What are they?
Dried, roasted and crushed cocoa (cacao) beans, produced as part of the chocolate-making process. The nibs are increasingly used in their own right to add bitterness and crunch to savoury and sweet dishes.
Where are they?
Chocolatiers love to play with cocoa nibs for texture as well as flavour. ''We mostly use them as a garnish,'' says David Ralph, co-owner of Darlinghurst's Kakawa Chocolate. ''They add a nice little crunch to our peanut butter triangles and caramelised fig and port truffles.''
In Emu Heights, Zokoko founder Michelle Morgan produces her own freshly roasted cocoa nibs as part of the chocolate-making process, adding them to everything from salads to steamed asparagus. ''I use them wherever and whenever I would use crushed nuts,'' she says. ''On top of banana breads and muffins, into porridge oats. It's a great way to add flavour when you're not into sugar.''
At Newcastle's Subo, owner-chef Beau Vincent does a dazzling dessert of beetroot panna cotta with a chocolate and cocoa nib crumble, teamed with black sugar sorbet and Tasmanian truffle. ''It works really well as a crumble,'' explains Vincent. As for cooking with them at home, he suggests teaming them with something sweet, to ameliorate the bitterness. ''Try candying them and fold through ice-cream, or even Rocky Road.''
The pastry chefs at Chez Dre Patisserie in South Melbourne make a peanut and cocoa-nib tuile that adds texture to their luxurious chocolate tart and forms a hidden layer of crunch inside their equally luxurious chocolate eclair with chocolate creme patissiere and chocolate chantilly cream.
‘‘It can be quite bitter on its own,’’ says pastry chef Annalise Fernandes, ‘‘but if applied in the right way to a delicate pastry or gateau, it will boost all the other flavours.’’
At Melbourne’s Little Hunter, chef Gavin Baker cleverly mutes the bitterness in a cocoa-nib brittle, scattering it over a double chocolate mousse with caramelised white chocolate and a ‘‘noble reduction’’ of Noble One dessert wine.
At Il Bacaro in Little Collins Street, chef David Dellai takes a counter-intuitive approach by scattering cocoa nibs over roasted duck and parsnip puree, with a little tang of blueberry.
Why do I care?
You won't if you're more the fruit-and-nut family-block type. This is primordial chocolate; very bitter and not at all sweet.
Can I do this at home?
Yes, add them to muffins, granola and cakes, or grind to add to savoury sauces and gravies.
Available from essentialingredient.com.au, lovingearth.net and specialty food stores such as Zokoko.
Kakawa, 147 William Street, Darlinghurst, 9331 8818
Subo, 551D Hunter Street, Newcastle West, 4023 4048
Zokoko, Unit 3, 84 Old Bathurst Road, Emu Heights,4735 0600
Available from essentialingredient.com.au, lovingearth.net and specialty food stores
Chez Dre, rear 285Coventry Street, South Melbourne, 96902688
Little Hunter, 195Little Collins Street, city, 96540090
Il Bacaro, 168Little Collins Street, city, 96546778
Cocoa nib and hazelnut biscotti
These fragrant ''choc chip'' cantuccini harden as they cool, becoming very crisp.
250g plain flour
225g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp Frangelico or similar liqueur
2 large eggs
50g dark chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp coconut threads
3 tbsp cocoa nibs
1. Heat oven to 180C. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, vanilla extract, liqueur and eggs with 1 tbsp cocoa nibs in a food processor. Whiz until the mixture leaves the sides and forms a ball.
2. Turn out on a floured bench and pat out with floured hands to a flat, free-range pizza shape. Mix the hazelnuts, dark chocolate, coconut and 1 tbsp cocoa nibs and scatter over top. Gather up again and push into a ball shape. Divide the dough in three pieces and pat each into a neat log about 5cm wide. Scatter the top with the remaining cocoa nibs.
3. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake for 30 minutes or until lightly coloured. Cool for 10 minutes then cut into 1cm slices. Reduce temperature to 140 C and bake for 15 minutes. Cool and store in an airtight container.
Makes 40 to 50