Habeas Brulee » Cocoa Nibs http://habeasbrulee.com Sun, 17 Mar 2013 03:04:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.21 Cocoa Nib Flans with Raw Sugar Sauce http://habeasbrulee.com/2008/01/17/cocoa-nib-flans-with-raw-sugar-sauce/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2008/01/17/cocoa-nib-flans-with-raw-sugar-sauce/#comments Thu, 17 Jan 2008 12:59:18 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2008/01/17/cocoa-nib-flans-with-raw-sugar-sauce/

For New Year’s Eve this year, Dave and I served a multi-course meal, full of complex and labor-intensive dishes. What had our guests raving and demanding seconds and thirds, though? These simple little flans, which I threw together on a whim the day before.

This basic flan recipe has only 5 ingredients, and takes just about no effort whatsoever. Add some cocoa nibs and infuse the cream before mixing everything together, though, and you have a more interesting and elegant dessert.

The combination of the cocoa nib infusion and dark muscovado sugar resulted in a rich, intense coffee flavor – I don’t quite understand why this happened, but I certainly don’t object! Perhaps I should call them Faux Coffee Flans instead.

You don’t have to find cocoa nibs to make this work, though. Make plain flans (which still taste and look extraordinary), or infuse the cream with other flavors (rosemary, cinnamon, whatever you like) instead.

If you like to entertain without putting in too much effort, this is a fantastic recipe to have in your box of tricks. Flans look and taste so amazing, no one ever guesses how easy they are to make in advance.

Cocoa Nib Flans with Raw Sugar Sauce
(adapted from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich)
3 C half-and-half
3/4 C cocoa nibs (optional)
2/3 C firmly packed dark muscovado sugar (you can substitute any raw sugar, or just dark brown sugar, if you prefer)
3/8 tsp salt
5 large eggs
3/4 C granulated sugar

Position a rack in the lower third of your oven and preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a small saucepan, stir together the half-and-half and cocoa nibs and bring it to a boil. Then turn off the heat, cover the pot, and leave it to steep for 15-20 minutes. This step is optional – you can infuse the half-and-half with any other flavor you like instead, or if you prefer your flan plain, just warm it up until it just barely starts to steam but don’t bother infusing it at all.

Get a big baking pan. Cover the bottom with a small kitchen towel or doubled layer of paper towels. Place your ramekins in the baking pan, using either eight 6 oz ramekins or twelve 4 oz ramekins.

Stir 1/4 tsp salt in with the muscovado sugar, and rub it between your fingers to get rid of any lumps. Divide it evenly among your ramekins, and press into the bottom of each ramekin with a small cup to compress it into a layer at the bottom of each.

Set a kettle of water on the stove to boil.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar, and remaining 1/8 tsp salt. Pour the half-and-half while it is still steaming hot into the eggs, whisking all the while.

Strain the mixture, then gently ladle or pour it into the ramekins. Try to disturb the sugar layer as little as possible, but don’t stress too much if some of it drifts up.

Pour boiling water into the baking pan around the ramekins until it comes up about halfway up their sides.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the centers are just barely very slightly wobbly.

Remove the ramekins from the water and let them cool to room temperature, then refrigerate them overnight (though close to 24 hours would be better).

The long refrigeration time allows the layer of muscovado sugar to absorb water from the custard, which will turn it into a liquidy sauce. If you serve the flans too soon, the sugar may still be a crunchy layer instead.

To serve, run a sharp knife around the edge of the flan, then invert it onto the plate.

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Nibby Strawberry Chestnut Cookies http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/12/14/nibby-strawberry-chestnut-cookies/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/12/14/nibby-strawberry-chestnut-cookies/#comments Fri, 14 Dec 2007 18:24:44 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/12/14/nibby-strawberry-chestnut-cookies/

On a cold winter night, with icy slush waiting just outside the door, the greatest comfort I can imagine involves warm chestnuts, chocolate, and dried strawberries, far more flavorful than the imported ones you can buy this time of year. And last night, as we hid indoors from the “wintry mix” outside (it sounds like a delicious treat, but in fact is a sleeting, slushy, freezing, rainy mess), we were desperate for what comfort we could find.

These cookies are in the extended sandy-textured cookie family, but they’re not your traditional shortbreadish cookies at all. They are a bit sandy, but they’re also lusciously tender, and they absolutely melt in your mouth. Which is not something I usually get to say about cookies.

The chestnut flour may not be identifiable as chestnut to most people who taste these, but it adds a very distinct and silky flavor of its own. The dried strawberries are bursts of intense flavor popping up throughout.

What really happened, of course, was that I bought dried strawberries and chestnut flour and declared that I wanted to bake something with them. When I got home, I looked through my cookbooks until I found a recipe I could adapt to contain them – in this case, Alice Medrich’s nibby buckwheat cookies. A bit of nudging of ingredients later, and my nibby strawberry chestnut cookies were born.

If I make a few more batches and use up more of the chestnut flour and dried strawberries that my kitchen is currently drowning in, maybe I’ll even be able to see my countertop again!

For the food photography folks, you’ll laugh at what I did to take this photo. The background is a piece of really nice paper I picked up in Chinatown, and I didn’t want to ruin it by placing these buttery cookies directly on it. How did I solve the dilemma?

Well, I built little stacks of quarters and placed a cookie carefully on each stack. Four quarter stacks were low enough that they only impacted the shadow lengths slightly, but they were high enough to keep my nice fibrous paper clean and safe. Brilliant or ridiculous? I think both.

I’m submitting these cookies to Food Blogga‘s Christmas Cookies from Around the World 2007.

Also, please remember that Habeas Brûlée 2008 wall calendars are now available for purchase.

And last but probably most important, remember that there’s still time left to donate to charity by bidding on my cooking class for two and all the other wonderful prizes for Menu for Hope!

Nibby Strawberry Chestnut Cookies
(adapted from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich)
1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
3/4 C chestnut flour
1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2/3 C granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 C cocoa nibs
2/3 C dried strawberries (cut into quarters before measuring), reconstituted in boiling water
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk the flours together and set aside.

Beat the butter with the sugar and salt until creamy.

Drain the strawberries, discarding the liquid.

Mix the cocoa nibs, strawberries, and vanilla extract into the butter mixture. Add the flours and mix just until incorporated. Then knead the dough by hand just a tiny bit, a few seconds, until it is nice and smooth.

Form the dough into a 12″x2″ log, then wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least two hours, or overnight.

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Prepare a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or a silpat. Using a sharp knife, cut 1/4″ thick slices of the dough log, and set them on the baking sheet about 1 1/2″ apart.

Bake for about 12-14 minutes, or until just golden around the edges, rotating the baking sheets from back to front and top to bottom halfway through the baking.

Cool the cookies on the pan on a rack for a few minutes before sliding the parchment paper directly onto the rack to let them finish cooling.

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Pumpkin Seed Cocoa Nib Brittle http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/10/31/pumpkin-seed-cocoa-nib-brittle/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/10/31/pumpkin-seed-cocoa-nib-brittle/#comments Wed, 31 Oct 2007 12:05:20 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/10/31/pumpkin-seed-cocoa-nib-brittle/

This is autumn in its purest form, by which I probably mean its most candy-like form. Forget maple sugar drizzled on snow and all those other mental images we all picked up from Little House on the Prairie – this brittle is the real deal.

Offering to friends and officemates has been a blast, because people have a hard time identifying the ingredients. Chocolate? Nuts? No one knows.

The brittle was delicious on its own, but I think it would be even better as a crunchy garnish to cheesecake or some other creamy dessert. And I’m actually considering making up another bash to garnish the pumpkin curry cupcakes with maple buttercream frosting I’m making for a friend’s wedding this weekend. The authors of the recipe, which I originally found in Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate, even suggested grinding it up into brittle crumbs and using it to brighten up your oatmeal in the morning.

I really love dishes which work well as components in a large variety of meals, because they feel like not only a tasty finished product, but also like yet another tool to work with.

Pumpkin Seed Cocoa Nib Brittle
(from Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate by Robert Steinberg and John Scharffenberger)
1/4 C raw green pumpkin seeds
1/4 C cocoa nibs
1/2 C sugar
1/4 C water
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
A pinch of cayenne

Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry pan over medium heat, shaking very frequently, until they begin to pop. Set them aside to cool.

Set up a baking sheet covered with a Silpat.

Bring the sugar, water, and cream of tartar to a simmer together in a small saucepan. Continue to simmer until it starts to develop a nice light caramel color that appeals best to you. Stir in the other ingredients, then quickly pour it all out onto the baking sheet and spread it thin as you can with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon.

Let it cool and harden before breaking off pieces to serve and devour.

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Apricot Hazelnut Squares http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/12/06/apricot-hazelnut-squares/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/12/06/apricot-hazelnut-squares/#comments Wed, 06 Dec 2006 12:13:12 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/12/06/apricot-hazelnut-squares/

The worst thing about my latest cookbook acquisition, Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg, is the terrible difficulty I had in trying to decide what to make first. In the end, though, I had to go with these cookies.

This turned out to be absolutely the right decision.

These cookies really push all my buttons – they are elegant and beautiful; they have several contrasting textures (slightly sandy cookie, crunchy crushed cocoa nibs, soft jam, firm, snappable tempered chocolate); they have nut flavor without nut texture; and they were a lot of fun to make. Each step is easy, but put together it’s an interesting project.

I will be making these again and again, I’m sure. They leave so much room for variation! Maybe with almonds instead of hazelnuts next time? Fig jam instead of apricot jam? I don’t know, but any which way, I’m confident that they will be delicious.

Apricot Hazelnut Squares
(from Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg)
3/4 C finely ground hazelnuts
1/4 C finely crushed (not ground) cocoa nibs
1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
12 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
3/4 C confection’s sugar
6 oz. 70% bittersweet chocolate
Approximately 10 oz. apricot jam

Place the hazelnuts, cocoa nibs, flour, cinnamon, and cocoa powder in a bowl and set aside.

Note: I ground the hazelnuts (skin on) in a spice grinder, and crushed the cocoa nibs by pouring a layer of them out between two sheets of parchment paper and going over them with a heavy rolling pin.

Mix the butter, lemon zest, and lemon juice in your stand mixer until combined. Add the sugar and mix on low speed until it is mixed in, then raise the speed and beat until fluffy. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined (try not to over-mix).

Form the dough into a 7″ square, wrap it in plastic wrap, and let it chill in the fridge for half an hour or so.

Microwave or melt the jam in a small saucepan until, well, it melts. Strain it and throw out the clumps of fruit (or set aside for some other use unrelated to these cookies).

Preheat the oven to 350º.

Cut the dough in half, and leave half in the fridge as you roll out the first half. Roll it out until it is about 3/16″ thick. Cut the cookies out into approximately 1 1/2″ x 2″ rectangles. Place them on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, about 1/2″ apart – the cookies will spread a little while cookies, though not much.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking.

Slide the parchment paper onto cooling racks and let them cool to room temperature. Then place half of them upside down, drop on about 1 tsp of the strained jam, and top with a right-side-up cookie.

Set up some fresh parchment paper or Silpat sheets.

Temper the chocolate. (Probably best to go to someone else for advice on this, honestly.)

Dip the cookies partly into the chocolate, and place them on the fresh parchment paper or Silpat sheets to set.

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How to Make a Truffle from Scratch http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/11/24/how-to-make-a-truffle-from-scratch/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/11/24/how-to-make-a-truffle-from-scratch/#comments Fri, 24 Nov 2006 14:15:47 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/11/24/how-to-make-a-truffle-from-scratch/

It was hard, trying to figure out what to do for Sugar High Friday #25: Truffles. After all, we all know how to make truffles – either you throw together a ganache and roll it in something, then keep it in the fridge, or you take out your chocolate molds and create chocolate shells into which you place whatever filling you please. There is a lot of room for creativity with truffles, and for tastiness, but it all basically comes down to a filling and a coating.

I’ve made a lot of truffles over the years. I wanted to do something more interesting for Sugar High Friday.

So, I made a single truffle. Entirely from scratch.

When I met John Scharffenberger a few weeks ago, I told him about my interest in making chocolate, and also my lack of interest in buying all the complicated machinery.

He told me that I could make chocolate in an Indian spice grinder at home. Easy schmeasy, no?

So, I took some Venezuelan Ocumare cocoa nibs, sorted through them, and removed all (well, most) remaining bits of husk. I scattered them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, and roasted them at 220º for 18 minutes.

I put some of them into my spice grinder, which is really just a standard, cheap coffee grinder. I ground them into powder, and then added a dash of confectioner’s sugar.

I kept grinding them, stopping often to scrape down the sides of the grinder. Once, I took my proto-chocolate out and microwaved it for a few seconds in a small bowl to heat it up, then returned it to the grinder and kept going.

This is how to make chocolate at home. Easy schmeasy, and damned tasty.

To turn my tiny quantity of homemade chocolate into a truffle, I heated it up with a small splash of heavy cream and a tiny amount of butter, stirring it into the emulsion we call a ganache. I put the ganache in the fridge to chill, then rolled it into a sphere once it was solid enough to hold its shape.

I crushed a few more of the roasted cocoa nibs by placing them inside a sheet of parchment paper folded in half, and going over them with a rolling pin.

I rolled my sphere of ganache in the crushed cocoa nibs to coat it.

And that was that. One ocumare truffle, made from scratch.

One bite.



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Cocoa Nib Caramel & Almond Butter Nougat Bars http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/11/22/cocoa-nib-caramel-almond-butter-nougat-bars/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/11/22/cocoa-nib-caramel-almond-butter-nougat-bars/#comments Wed, 22 Nov 2006 15:02:20 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/11/22/cocoa-nib-caramel-almond-butter-nougat-bars/

These candies are what Snickers bars ought to be – soft, salty caramel with the luscious crunch of cocoa nibs, topped with almond butter nougat, and coated with dark, high-quality chocolate.

If I’m feeling very nice indeed, I will make boxes of these to give away for the holidays.

Buying candy at the store is always such a disappointment. Why not make your own? All you need is a candy thermometer and a dream.

Seriously, the only tricky aspect of this recipe is tempering the chocolate. And I won’t lie, that can be tough to get the hang of. But you can do it, and you can make candy bars so good you would never have appreciated them enough as a child (and yet so good that your children will enjoy them almost as much as you do).

Note: This is the candy I will be giving away to those people who promised to stop by my apartment tonight and take it. I made too much, it’s not time for holiday gifting yet, and if I don’t get rid of it I will just keep eating it. Really, I need to befriend more good eaters in my neighborhood, who I can rely on to rescue me at times like this.

Cocoa Nib Caramel & Almond Butter Nougat Bars

Line a baking pan with greased parchment paper. A pair of loaf pans works just fine, actually.

Roast about 1/2 C cocoa nibs, unless you have purchased the pre-roasted kind. Make the caramel (recipe below). Mix the cocoa nibs into the caramel, and pour it into a pan lined with greased parchment paper.

Sprinkle a bit of fleur de sel on top of the caramel.

Make the nougat (recipe below). Pour it on top of the caramel.

Let this rest overnight, and chill it in the fridge a bit until it is solid enough to retain its shape when cut into bars. Cut it into bars.

Prepare parchment paper or Silpat sheets to place the bars on once they are ready.

Temper some bittersweet chocolate. I won’t go into how to do that in any great detail right now, because to this day I do not have a perfect, foolproof method to offer you. Everyone has their preferred technique, be it tabling, seeding, or just keeping a sharp eye on your candy thermometer.

I prefer seeding, personally – melt a batch of chocolate to about 100º, remove from heat, add in a whole lot of grated already-tempered chocolate, and stir stir stir until the lumps are gone and the chocolate is down to 80º-85º. Then warm the chocolate back up to around 90º, and have at. Test by dipping in a spoon and making sure it sets quickly to a hard, glossy finish.

Anyways, temper the chocolate, and coat the bars with tempered chocolate. Place them on the parchment paper or Silpat until they set.

375 g granulated sugar
300 g light corn syrup
75 g water
50 g honey
50 g salted butter
500 g heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 C cocoa nibs

This is the recipe explained on eGullet: Confectionary 101. If you follow the link, you will find wonderful illustrated instructions. But because websites go down and even the Wayback Machine sometimes fails, I will give the instructions here as well. My only change is adding the cocoa nibs.

I often make caramel simply by cooking sugar and water until it reaches a color I like, then adding enough butter and cream for it to get to a consistency that works for me. That method is fine for caramel sauces or decorations, but for a soft caramel that won’t get stuck in your teeth, it’s best to follow a more precise recipe.

Place the sugar, corn syrup, and water into a large, heavy saucepan.

Heat the cream until it starts to steam and not-quite simmer, and keep it warm.

Boil the sugar syrup, placing lid on pot if required to steam any sugar crystals off the sides, until it reaches 293º.

Add the butter and honey, then add the warm cream a little at a time (it will bubble a lot with each addition).

Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it reaches 250º.

Mix in the 1/2 C cocoa nibs, and pour into the pan lined with greased parchment paper that you have prepared.

Almond Butter Nougat
400 g granulated sugar
150 g light corn syrup
125 g water
60 g egg whites
A pinch of salt
125 g almond butter

Again, this is basically the recipe from eGullet that I used here. The only difference is that I use almond butter instead of peanut butter.

Place the sugar, corn syrup, and water in small, heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Place a lid on pot to steam off any sugar crystals on the sides, if any accumulate. Cook until it reaches 270º.

Meanwhile, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they reach stiff peaks. You want the egg white to be ready when the sugar syrup is ready.

Pour hot syrup down side of the egg white bowl while beating on the fastest speed.

Beat until the mixture cools slightly. The eGullet recipe says that it should get slightly doughy at this point, but I prefer it a bit softer than that, and waiting until the doughy point can lead to overbeating. Stir in the almond butter, and try hard not to overmix.

Pour into the pan on top of the caramel.

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Meeting John Scharffenberger http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/11/12/meeting-john-scharffenberger/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/11/12/meeting-john-scharffenberger/#comments Sun, 12 Nov 2006 15:04:12 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/11/12/meeting-john-scharffenberger/

I met John Scharffenberger last Thursday.

Yes, one of the founders of Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker.

I passed by my local chocolate cafe, The Chocolate Room, that afternoon, only to notice a sign in the window saying that John Scharffenberger would be there that evening to give a talk and sign copies of his new book, Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg. I’ve been looking forward to the book, but I thought it wasn’t even out yet. Not to mention I had other plans that evening. But I came back anyway, eager to buy a copy of the new book and listen to the man give his talk.

Because of the complete lack of publicity, I was almost the only person in the cafe. I was certainly the only person there who had come to see Scharffenberger, aside from the people he had brought with him. There weren’t enough people for him to bother giving a talk, at least before I had to leave. So what? All that means is that I got a chance to just chat with him myself.

We spoke a bit about cocoa nibs, which are pieces of the beans from which chocolate is made. I am deeply in love with cocoa nibs, though they were hard to find up until a few years ago. Nowadays you can find them in gourmet stores, produced by Scharffen Berger and Sweet Riot. I ordered a few pounds of single-origin cocoa nibs from Chocolate Alchemy a while back, but I would not bother doing so again. The flavors were strange and wonderful, but the nibs come packaged with a lot of twigs and bits of hull, and need to be carefully sorted before you can even roast them. Scharffen Berger cocoa nibs come pre-hulled and pre-roasted, and although they don’t have the wide range of flavors that single-origin nibs have, they are very good indeed.

Mr. Scharffenberger told me that if I give them a call, they can sell me single-origin nibs directly. It would have to be a large enough order to make it worth their while, though.

Oh, said I. I do the occasional catering gig, but I’m mostly just a home cook. How big would an order have to be?

Five or six pounds at least, said he.

I can do that.

We also spoke about how to make chocolate. I always thought that I would have to get some serious, expensive equipment to make chocolate at home. But John Scharffenberger told me that all I really need is an Indian spice grinder. That’s what he uses when tasting and developing blends, after all, and when teaching kids about chocolate-making. This may finally be my excuse to buy the Sumeet Multi-Grind I’ve been wanting.

What John Scharffenberger was really there to talk about was the history of chocolate. He wants to tell people where cocoa beans come from, their history, and how they can be used. The book is full of stories about the farmers, about the beans, about the history of the company and chocolate itself. It is full of gorgeous photos of cocoa pods still on trees, and tales of how the guys at Scharffen Berger worked with the farmers in third world countries to teach them how to properly ferment their beans so that the buyers could make the best use of them (and thus want to buy more of them).

In the middle of our conversation, he excitedly grabbed my copy of the book out of my hands and flipped to one of his favorite photos of a cocoa pod cracked open, still fresh, with white gunk all around the beans.

“The white stuff is sweet!” he explained.

There are recipes in the book, too, and I am really looking forward to trying out a lot of them.

John Scharffenger said that he particularly likes the quick fix of smearing goat cheese and cocoa nibs on a slice of bread, himself.

Note: I just started blogging over at The Cook’s Kitchen, which is part of the Well Fed Network. This post will appear there as well, as will some posts from time to time that don’t get published here. If you go there now, you can find the tale of the Evolution of My Knife Collection.

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The Queen of Sheba http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/11/05/the-queen-of-sheba/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/11/05/the-queen-of-sheba/#comments Sun, 05 Nov 2006 20:30:53 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/11/05/the-queen-of-sheba/

The Queen of Sheba was Solomon’s only match, as rich and wise as he, or more. Legend has it that it was she who told him of the lost vessel of blessed light that cast peace on anyone who stood in its presence, which became the greatest of his treasures. William Butler Yeats imagined the two of them together in his poem, Solomon to Sheba:

Sang Solomon to Sheba,
And kissed her dusky face,
‘All day long from mid-day
We have talked in the one place,
All day long from shadowless noon
We have gone round and round
In the narrow theme of love
Like an old horse in a pound.’

To Solomon sang Sheba,
Planted on his knees,
‘If you had broached a matter
That might the learned please,
You had before the sun had thrown
Our shadows on the ground
Discovered that my thoughts, not it,
Are but a narrow pound.’

Said Solomon to Sheba,
And kissed her Arab eyes,
‘There’s not a man or woman
Born under the skies
Dare match in learning with us two,
And all day long we have found
There’s not a thing but love can make
The world a narrow pound.’

The Queen of Sheba is also an almost-flourless chocolate torte, rich and overwhelming, made with almond meal. We like to serve ours with cocoa nib whipped cream. The cake itself does not come bearing brilliance and wit in addition to its riches, but it does tend to inspire them in others.

Dave made the Queen of Sheba for the last NYC food blogger potluck, and I had to promise to post the recipe for everyone, so here it is. Enjoy!

The Queen of Sheba
(Very minimally adapted from Alice Medrich’s base recipe.)
6 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 stick unsalted butter
3 tbsp framboise
3/4 tsp almond extract
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 C almond meal
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, separated
3/4 C sugar
1/8 tsp cream of tartar

Prepare a 9″ round cake pan by cutting out a round of parchment paper and covering the bottom with it, then buttering or oiling the whole thing, sprinkling it with flour, and tapping the excess flour out.

Preheat your oven to 375°.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a double boiler (or a bowl set in a pot of gently simmering water), removing from the heat when they are almost completely melted and just stirring until they are entirely smooth. Stir in the framboise, almond extract, and salt, and then set that bowl aside for the moment.

Stir the flour and almond meal together in another bowl and set that aside.

Whisk the egg yolks together with 1/2 C sugar until well blended. Stir in the chocolate mixture. Again, set aside.

Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until they reach soft peaks. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 C sugar and keep beating until they reach stiff (but not dry; that’d be meringue!) peaks. I tend to get the best results when whipping egg whites if I start slow and only slowly increase the speed. Be patient. Walk away and get distracted. Don’t just beat on high from the start. The temperature of the eggs does not actually appear to make a difference, contrary to popular opinion. (Harold McGee agrees.)

Fold the almond meal and flour and about 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture together. Then fold the rest of the egg whites in.

Pour into the pan and spread the thick batter to level it.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted about 1 1/2″ from the edge comes out clean, but a toothpick inserted into the center still comes out kinda gooey.

Place the cake pan onto a rack and let it cool. The torte will deflate as it cools. Don’t worry, that is what it is supposed to do. A torte is sort of like a collapsed souffle, but in a good way.

Once it cools, you can invert it onto a plate, running a knife around the edge between the cake and the pan to loosen it if necessary (this will probably not be necessary). Smooth the sides and the level the top with a knife if necessary, then cover with ganache (recipe below).

It helps to cover it with a thin layer of ganache, just to sort of glue in the crumbs, and let that cool and solidify before continuing. It will be easier to spread a smooth layer of ganache over that afterwards.

Serve with cocoa nib whipped cream (recipe below).

Framboise Ganache
4 oz bittersweet chocolate
Heavy cream

Melt all ingredients together over a double boiler. Let cool a bit before using. I don’t have amounts, but it is very hard to go wrong by just throwing some in and giving it a go.

Cocoa Nib Whipped Cream
2 C heavy cream
1/2 C cocoa nibs
3/8 C granulated sugar

Roast the cocoa nibs, unless they are the pre-roasted kind. Place the cream and the nibs into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover the saucepan and just let everything sit and steep for 15-20 minutes. Strain out the nibs and chill the infused cream. Once the cream is cold enough, add the sugar and beat until it is whipped cream.

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Cocoa Nib and Currant Rugelach http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/03/17/cocoa-nib-and-currant-rugelach/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/03/17/cocoa-nib-and-currant-rugelach/#comments Fri, 17 Mar 2006 05:45:32 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/03/17/cocoa-nib-and-currant-rugelach/

My mother’s side of the family is Hungarian. Her parents were born in a small town in Hungary, and their paths took them from there to Auschwitz, from Auschwitz back to Hungary (with a few countries in between), from Hungary to Italy (briefly), from Italy to Israel (where they helped found a moshav), and finally from Israel to Brooklyn, NY, where my grandmother still lives today, just a few blocks away from me.

I do not make traditional Hungarian rugelach. For one thing, there aren’t any nuts in mine. Heretic that I am, I think these are much tastier than the kind my grandmother is used to eating. The cocoa nibs scan as much more chocolatey in these than they do in my cocoa nib ice cream, and their crunch works well with the juiciness of the currants.

This is another recipe from Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate by Alice Medrich, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite cookbooks.

Cocoa Nib and Currant Rugelach
For the pastry
2 1/2 C all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 lb. (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter (cut into pieces)
One 8 oz. package cream cheese (chilled and cut into pieces)
For the filling
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 C packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 C roasted cocoa nibs
1/2 C dried currants (soaked briefly in boiling water, and then drained and patted dry)

Make the pastry in advance, as usual. Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and pulse until the butter pieces are about the size of bread crumbs. Add the cream cheese and process until the dough begins to clump together, about 30 seconds. (I sometimes cheat and just make this in my Kitchenaid mixer. Doesn’t seem to do any harm.)

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and slam it to get out the air bubbles (as if you were working with clay), then divide it into 4 pieces. Press each piece into a flat patty about 4″ in diameter, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours. You can leave it in the fridge overnight if you like.

When you’re ready to make the cookies, position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

For the filling, mix the sugars, cinnamon, nibs, and currants together in a medium bowl.

Remove one patty of dough from the refrigerator at a time, and deal with each as follows: Roll it out between two pieces of wax paper into a 12″ diameter circle that’s about 1/8″ thick (err on the side of too thin, if need be). I find that it helps to peel the dough off the wax paper and flip it over from time to time when rolling it out. When it’s ready, peel off the top sheet of wax paper and place the paper on a counter or cutting board. Flip the dough onto the paper and peel off the second sheet. Sprinkle a quarter of the filling over the dough. Place a fresh, non-sticky piece of wax paper over it, and gently roll over the filling with a rolling pin to press it into the dough. Remove the top layer of wax paper.

Cut the dough into 12 equal wedges like a pie. Roll up each wedge, starting at the wide end and working towards the narrow point, and place them on the cookie sheets with the point underneath to keep it from unrolling. They don’t need to be too far apart, as they won’t expand much. Just a bit of breathing room between them will suffice.

Bake, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking time, for about 25 minutes, or until light golden brown at the edges. Cool on wire racks.

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Cocoa Nib Ice Cream http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/03/13/cocoa-nib-ice-cream/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/03/13/cocoa-nib-ice-cream/#comments Mon, 13 Mar 2006 05:10:12 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/03/13/cocoa-nib-ice-cream/

Cocoa nibs are nothing more than pieces of roasted cocoa beans, the basic building blocks of chocolate. They’re slightly bitter, with an intense flavor that can vary greatly depending on their origin. While you can taste a hint of the chocolate they can become, they really have a unique and incomparable flavor of their own.

I was thrilled when I came across this recipe in Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate by Alice Medrich. It takes the primal elements of chocolate – cocoa nibs, sugar, and cream – and combines them to create something marvelously and entirely different.

This is easily one of the best ice cream flavors I have ever tasted. To give you some perspective, my other favorites are jasmine ginger, chocolate pomegranate, honey saffron, and raspberry rum cayenne chocolate chip fudge brownie. The exquisite simplicity of this cocoa nib ice cream matches and perhaps beats them all.

Cocoa Nib Ice Cream
1 1/2 C heavy cream
1 1/2 C whole milk
1/4 C cocoa nibs, finely chopped
1/2 C sugar
1/8 tsp salt
Additional cocoa nibs, to be used as a topping

Bring all ingredients (except those nibs which are to sprinked on as a topping later) to boil over medium heat. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for about 20 minutes. After the mixture has had a chance to steep, strain it through a fine strainer and/or cheesecloth, making sure to squeeze all the liquid out of the cocoa nibs, which are then discarded. Refrigerate and then freeze in your ice cream maker.

When serving, sprinkle on some extra, unsteeped cocoa nibs on as a topping. The contrasting texture and concentrated bursts of flavor perfect the experience.

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