I’m Cuckoo for Cocoa

            When our friends Debbie and Dennis came to visit last year Debbie brought some FABUOLOUS homemade chocolate Mandelbrot/biscotti which I promptly devoured all by my pretty little self. When asked for the recipe she graciously gave it to me and I tried (tried being the operative word here) to reproduce it.  While it was close and really quite good, it just wasn’t “quite” the same deep dark rich chocolaty tasting as hers. Knowing that in the sacred world of “friends exchanging recipes” leaving out an ingredient or step in the instructions is not something she would do I called her and asked what I’d done wrong (yes, even I, the queen of the kitchen occasionally make what are euphemistically called mistakes). Seems I’d used the wrong kind of cocoa powder. I’d used the regular Hershey’s brand and she’d used Dutch Cocoa powder.

So what, you ask, is the difference between cocoa powder and Dutch cocoa powder? Let’s start at the beginning. First there is the cocoa bean. These babies are roasted and then ground to remove the cocoa butter, (that natural fat in the cocoa bean so often found in sun tan lotion).  What remains is a paste called chocolate liquor.  This chocolate liquor is dried and ground to produce cocoa powder.  Dutch cocoa powder is regular cocoa powder that has been treated with an alkali to neutralize the cocoas natural acidity. Regular cocoa powder is acidic while the Dutch variety is neutral.

Because having the right level of acid to alkaline agent is critical when baking you shouldn’t substitute regular cocoa powder for Dutch cocoa powder or vice versa if a recipe calls for a specific type of cocoa powder.



1 1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup ground blanched almonds
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
10 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons milk
1 cup raspberry jam
Powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)


Preheat oven to 350. Put flour, almonds, granulated sugar, cocoa, cinnamon and salt into a food processor and pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal; transfer to a large bowl. In a small bowl, beat together yolks and lemon juice then add to flour mixture along with milk and stir with a fork just until mixture comes together.

Press about 2/3 of the dough into an 8-inch tart pan with a removable bottom or spring form pan to form a 1/2-inch-thick crust. (If using a tart pan, crust should reach the top of the pan. If using a spring form pan, crust should reach about 1 inch up the sides.) Spread jam thickly over the bottom of the crust; set aside.

Working on a well-floured surface, use floured hands to roll remaining dough into 3/4-inch-wide ropes. Press ropes into 1-inch-wide strips and lay across tart in a crisscross pattern to form a lattice top. Bake tart until jam is bubbly and crust is just golden brown around the edges, about 40 minutes. Serve tart at room temperature or chilled, dusted with powdered sugar, if you like.




2 ripe fresh or frozen banana cut into chunks
6 ounces vanilla yogurt
3/4 to 1 cup milk
2 tablespoons ground almonds
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 cup ice cubes


Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and whirl at top speed for about 1 minute or until smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy. When making fruit smoothies, adding ice to the blender is a matter of personal choice. If you are using frozen fruit in place of fresh fruit you may choose to omit the ice.



2 1/2 cups flour

1 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup margarine or butter

1/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 eggs

1 3/4 cups shredded zucchini

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 cup pecan pieces


Preheat oven to 350. Place paper liners in muffin pan. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, ground cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Cut in shortening until flour mixture resembles coarse meal. Slightly beat eggs. Add eggs, milk, lemon juice zucchini, and vanilla. Stir until just combined. Add pecans and mix to combine. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, filling 1/2 to 2/3 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes and then cool on racks.


2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate squares, chopped
1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup granulated sugar


Preheat oven to 220. Line cookie sheets with aluminum foil and set them aside. In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and cocoa and then set it aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the whites and cream of tartar until it starts to form soft peaks. Increase speed to medium high and slowly, in a steady stream add the sugar. Beat until mixture forms stiff peaks and is glossy. Stop the mixer and by hand with a spatula or wooden spoon, gently fold in the cocoa mixture and chopped chocolate. Try to make sure that the cocoa mixture gets thoroughly mixed in but don’t over mix. Using a tablespoon drop a heaping tablespoon of the mixture 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets. Let meringues sit at room temp for 1/2 hour before baking. Preheat oven to 220. Bake for 1 hour and DO NOT open the oven door. Remove from the oven and let cool on the cookie sheet. When the meringues are cool remove them from the foil. Makes 25 to 30.


2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter, chilled
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2-3/4 cup whipping cream
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup white chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 400. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. With a pastry blender or knife, cut chilled butter into flour mixture to resemble coarse crumbs.In a small bowl, combine egg, vanilla, and 1/2 cup of whipping cream. Stir cream mixture into flour mixture. If needed, add up to 1/4 cup more whipping cream, until mixture is just moistened. Stir in both chips, and than use hands to knead dough about 10 times. Lightly flour a working surface. Pat dough into 8-inch circle. Cut circle into 12 wedges using a sharp knife. Place each wedge 1 inch apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 12-15 minutes or until set. Do not overbake. Let stand for 3 minutes before transferring to cooling surface. Makes 12 scones.


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