/chocolate to everything! must.. resist..

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I looked at several recipes for chocolate biscotti with cocoa and they all called for baking powder in roughly the same quantity as in the recipe you linked to UNTIL I got to David Lebovitz Hmm, soda. Personally, I'd go with a recipe that already includes the cocoa, that one looks really good. –  Jolenealaska Jul 20 '14 at 4:35
@Jolenealaska Ah I see. About that recipe, no butter either, so I'm quite tempted to try it. I don't want to end up breaking my teeth though. –  metacubed Jul 20 '14 at 4:41
He's pretty stellar, I'd be much more inclined to trust a recipe from him than a recipe from AllRecipes, particularly one that I'm altering. Here's one from Mario Batali also no butter, that one uses baking powder. –  Jolenealaska Jul 20 '14 at 4:49
@Jolenealaska Thanks! To the bake-cave! –  metacubed Jul 20 '14 at 4:57
I'd still like some answers around my original question though - why doesn't the cocoa negate the effect of baking powder? I tend to put cocoa/chocolate in everything :), so it would be good to know. –  metacubed Jul 20 '14 at 4:57

1 Answer 1

up vote 7 down vote accepted

According to David Lebovitz:

Because natural cocoa powder hasn’t had its acidity tempered, it’s generally paired with baking soda (which is alkali) in recipes. Dutch-process cocoa is frequently used in recipes with baking powder, as it doesn’t react to baking soda like natural cocoa does.

So, if you're using non-Dutched (natural) cocoa, you can use baking soda for leavening, but you don't have to. As I mentioned in comments the vast majority of recipes for chocolate biscotti in fact call for baking powder. I suspect that part of the reason for that is that many people don't know the difference between Dutched and non-Dutched cocoas, and in some places outside the US, Dutch-processed is the norm. There is no harm in using additional acid (like natural cocoa) with baking powder. The effect of additional acid is not enough that you're likely to even notice it.

Also note that if you use baking soda for leavening, you have to bake right away. Baking soda, like single-action baking powder, causes the release of carbon dioxide only when it is first mixed with the liquid (and acid, in the case of soda) in the recipe. It doesn't react to the heat of the oven. So, its leavening action is short lived.

Baking powder is roughly one-third baking soda, so if you do choose to substitute baking soda for baking powder in a recipe that contains plenty of acid, you want to use about a third of the amount of soda as the recipe called for baking powder.

EDIT: I just came across this answer: How can I identify dutch process cocoa? by hobodave. That excellent answer has more information that you might find helpful. Of note as it relates to your question is this paragraph:

There is a bit of misinformation that floats amongst bakers that the pH of the cocoa can affect the leavening of the baked good. Many recipes will actually sternly suggest using either Dutched or natural cocoa depending. This makes sense since leavening is a sort of balancing act that involves both acids and bases. However, it has been experimentally shown that this does not actually occur, and baked goods made with both Dutched and natural cocoa powder showed no differences in leavening.

So he concurs. While it is fine to substitute baking soda for baking powder when introducing natural cocoa, it is unnecessary. No modification of leavening agent is necessary.

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Wow, that's a lot of research! :) –  metacubed Jul 20 '14 at 21:57

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