“Dutched” cocoa is chocolate that has been exposed to an alkali to neutralize its natural acidity, says Thalia Hohenthal, senior scientist for research and development at the Guittard Chocolate Company. The process, which was developed by C. J. van Houten in the Netherlands, makes the cocoa powder darker and more water soluble—meaning it’s smoother and more fudgy—and also mellows the flavor. It’s the taste you might associate with a carton of chocolate milk.
Cocoa powder that hasn’t undergone Dutch processing is labeled “natural.” It has more acidity and a brighter, fruitier flavor, says Alex Whitmore, founder of Taza Chocolate. Hohenthal describes it as having the “tangy side of chocolate” with a “more raw … livelier chocolate taste.”
Which should you select for your baking? “It’s totally a matter of taste,” says Whitmore. But it does matter if you are preparing a beverage, because Dutched cocoa mixes easier with liquid. Also, remember that the two types of cocoa differ chemically. So if you have a recipe that specifically calls for Dutched and you want to sub in natural cocoa, Hohenthal says to simply increase the leavening by 25 percent (whether it is baking soda or powder), just to be safe. Conversely, if you want to use Dutched cocoa in a recipe that calls for natural, she says to do the opposite: decrease the leavening by 25 percent.