Cacao Nibs Chocolate Cookies

The first box of cookies just found its way into the office of a really generous customer. Her colleagues must be really lucky because I heard she is sharing! These hearty cookies make great fuels to start the day. Those extra cacao nibs are full of stimulating theobromine and antioxidants after all.

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In my last post, I promised to go deeper into these amazing cookies so here it is. While brainstorming for vehicles to bring forth the unique flavours of our small batch chocolates, I recall chancing upon on Instagram a certain bakery that sold mouth watering cookies. Yup, that's right. Cookies lovers would immediately know who I'm referring to—the famous Levain Bakery from New York City that attracts snaking queue everyday with its inch-thick soft baked cookies.

A quick search on Google brought up Broma Bakery's Copycat Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies in the top search result. Those cookies look really delicious, so I had to give Sarah's recipe a try. I first tried making them following the recipe to the letter, except I switched out Ghirardelli's chocolate with some Sambirano 70% which I happened to have in the factory. The result was pretty good! Sambirano gave the cookies a fruity twang that was very refreshing, almost like a raspberry jam cookie. However, the texture left a bit more to be desired.

I ended up spending two full days in the factory doing trials, approaching it by tweaking one factor at a time with careful note taking. My homebrewing background helped because it trained me to run experiments to understand how each factors affect the beer. Some of the experiments I ran for the cookies included the bake time, temperature, dough size, amount of chocolate (which is a lot), sugar and butter. 

  • Bake time: Longer bake time at low temperature will ensure the cookies are cooked, while ensuring the chocolate doesn't get burnt. I turn the heat up in the final few minutes in order to give the outer layer a nice crisp.
  • Dough size: I experimented with 35g, 40g, 45g, 50g, 60g, 70g, 80g and 90g. Generally, bigger the better as the dough gives the chocolate sufficient protection from heat during the bake.
  • Sugar type: The darker sugar affects texture and colour. Generally, darker sugar makes darker cookies, and higher proportion of dark sugar makes stickier cookies.
  • Butter: Get the best butter you can find that doesn't break the bank. Ensure it is stored well and never use rancid butter.

Ultimately, the takeaway is to understand the equipment and use the highest quality ingredients available. In my case, I also happen to have chocolate which I'm proud of, and the flavours really showed in the final product.

You'll find that in the cookies, I added a whole lot of chocolate—much more than what you'll find in typical cookies. I figured that the whole point of the cookies is the chocolate, so why skimp on the chocolate?

For some added crunch and even more intense chocolate flavour, I roasted up a bunch of cacao beans, winnowed and sprinkled the nibs on the cookie. That added another layer of complexity to the cookie. Nothing beats the robust aroma from a freshly roasted batch of cacao nibs. Each time you bite into a cacao nib, the flavour simply explodes in the mouth. It's a lovely experience. Cacao nibs is a topic I'll save for another post. 

For now, have a go at making your own cookies! Here's a recipe you can try.

Adapted from Broma Bakery's Recipe.

INGREDIENTS

  • 430g all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
  • 190g light or dark brown sugar (adjust for colour)
  • 110g granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, cold, lightly beaten in a separate bowl
  • 350g dark chocolate chunks
  • 24 roasted and shelled cacao beans (more if you like)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, powder, and salt. 
  2. In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter. Add in the sugars and beat until the sugar integrates with the butter. Mix in the eggs and continue mixing. Gradually add in the flour mixture, beating until a little flour remains. Don't overbeat as gluten will form. Fold in the chocolate chunks with a rubber spatula.
  3. Divide the dough into 90g pieces. Shape the dough into desired shapes and sprinkle roasted cacao nibs over, pressing in to prevent them from dropping. Place on the baking sheet and refrigerate for overnight. It is important to allow the enzymes time to break down the starch in order to encourage caramelization during baking.
  4. Preheat oven to 180°C. Bake cookies for 15-20 minutes, until light golden brown. You may take a few tries to get this right. Every oven is different.
Jay ChuaRecipe, Pastry