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Ghirardelli vs cheaper cocoa powder

Has anyone worked with Ghirardelli and other cocoa powders (like Hershey or store brand) enough to compare them side-by-side? I always buy Ghirardelli at the supermarket because I just feel like it's probably better, but I'm wondering if it's just good marketing that's making me bust out $5+ for cocoa powder.

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  1. I haven't used ghirardelli but i have used the Penzeys chocolate powder in a few batches of chocolate cake and homemade oreos and i definitely think it's superior. it's MUCH darker than the hersheys powder, which is what i'd used previously. i have to say though that of all teh people i served the cake/cookies to, no one noticed the difference! and these are all people who are used to eating lots of homemade baked goods.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ediecooks

      so you personally think that Penzeys is better, but others don't notice? hm maybe I should just try using Hershey's. my gut tells me that I would notice a difference, but if everyone else doesn't notice maybe it's not worth it. but then again I would not be happy knowing that I was making an inferior product, even if no one else noticed =P

    2. I have used both extensively--started off with the Ghirardelli and then tried Hershey since it was cheaper. Conclusion: I think it depends on what you're baking. I do think the Ghirardelli tastes better--purer maybe? It is darker. But Hershey has a very classic chocolate taste. I find myself using Hershey powder for quick and simple things and Ghirardelli for things where I want the chocolate to really stand out. Maybe it's all in my head, but I think Ghirardelli's powder is richer and more substantial in the finished product. I made a quick batch of chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips for my clients at work on Halloween one year. I used the Ghirardelli and my clients went NUTS and ate all the cookies literally within a few minutes. Three of them told me they were "the best" cookies they'd ever eaten. I was very happy with that and I made the cookies again with Hershey powder since it was all I had and they really weren't the same. They tasted like they came out of a box.

      1 Reply
      1. re: nothingswrong

        That is kind of what I expected. Thanks a lot! I'm going to stick with buying Ghirardelli. It definitely seems worth it.

      2. I don't know about Ghir., but my Mom uses Valhrona cocoa that I gave her for her choc. angel food cake. When she ran out, she used Hersheys....for one cake, and then called me to order some more of the V. Mom is not subject to foodie-ism and trendy snob appeal like I am, so I really took that as proof of the importance of good cocoa for rich chocolate flavor.

        1 Reply
        1. re: danna

          I love using Valrhona for Dutched and Ghiradelli for natural cocoa.

        2. You also have to keep in mind 'natural' versus 'dutched' cocoa powder. One of my pet peeves is that many recipes do not specify the type cocoa powder used in the recipe, as they are not interchangeable. So, if a particular type works great in a recipe, say you use dutched like Ghirardelli, you can substittute another dutched brand with similar results, but a 'natural' cocoa, regardless of quality, won't give you good results.

          1. Has anyone tried Trader Joe's cocoa powder? It's a lot cheaper than Ghiradelli. I bought some and haven't tried it yet. According to the package, it's made from Tumaco cocoa beans from Colombia and contains more cocoa butter than other brands.

            2 Replies
            1. re: vicarious

              Yep. I use it and really like the baked goods that I get from it. Sometimes, for an even darker color/richer flavor, I'll mix it with Hershey's Special Dark cocoa, which is a blend of natural and dutched cocoas. Can still sub 1:1, though.

              1. re: vicarious

                A recent indulgence has been making hot cocoa with TJ's cocoa powder. I read somewhere that hot cocoa could be whisked into water (not milk), so I attempted to try that with the TJ's version and sweetening it with honey or sugar. Delicious. Haven't attempted to bake with it yet.

              2. i agree that whether it's worth it to spend the money on the good brands depends upon what you're making. i've been using it quite frequently recently. i've had the Dagoba, Hershey's and Ghiradelli. G is deepest in color and flavor. Dagoba is lighter in color, but still chocolatey (not quite so as G) in flavor, and Hershey's is okay but just not as pure tasting, and seems to have what i can only describe as faker or even chemically tasting. i've made cookies with the Dagoba and they were good. i made truffles (or coated them rather) with both the Dagoba and Hershey's (ran out of the former and neighbor had latter), and both were well-received. i just bought the G, and plan to experiment tomorrow or some time this week.

                i also looked at the TJ's version yesterday, and couldn't get over the fact that it was 1.99... i may just have to try it next time! i'd love to know what others have used it for yet, aside from hot cocoa. any baked goods?

                1. Ghirardelli isn't that much better than Hershey's - just more expensive. Callebaut. That's the only powder I have found that is substantially above the rest. We've tried several single origins, several fancy brands, and none compare.
                  And YES - there is a huge difference between dutched and natural. They have a different PH balance and can affect the rise of your baked goods where baking soda/powder are used if you are using a large quantity of cocoa and you may want to adjust. As far as using COLOR as a judge of quality - keep in mind that dutch and natural will have very different colors to start with.
                  I haven't used natural in many years. The cocoa flavor just doesn't come through the bitterness.