While the company founded by Milton Snavely Hershey (how's that for a middle name) was built on the back of milk chocolate "kisses", chocolate purists can still find solace in the bitter truth that is Natural Unsweetened Hershey's Cocoa.
The production of a natural cocoa powder starts with raw cocoa beans (nibs) that are fermented, dried, roasted, and de-skinned. The beans are then ground into a paste called the "cocoa mass". The cocoa mass has a roughly equivalent proportion of fat (cocoa butter) and cocoa solids. At this point, either the Broma or the Dutch process can be utilized to create cocoa powder. The goal of both the Dutch process (also known as "Dutch Chocolate") and the Broma process (which results in "natural" cocoa) is to remove the cocoa butter from the cocoa solids, however, the end result of the two processes is very different.
Dutched cocoa powders differ from natural cocoa powders in that they are treated with alkali to reduce the cocoa's natural acidity. Lowered acidity gives dutched cocoa greater solubility (it mixes with other ingredients more readily), lightens the color and smooths out the flavor of the cocoa. These properties make dutched cocoa preferable from a confectionery (candy-making) and manufacturing perspective, but studies have shown that even a light application of the dutching process destroys 60% of cocoa's naturally occurring antioxidants and heavy dutching can result in a 90% reduction.
The Broma process was discovered at the Ghirardelli chocolate factory in 1865 when someone noticed that cocoa butter naturally drips out of the cocoa mass when it is warmed and hung in a porous bag. When all of the cocoa butter is exuded, the remaining residue of pure chocolate solids can be processed into cocoa powder. The resulting cocoa powder is slightly acidic, giving it a slightly bitter taste, but all of the antioxidants remain intact.
Hershey's Natural Cocoa Powder, a product of the Broma process, is therefore a true super-food, packed with nutrition and low in calories, but it isn't something that you can eat straight from the container. The good news is, you can mix it into just about anything and, if you are like me, you already have!
For some ideas on how you can put Hershey's Natural Cocoa Powder to good use, check out the following recipes.