Crazy Good Cocoa Nib Cookies, Part I

Pecans and cocoa nibs give this cookie crunch and a pretty mosaic look.

The taste of these crisp yet tender cookies is a little elusive.

There’s a roasty flavor, almost of mocha or coffee.

There’s a whisper of boozy complexity.

And there’s a quick, very subtle hit of chocolate that comes and goes in a blink.

These Nibby Pecan Cookies are from “Bittersweet” (Artisan) by chocolate doyenne, Alice Medrich.

They get their distinctiveness from toasted pecans, a dash of real bourbon and a heap of cocoa nibs.

If you’re a newbie to nibs, they’re a fun ingredient worth exploring. Nibs are small broken shards of roasted, shelled and cracked cocoa beans before they fully become chocolate. They are unsweetened and very crunchy, with a pleasant bitterness like a fine Italian espresso. Sprinkle them on green salads for a new-wave topping. They’re great for baking, too, because they retain that appealing, teeth-grinding crunchiness.

Up close and personal with cocoa nibs.

For these cookies, I used a sample of Amano Artisan Chocolate’s Barlovento Roasted Cocoa Nibs (a 6-ounce bag is $10.95) Made of beans from the Barlovento region of Venezuela, the nibs are rich and nuanced.

These cookies can be made either as slice-and-bake ones or rolled out and cut with any cookie cutters of your choice. I opted for the former method, mixing the dough, forming it into a log, then refrigerating it overnight to firm up, before baking them the next day.

I love the speckled look of these cookies.

With one bite, I know you’ll love them, too.

Nibby Pecan Cookies

(Makes about forty-eight 2-inch cookies)

Alice Medrich writes, “The flavor of the cocoa beans develops and infuses the cookies over time, so I strongly recommend that you make the dough a day before baking and bake the cookies at least 24 hours before you serve them — longer is even better.”

1 cup (3 1/2 ounces) pecan halves

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt (slightly rounded if you like)

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon bourbon (optional)

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup cocoa nibs

2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Spread pecans on a cookie sheet. Toast them in the oven for 7 to 8 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly colored. Let cool, then chop.

Combine butter, sugar, salt, bourbon, if using, and vanilla in a medium bowl, and using a large spoon or an electric mixer on high speed, beat until smooth and creamy but not fluffy (about 1 minute with a mixer). Stir or beat in pecans and cocoa nibs. Turn off mixer, if you are using one, and add all the four at once. Beat on low speed to prevent flour from flying out, just until the flour is fully incorporated. Or stir in the flour until incorporated. If necessary, finish mixing with your hands.

For slice-and-bake cookies: Form dough into a 12-inch log about 2 inches thick.

For rolled and cut cookies: Divide it in half and form into two flat patties.

Wrap dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. (The dough can be frozen for up to 3 months.)

Position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To slice and bake: Use a sharp knife to cut the cold dough log into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place cookies at least 1 1/2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

To roll and cut cookies: Remove one patty from refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature until supple enough to roll but still quite firm — it will continue to soften as you work. Roll dough out between two pieces of wax paper or between heavy plastic sheets (from a heavy-duty plastic bag) to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Turn dough over once or twice while you are rolling it out to check for deep wrinkles; if necessary, peel off and smooth paper or plastic over dough before continuing to roll it. Peel off the top sheet of paper or plastic and place it in front of you. Invert dough onto the paper and peel off second sheet. Cut out cookies as close together as possible to minimize scraps, dipping edges of cookie cutters in flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Use point of a paring knife to lift and remove scraps as you transfer cookies, using a narrow metal spatula, to ungreased cookie sheets, placing cookies at least 1 1/2 inches apart. (If dough gets too soft at any time while  you are working, slide a cookie sheet underneath the paper or plastic and refrigerate dough for a few minutes until it firms up again.) Repeat with second piece of dough. Press all dough scraps together gently (don’t overwork them with too much kneading), reroll, and cut out more cookies.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until cookies are light golden brown at the edges, rotating the cookie sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Let cookies firm up on the pans for about 1 minutes before transferring them to a rack with a metal pancake turner. Let cool completely. For best flavor and texture, store cookies in an airtight container for at least 24 hours before serving. (They can be stored airtight for at least 1 month.)

From “Bittersweet” by Alice Medrich

More Tomorrow: Crazy Good Cocoa Nib Cookies, Part II

More: Sesame Seed Cake from Alice Medrich

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Date: Wednesday, 9. December 2009 5:20
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27 comments

  1. 1

    I think I drooled at the sight of that cookie closeup! So close to me yet so far! Haha :P

  2. 2

    OOOOOH those look good :)

  3. 3

    Cocoa nibs are awesome! Your cookies look fantastic!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  4. 4

    I don’t drink coffee, but love any coffee-flavored like ice cream. So this looks like another fun way to get my mocha fix!

  5. 5

    I love them already! They are so pretty and I love slice and bake cookies-they’re so simple and they come out looking so elegant. Thank you for posting this, it’s definitely going into my christmas cookie rotation.

  6. 6

    Your sliced cookies look great, and the pecans and nibs sound delicious together!

  7. 7

    I don’t know why crazy cookies ;)
    Crazy is not eating all of them fast!

    All the best,

    Gera

  8. 8

    These look great. Thanks, Carolyn. I will bake these for the teachers’ Christmas luncheon on Thursday at my daughter’s school. (i will use some of the last nibs from my last Scharfenberger tour.)

  9. 9

    Okay, you had me wanting the cookie after seeing the beautiful photo, and your description makes we want it even more… I guess some dark chocolate will have to do for now…

  10. 10

    Carolyn, someday I will learn to type with all my fingers!

  11. 11

    Just sent a little blog love your way over at the hungry dog…

  12. 12

    I love cocoa nibs, and those cookies sound great. Love the combination of flavors with the bourbin

  13. 13

    I love cocoa nibs. I am a reluctant baker but would love to try this recipe!

  14. 14

    Oh now these sound like a slice of heaven and perfect with a cup of coffee.

  15. 15

    Thank you for saying you can put nibs on green salad! I just told that to a friend and she replied, well then your salad is dessert! Puhleeeeeease! Adding chocolate to a dish doesn’t make it dessert. It just makes it better at what it is. :)

  16. 16

    Marni: Don’t forget to remind your friend about the chocolate in mole sauce, too, and that’s definitely not dessert. ;)

  17. 17

    These cookies are inspired! The coco nibs must be fantastic in a cookie! Thanks for the great post!

  18. 18

    Baked these last night. They are a delight! Had promised 3 dozen for teachers luncheon. They were delivered this morning. (I swear!) But my family enjoyed the remaining cookies. last night and in lunch boxes today. Thanks, Food Gal!

  19. 19

    Michele: You are fast! Glad you made the cookies and loved them. I forgot to add that if you don’t have bourbon in the house, the recipe also works well with scotch or whiskey. ;)

  20. 20

    Is it kind of like a biscotti? If not, could you use nibs in biscotti?

  21. 21

    Mardi:You can absolutely positively use nibs in biscotti recipes. This particular cookie is not quite as crunchy as biscotti. It’s crispy to be sure, but a little more tender than biscotti.

  22. 22

    I think everything should have a whisper of boozy complexity. A scream is good with me too.

  23. 23

    Oh my, these look absolutely fabulous. Can’t wait to make them. Nibs, almonds and whisky.. great combo.

  24. 24

    I love the look of these cookies, but I’ll bet they taste fantastic too. Have never used cocoa nibs, but I want to try with these.

  25. 25

    [...] More Cocoa Nib recipes: Nibby Pecan Cookies [...]

  26. 26

    [...] More Alice Medrich Recipes: Nibby Pecan Cookies [...]

  27. 27

    I made these and they were scrumptious! I loved the added flavor of the toased pecans. I didn’t have any bourbon and so added Bailey’s …. YUM! I’m going to try them with some grated orange zest and orange liqueur.

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