At first glance it might just look as though I've misspelt cocoa in many of my recipes... but there's more to it than bad spelling. Cacao and cocoa are kind of the same thing but they are also different. Confused? Let me explain.
What is cacao?
Raw cacao powder is made by cold-pressing unroasted cocoa beans - it is completely unprocessed, unrefined and the purest form of chocolate you can eat.
Well how does this differ from cocoa?
Cocoa powder, in contrast, is cacao powder that has been roasted at high temperatures. Unfortunately the addition of heat changes the molecular structure of the cocoa bean which reduces the nutritional value.
When people say that chocolate is good for you, it's normally the pure form of chocolate (e.g. cacao) that they are talking about rather than the cocoa powder you can buy from a supermarket. Raw cacao powder is much higher in antioxidants than cocoa powder. It also boasts a number of other health benefits including:
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
- Reduced insulin resistance
- Lower blood pressure
- Mood enhancer
- Excellent source of magenesium and resveratrol (yep, the same stuff you find in red wine which protects the nervous system).
*Did you know: dairy inhibits the absorption of antioxidants from cacao* - if you are making a drink or a shake with cacao, try using almond or coconut milk instead of normal milk so you can reap the full benefits!
The higher the percentage of cacao in chocolate, the higher the nutritional value (and the less room for added sugar). That's why I normally eat 70% dark chocolate or higher and cook with cacao rather than cocoa.
Do I need to give you any more reason to eat chocolate (and red wine)?!
Difference in taste?
Cacao tends to give you a stronger, rich and bitter compared with regular cocoa. If you are making a drink such as hot chocolate then it won't give you the same sweetness as cocoa powder, however I find that when you use it to bake with you can't really tell the difference once you have added your sweetener of choice.
Recipes using cacao?
I love cooking with cacao because it gives you that gorgeous chocolatey flavour along with a tonne of health benefits. My favourite recipes using cacao are my chocolate fudge brownies or my peanut butter cups! You can also find other chocolate recipes here.
Do you have a favourite way of cooking with cacao? Let me know in the comments!