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 whileร‚ย  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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