Since we’re back in Rose Levy Berenbaum land again this week, it bears mentioning that ever since I first started making chocolate layer cakes out of the Cake Bible, I’ve wondered about the rationale for combining cocoa powder with boiling water. I mean, cocoa powder disperses just as easily in warm water. What’s the big deal?
Happily I had occasion to ask her this past month. It turns out Beranbaum came up with the technique while working as a consultant for Duncan Hines cake mixes. As she tells it, she one day happened to encounter a food scientist in the Procter & Gamble offices that no one in the company ever spoke to — and this wizened old fellow had something very interesting to say about cocoa powder. Specifically, that even after the cacao bean is ground to powder, the individual bits of seed still have pieces of membrane attached to them. Boiling water liberates the tiny bits from this membrane, freeing them to disperse in a batter and — by extension — over our taste buds. Thus by employing the boiling water trick you get more, and more intense, chocolate flavor from the same amount of cocoa powder. Amazing what you learn by talking to an egghead. Yes?