Every week, baking expert Alice Medrich will be going rogue on Food52 -- with shortcuts, hacks, and game-changing recipes.
Today: What, exactly, are you supposed to do with cocoa nibs? Alice tells all.
Cacao or cocoa nibs are bits of hulled cocoa beans. Most nibs are sold roasted (and those have the best flavor). They are unsweetened -- thus somewhat bitter -- and super crunchy, with intense and rather primal chocolate flavors.
Nibs were once found only in chocolate factories, where they were ground up and made into chocolate. Nibs are still the defining ingredient in all chocolate manufacture, but they are now also available in better supermarkets and specialty stores. You can use nibs in all kinds of sweet and savory ways. Here are five to get you started.
5 Sweet and Savory Things to Do with Cocoa Nibs
1. Sprinkle nibs on vanilla (or other) ice cream for a grown-up ice cream experience.
2. Add nibs -- in addition to or instead of -- nuts in cookie recipes.
3. Make cocoa nib-infused whipped cream: Bring 1/3 cup of roasted nibs to a simmer in 1 cup of heavy cream. Off heat, cover and let steep 20 minutes and then strain the cream into a bowl and discard the nibs. Chill the cream several hours before whipping it with a little sugar to taste.
4. Sprinkle nibs on salad (as you would nuts or seeds) of arugula or other greens. You can add one or a combination of the following: currants, shaved fennel, pomegranate seeds, crumbled goat cheese, Parmesan cheese, Niçoise olives.
5. Make nibby pesto: In a mortar (or mini food processor) pulverize 1/3 cup of nibs with 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to a gritty paste. Add and pulverize 12 Niçoise olives and a few fresh basil leaves. Mix in another 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil and salt to taste. Serve on toasted slices of French bread, plain or topped with prosciutto or shaved Parmesan or Asiago cheese.
Alice's new book Seriously Bitter Sweet is a complete revision of her IACP award-winning Bittersweet, updated for the 54%, 61%, and 72% (and beyond) bars available today. It's packed with tricks, techniques, and answers to every chocolate question, plus 150 seriously delicious recipes -- both savory and sweet.
Photos by James Ransom