On a chilly morning, when cold winds whip the air and clouds hide the sun, there’s nothing more comforting than a cup of hot cocoa. While coffee may wake you up, and tea may soothe you, hot cocoa brings back childhood memories and wraps you in a cocoon like a warm blanket for your soul.
However, for some people, there’s a caveat: Cocoa powder is acidic and is bound to bring discomfort to those with acid reflux, hyperacidity or ulcers. As doctors will tell you, anything acidic is anathema for sufferers of these conditions.
But perhaps a cup of hot cocoa may still be an occasional indulgence if it’s made with Dutch-processed cocoa powder. Unlike natural cocoa powder, Dutch-processed cocoa powder has been alkalized, thanks to a process developed by Dutch chocolate maker Coenraad Johannes van Houten in the 19th century. The process removes the acidity from the cocoa powder, giving it a neutral PH and making it less offensive to those with the conditions mentioned.
Dutch-processed cocoa powder (also called Dutched and alkalized) is darker in color than the regular variety and has a milder flavor. In some cases it’s not interchangeable with natural cocoa powder because its alkalinity makes it incompatible with ingredients like baking soda (which is alkaline in itself). Thus you may have to make some adjustments if the original recipe calls for natural cocoa powder.
For liquids like hot cocoa, however, you can easily use alkalized cocoa powder for your usual recipe, as I’ve discovered when I made a cauldron of hot cocoa recently. The liquid turned out darker than one made with natural cocoa powder, and also had a milder flavor. It was like an old favorite that has darkened and mellowed with time but has retained much of its appealing qualities, its richness and its sweetness.
You can find alkalized cocoa powder in some supermarkets and in shops specializing in baking supplies. Even some internet sites sell it. To add more pizzazz to the drink, you can serve it with whipped cream and/or mini marshmallows.
½ c sugar
½ c Dutch-processed (or Dutched or alkalized) cocoa powder
2¾ c fresh milk (may use low-fat milk)
1 tsp vanilla
In a medium-size saucepan, combine sugar and cocoa powder. Stir to blend. Pour in milk and simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly. Simmer until cocoa powder dissolves completely and liquid thickens.
Add vanilla and stir to mix. Pour into serving cups or demitasse.
Makes 4-6 servings.