Cocoa Nib Brownies

Cocoa nibs are a relatively new baking ingredient. Nibs are cocoa beans that have gone through fermenting, roasting, crushing, and skinning processes, and then are usually used to make chocolate. Pastry chefs began procuring them from chocolate manufacturers and adding them to cookie dough in the way you might add chopped nuts, except cocoa nibs, of course, have a bittersweet chocolate flavor. Now cocoa nibs are fairly easy to find under several brands. Nibs are unsweetened, so they have to be used somewhat sparingly to avoid imparting a bitter, astringent flavor. They’re the perfect counterpoint to this fudgy brownie recipe, adding a little texture and a bit of balance to the batter’s natural sweetness. Mixing the batter by adding the liquid to the brown sugar prevents having any lumps of brown sugar in the brownies.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces (2 sticks/225 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
  • 9 ounces (250 grams) bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, cut into ¼-inch (6-mm) pieces
  • cups dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 4 large eggs
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into a dry-measure cup and level off)
  • ½ cup cocoa nibs, see Sources
  • One 9 × 13 × 2-inch (23 × 33 × 5-cm) pan lined fully (bottom and sides) with buttered foil

Method

  1. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350°F (180°C).
  2. Put the cut-up butter into a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Let the butter melt, stirring 2 to 3 times, then allow it to bubble for about 10 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate. Gently shake the pan to submerge the chocolate in the hot butter and set aside for a few minutes so that the chocolate melts. Use a small whisk to mix smooth.
  3. Place the brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Heat in 1 egg on lowest speed using the paddle attachment. Add the remaining eggs, one at a time, beating smooth after each. Add the salt, sugar, and vanilla and beat smooth.
  4. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a large rubber spatula to mix in the chocolate and butter mixture. Mix in the flour, followed by ¼ cup of the cocoa nibs.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Scatter the remaining ¼ cup cocoa nibs on the batter.
  6. Hake the brownies until they are firm, but still very moist in the center, about 30 minutes.
  7. Cool the brownies in the pan on a rack.
  8. Wrap the pan in plastic wrap and refrigerate the brownies for several hours or overnight before attempting to cut them—they are very moist. You might need to heat the bottom of the pan briefly over low heat to unmold the brownies, then invert them to a cutting board and peel away the foil.

Serving

Use a sharp serrated knife to trim the edges and cut the brownies into 2-inch (5-cm) squares. Serve them alone or topped with ice cream.

Storage

The best way to keep brownies is the same as a baked cake, whole and unsliced, rather than as individual servings. Refrigerate the wrapped slab for a few days or freeze it for up to one month. If it’s not practical to keep them in the pan they were baked in, wrap them with some stiff cardboard underneath. Cut the brownies then defrost them, loosely covered, before serving.

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