Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Birthday of Coenraad Johannes van Houten

Today is the birthday (1801) of the man who created the process that resulted in "Dutch cocoa," by treating cocoa mass with alkaline salts to reduce the natural bitterness without adding sugar or milk so we get a cocoa powder we can use.

According to the official Vanhouten website, Coenraad Johannes van Houten also invented the cocoa pressing method not just added salts to create a better dry cocoa that the average person then could use at home to make a chocolate drink.  He did all of this back in 1828, decades before names like Fry, Lindt, and Cadbury would start to lay claim to large stakes in the growing chocolate market.

Other historical sources challenge the official claim that he invented both the cocoa press and the Dutch process saying that instead his father, Casparus van Houten Sr., patented this machine in 1828 the forgot to renew his patent, making the machine available to anyone to use in 1838.   One would think that such conflicting claims would be easy to sort out but not given the information I have available to me.

Of course, the one problem with Dutch cocoa is that you must use baking powder not baking soda in it since the baking powder will not work with a neutral pH that the van Houten process creates.  If you keep that in mind, you can use it for almost anything and indeed it is used for a wide range of products. Many historians I looked at credit this process with a opening up of chocolate for a much wider audience in the first half of the 19th century making it easier to use at home and also more palatable to more people.

So if you use Dutch cocoa today for baking or ice cream making or other other activity, say a special thank you to Coenraad Johannes van Houten, too, because his idea helped the development of chocolate Europe wide and thus world wide.

Vanhouten continued as an independent cocoa company until 1971, the start of a series of takeovers that resulted in their products, all cocoa drink mixes, being created under the auspices of the Barry Callebaut Group.  These products are available in several European countries so I hope our European readers will tell us what they think of them.

#1 Photo found at Find a Grave


MyFudo™ said...

We owe the darker chocolate colored in our treats from him...THanks for posting...

TammyJo Eckhart said...

I'm not sure what you mean, MyFudo.

Can you rephrase it?

Do you mean that your products look darker because rising the pH level of cocoa darkens the color of the powder?

Haley McAdams said...

Happy birthday to Coenraad Johannes Van Houten. Just to make sure, is he the maker of the Van Houten chocolate bars? Well that's really too bad (about the patent). Anyway, at least most of the chocolate fanatics know the facts.

TammyJo Eckhart said...

Hi, Haley, yes his father started the company and their family continued in the business until the 1970s based on what I could find.

That is the case for many candy and chocolate companies, they get swallowed up by bigger and bigger companies.

Matched Content Ads