Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A beginning

I wasn’t planning on posting anything today, I was preparing another post, one I have been working on for a couple of weeks now, but I felt I had to stop and write about these cookies instead.

It all started yesterday, when the large flakes of snow began to fall. Big, huge flakes like cotton balls falling from the sky. As I was walking the streets of the city, the scenery was transforming before my very eyes, and it was nothing short of magical.

Today, when I woke up, I realized that the snow had been falling all night long. I looked outside and everything was covered with a white blanket, everything looked peaceful and you couldn’t hear a thing. Total silence.

I had the uncontrollable urge to make cookies. With salted butter. And cocoa nibs. And ground pistachios. And soft light brown sugar. And crème fraîche. And vanilla. And it was my own concoction. A dream I had. And it worked. And they were beautiful, like only something with rough edges can be, and chewy, and flavorful, not of the overly sweet kind but of the mildly sweet and slightly acidic and bitter and nutty and buttery kind, and they were warm and comforting, like only homemade things can be.

I missed you, friends. I’m glad I’m back.

Salted Butter, Cocoa Nib and Pistachio Cookies

Cocoa or cacao nibs are pure cocoa beans. Let’s take it from the top though. Cocoa trees are native to the Amazon and certain areas of South and Central America and the fruit of these trees are the cocoa pods. Cocoa pods are harvested and opened to expose the beans that are fermented, dried, crushed, processed and manufactured into every type of chocolate and cocoa you can imagine. In factories, the cocoa beans are cracked and their shell is removed; the cracked bits of the cocoa bean are the cocoa nibs. These can be raw or roasted, depending on whether or not the cocoa bean has been roasted before cracking.

Cocoa nibs are a super-food; they are full of antioxidants, magnesium and vitamin C among others, and can be eaten as a snack or incorporated into baked goods. They are bitter and slightly acidic in flavor—they’re not at all sweet—and have a very crunchy texture. Granted, they’re an acquired taste, at least for me, and as with everything else, their flavor is hugely dependent on their quality.

You’ll find them in health food stores and there’s no actual substitute for them. What you can do is add dark chocolate chips instead, just to keep things interesting (the higher percentage of cocoa solids the better, 85% is best).

Yield: about 20 cookies

125 g salted butter, cut into small pieces, at room temperature (if you don't have salted butter, substitute with unsalted butter + 1/8 tsp salt)
125 g soft light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp crème fraîche
125 g all-purpose flour, sieved
1 tsp baking powder, sieved
125 g unsalted, shelled pistachios
50 g raw cocoa nibs

Granulated sugar, for sprinkling

Special equipment: small food processor, stand or hand-held mixer, fine sieve, baking sheet(s)

Grind the pistachios in a food processor, being careful not to grind them too finely otherwise they’ll start releasing their natural oils and become pasty. You don’t want that. Add them to a medium-sized bowl, along with the flour, baking powder and cocoa nibs. Mix well with a spoon.

In the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a large bowl), add the butter and soft light brown sugar and beat, using the paddle attachment (or with your hand-held mixer), on medium-high speed for about 6 minutes or until you have a creamy and light mixture. Add the vanilla and crème fraîche and beat to incorporate. Add the flour-pistachio-cocoa nib mixture and beat on low speed. After a minute it will come together and gather in pieces around the paddle attachment (or around the beaters) of your mixer.

Remove the dough from the bowl and shape it into a ball. At this point you'll see the actual texture of the dough which should be a little sticky, smooth and pliable. Wrap it with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Line your baking sheet with baking paper.
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius / 350 Fahrenheit.

Remove the dough from the fridge and unwrap it. Take a piece of dough and roll it between your hands to make a walnut-sized ball and place it on the lined baking sheet. Continue with the rest of the dough, spacing the balls 3 cm apart because they’ll spread while baking.

Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, until the cookies take on a golden color and remain soft in the middle.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and sprinkle them with a little granulated sugar. Allow the cookies to cool a bit on the baking sheet and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

You can keep cookies for 1 week at room temperature, in a tightly closed cookie tin.


  1. What delicious cookies! What a wonderful dream of all good things.

  2. So glad you decided to share these with us! Have the pistachios easily at hand (they grow perfectly here int eh desert) but must find cocoa nibs. Thanks - and welcome back to the ether. ~ David

  3. These cookies make me long for cookies! I have all the ingredients nearby, so I am going to make them this weekend. Nice!

  4. These do look and sound quite delicious. I am now dreaming of their chewy texture.

  5. I am extremly glad you stopped to tell us all about these cookies. Everyone should know about them. I am making these on the weekend and nobody is going to stop me!

  6. Oh Magda, how divine! I am so glad you shared these cookies!! So creative and such beautiful, delectable flavours!! Stay warm in that snow ; )