Sugar and Spice and Cocoa, so nice

Sure, I shop at the farmer's market and grow my own food. But since ingredients like sugar, cocoa and vanilla don't grow anywhere near our home, I don't feel guilty buying them at Costco, where the prices keep me in high-quality baking supplies even in the leanest times. I wouldn't buy just any old ingredient at a mega-discount store, but their fair-trade organic sugar, Dutch process cocoa and plump Madagascar vanilla beans won my approval this summer when I was developing recipes for my cookbook. They now command a prime spot on our pantry. With Valentine's Day just around the corner, they deserve a spot in yours too. Here's the scoop:

Wholesome Sweeteners Fair Trade Organic Sugar: It's not very often you can find "certified fair trade" and "organic" in the same product. Made from canes in South America, this is my all-purpose baking and sweetening sugar. Replace your refined white sugar one for one in cookies, cakes, icings and on top of your morning latte.

Rodelle Dutch Process Cocoa: Dutch process cocoa {think Valhrona} is deeper and darker than
natural cocoa {think Hershey's} which gives it what I like to call a grown-up cocoa flavor. Sourced "responsibly" {according to Rodelle's website} from West Africa,  this is my go-to deep-flavored cocoa, perfect for anything you want an intense chocolate flavor to shine in, like cakes, pudding and of course, hot cocoa. Be sure to check recipes that include leaveners {like baking soda or baking powder}.
Dutch process cocoa reacts differently than natural in these recipes {read more here}, so follow those recipes to a T.

Rodelle Vanilla Beans: Vanilla beans or pods come from an orchid plant indigenous to South Eastern Mexico, and later migrated to Madagascar where today's best beans are grown. These plump pods pack enough vanillin to scrape into sweets and stir into frostings for a vanilla flecked flavor that extracts rarely achieve. You can sometimes find vanilla beans in the baking aisle of the grocery store, but they are
often thin and dry and not worth the pretty penny they cost. {Sorry McCormick, your vanilla beans having nothing on these chubsters}.  If you've never used a vanilla bean before, check out Rodelle's how-to-video for how to split and scrape a bean {here}. Be sure to save your leftover beans to dry and store in a jar of sugar for DIY vanilla sugar.

Since not everyone {sorry mom!} has a Costco, I also found these goodies on Amazon for a
not-quite-Costco-cheap-but-fair price too. Here's a shortcut for you: sugar {click here} cocoa {click here} and vanilla beans {click here}.

No excuses now, time to bake something sweet for the one you love.


Anjee Davis said...

Thank you so much. I love this kind of advise. I have already added these items to my grocer app on my phone so I am sure to get the right thing next time I am at the store!!! YAY...love it.

Sherry WeMott-Colton said...

Thanks, love it! Don't have a Costco here, but I'll have to check around. I have purchased that sugar at Sunflower Market, I believe.

So, about this Dutch process cocoa...I just finished baking the "Can't Beet Red Velvet Cupcake" recipe I found on the blog Coconut and Lime and they're quite delicious, however not so red. Not a big deal, really. In the recipe she calls for Dutch Process cocoa and all I had was organic. I thought maybe the Dutch Process is more of a dark/brown red in color?

But then what about alkalinity and reaction during baking...would that have an effect on color? I'm sure I'm thinking way to hard about this...I think I'll try next time with less cocoa and see if I can get to a little bit more red shade w/out ending up with pink.

sarah said...

Anjee, grocery ap, you are so with it! I wish I was so organized. I'm glad this helped:)

Sherry, how did the cupcakes taste? Dutch process will give you that deep, cocoa flavor, and natural cocoa will be more chocolate-light, I would say. Not quite as rich. It could also effect color since Dutch cocoa is quite dark. Did the recipe have red food coloring? It's tricky with Red Velvet because you want them to taste and be natural and chocolatey, but also appear pretty and red. Tricky! I'm fond of the natural food colorings but they are never that bright, brilliant red. Hopefully Lane loved them anyway!

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Sarah Copeland is a food and lifestyle expert, and the author of Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite, and The Newlywed Cookbook. She is the Food Director at Real Simple magazine, and has appeared in numerous national publications including Saveur, Health, Fitness, Shape, Martha Stewart Living and Food & Wine magazines. As a passionate gardener, Sarah's Edible Living philosophy aims to inspire good living through growing, cooking and enjoying delicious, irresistible whole foods. She thrives on homegrown veggies, stinky cheese and chocolate cake. Sarah lives in New York with her husband and their young daughter.