The mere mention of cocoa powder and thoughts of cakes, cookies, and souffles swirl through my mind. Just opening the jar and smelling it brings on a feeling of utter enchantment and delight. Cocoa powder is the result of the fat or cocoa butter being removed from the fermented, dried, and roasted seeds or beans of the cacao tree that have been ground into a paste. Cocoa powder comes in two forms, natural and dutch processed. The term “dutch” just refers to an age old process of enhancing the color and reducing the bitterness of natural cocoa powder. Without boring you with the science, the general rule in baking with cocoa powder is that when a recipe calls for the use of baking soda, natural cocoa powder is used and when a recipe calls for the use of baking powder, dutch processed is used. It has everything to do with the Ph levels. Truly, learning the science of baking has become quite fun and has brought me back to high school and all the things that I forgot to learn. Now to my favorite parts, the cooking with and the healing benefits. Of course, cocoa powder is an essential in baking desserts, custards, pudding, breads, etc., but I love to use it in salad dressings, gravies, chili, stews, in rubs for lean beef, chicken and fish. It pairs wonderfully with chili powder, cayenne pepper, garlic, ground cloves, and espresso. Adding to the wonders of cocoa powder are the healing benefits. Dark chocolate has always been known to help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, but just imagine, cocoa powder has even more of those beneficial substances. It is low in calories and contains essential minerals that support your heart, bones and immune system. There are plenty of flavonoids (plant based substances) that are responsible for many of cocoa’s health benefits. They act as antioxidants that help prevent inflammation and improve blood flow. Cocoa Powder….An Enchanting Ingredient!