My parents have just returned from a month's holiday in wintry England. It was certainly a shock to their system to return from 3 degrees in Manchester to Melbourne's summer temperatures of almost 40 degrees. To me, one of the most interesting parts of travel is sampling different food and drink overseas, particularly local delicacies, so I was eager to hear about their experiences. Mum and dad also spent a week in Belgium, so their gifts included some boxes and blocks of gorgeous Belgian chocolate. Mum brought home some special chocolate blocks to try in cooking and she also brought home another special treat: a bag of cacao nibs.
Cacao nibs are an unusual cooking item that I only recently discovered through reading Clotildé's wonderful Chocolate and Zucchini blog. Mum had discussed the use of cacao nibs with the chocolate shop proprietor, who recommended that she use them in chocolate cake to add some extra crunch.
Long ago, I bookmarked a chocolate biscuit recipe from Clotilde that used cacao nibs. Having not yet discovered a stockist for cacao nibs, the recipe had languished among my "recipes that I must try as soon as I purchase unusual ingredient" pile. So when Mum produced the bag of cacao nibs, I whipped out the recipe and proceeded to bake a batch of these velvety, dense chocolate biscuits. The triple hit of chocolate - from melted chocolate, cocoa powder and the cacao nibs - make these a true chocoholics delight. Although these biscuits would still be a winner even if the nibs were omitted, the aromatic crunch from the nibs elevate these biscuits above your everyday chocolatey snack and I highly recommend seeking out cacao nibs, if possible, to make these biscuits.
CLOTILDE'S BISCUITS CHOCOLAT ET FEVES DE CACAO
120g good quality bittersweet chocolate
110g unsalted butter
3 eggs, lightly beaten
100g brown sugar
120g all-purpose flour
90g unsweetened cocoa powder*
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel (substitute 1/4 teaspoon regular salt)
4 tablespoons cacao nibs
Melt together 90g of the chocolate and all of the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Transfer into a large mixing-bowl and let cool for ten minutes. In the meantime, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder and set aside. Finely chop the reserved chocolate, and set aside.
Whisk the eggs into the cooled melted chocolate. Add in the sugar and mix again. Sift in the flour mixture, and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined. The batter will be thick. Fold in the chopped chocolate, cacao nibs and fleur de sel.
Preheat the oven to 180° C (350° F) and line a baking tray with non-stick paper.
For bite-sized morsels, scoop out rounded teaspoons of batter, shape them into balls with the tips of your fingers, and line them up on the baking tray. Use about one dessertspoonful of batter if you prefer larger biscuits. Make sure you leave space between the biscuits for spreading. Put the baking tray in the refrigerator for 10 minutes (if the sheet and batter are cold, the biscuits are less likely to spread), then bake for eight to ten minutes, until the tops feel just dry to the touch. Don't overbake, or they won't be as moist inside.
* Clotilde added an update to her original recipe stating that some bakers found this amount to be too much, resulting in cookies more bitter than they like. You can use less cocoa (about 60g) if you prefer. Make up for the difference in flour.
This recipe appeared on the Chocolate and Zucchini website on 13 February 2006.