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Once Cacao is harvested, fermented, dried, roasted, the nibs crushed and the cocoa butter extracted we‘re left with a by product that has almost no fat and only 20 calories per tablespoon - cocoa powder.

We’ve all seen and most likely used the Hershey’s dark brown tin of cocoa powder with the brownie recipe on the side. But cocoa powder has recently gone gourmet. Fancy companies like Valrhona, Scharfenberger and Ghirardelli now sell it. And, you’ve probably seen the words “Dutch processed” on the side of some of the tins. Don’t let this confuse you; it simply gets its name from the pioneer of this process, a Dutchman named Van Houten. In the 19th century, Mr. Van Houten didn’t like the greasy film that formed on his cup of hot chocolate. He used a hydrolic press to squeeze the fat out of the cocoa mass after soaking the nibs in an alkaline solution. A lot of work for a cup of hot cocoa but what the heck. Europeans have always taken their chocolate seriously, and with good reason. They make the finest chocolate in the world in my opinion. Dutch processed cocoa has a darker color, a softer chocolate taste, less acidity and it mixes with liquid far better than unprocessed natural cocoa does. You can still buy both but if a recipe calls for one or the other, I recommend using what the recipe states.

Use cocoa powder, skim milk and a low calorie sweetener for a guilt free cup of hot chocolate. Blend it into a boxed cake mix for a richer chocolate taste. Make a slurry with a little cocoa powder and water and blend it into a banana smoothie. Most importantly, enjoy its low fat goodness without reservation.

Here is a recipe I posted today for a nearly flourless, low calories, low fat chocolate cake. Less than 200 calories a slice and 6 grams of fat and rich enough so a little goes a long way.

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