Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Black is good

Black is beautiful...

ain't it not

Women love it because it gives a slimming effect. Every lass has their perfect little black dress.

Kohl eyeliner's in the rage because smokey eyes are just oh-so-seductively appealing...

So is black only so well loved in the fashion world? I would think it so, because I know most people would think twice before putting into their mouths something as black as the deepest shade of charcoal.

Ask yourself - are you someone who think of black as a dirty colour, when it comes to food?Think squid ink pasta, think buah keluak... and I'm sure you know what I mean.

Somehow the age-old saying of 'don't judge a book by its cover' just comes into my mind.

Nah, I'm not preaching about the love of black foods, I'm just advocating equality! :)

I think it's best not to get too judgemental over the appearance of that black or grey coloured food. More often than not, most of it tastes better than you think. Perhaps its about retuning your colour radar. Don't be so scared when you see something as stark as black.

Trust me, it's for the best. Just like how I really adore my black foods like squid ink pasta, buah keluak and most recently black sesame.

This black sesame spread that I found some time ago in Takashimaya might be the next best thing after nutella. This organic spread is mixed with organic honey and tastes really great on crackers. It has this nice balance of flavour - the sweetness from the honey complements that toasty hint that envelopes the black sesame. Not very complex but not that easy, that's what I'd describe the spread. I really love it.

The entire bottle's gone now and I really am craving for some right now. Because it was sold to me at one of the makeshift stalls at Takashimaya which is not longer there, I can't seem to find it. But there's an address on the bottle (somewhere in River Valley) so I might just go down soon. If you know where else convenient that sells it, do let me know! :)

Friday, February 08, 2008

Pistachio Cocoa Nibs Cookies

How big a chocolate fan are you?

If you love chocolate as much as I do, then I'm sure you would have thought about how pure chocolate tastes like. When I mean pure, I mean straight from the source. You know, the cocoa beans from the glorious cocoa fruit.

The last time I saw a real cocoa fruit was eons ago. I was at a zoo or a park and they had actual cocoa fruits. The guide opened one up and boy oh boy, you can really smell the euphoric scent. Well it's pure euphoria to me of course, because I love chocolate.

So imagine my excitement when I got a box of unopened Scharffen Berger cocoa nibs from my boss. She thought I would probably put it to good use in my baked goods. So that's what I did! At the risk of sounding totally nuts, I'd say that it's the first time I've ever seen and used pure cocoa nibs and that box was like pure gold to me.

Okay, yes I like to exaggerate, so sue me :D

But seriously, I've only ever tasted cocoa nibs in chocolate bars. It was really cool to actually have actual cocoa nibs to play with. So I got down to googling recipes that used cocoa nibs. There were a few, and most of them involved nuts, and cookies. That was perfect because I love nuts. I mean, how can a nutty person like me not love nuts? But that's another story.

In the end, I decided to use this Pistachio Cocoa Nibs Cookies recipe from Tartelette.

I was rather delighted to be finally baking again after so long. I'm sure you've noticed how my recent posts never have any new recipes or baking endeavours. No, it's not that I've lost my baking 'touch'. haha, god no, I will always love baking. I've just been too busy. And I need a new oven! It's tiring to keep going to my aunt's place when I want to bake. I'm going to save up and try to get a decent oven soon. As much as I treasure my Dad's trusty Moulinex oven, I know I can make do with a bigger better one.

And so, back to my cookies! Yes yes, baked using my aunt's excellent Brandt oven. They turned out great - loved the taste but I think it was a bit too crumbly. Too much butter perhaps?

Nonetheless, they're great when eaten with coffee or tea in the morning

It is really intriguing how the taste from the cocoa nibs actually matches the nutty undertones of the pistachios. At first bite, I only noticed the crunchiness but as I ate more, I realised that the light bitter notes of the cocoa nibs actually balances out perfectly.

That said, all this reminds me of how baking is really a science and how fun it can be when you play around with new ingredients and learn how it works. And that Eureka moment that comes along when you marry two or three or four ingredients together and it actually works! That's pure bliss. Yes, these are words spoken from a person who truly loves to bake and has an equal passion for consuming baked goods.


Now these rock. Time to find other delicious cocoa nibs recipes. I still have some left. Or if you have a great recipe, do email or leave a comment!

By the way, Happy Lunar New Year to you all!


Pistachio Cocoa Nibs Cookies

1 cup raw skinned pistachios, finely chopped
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup cocoa nibs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tb. Cognac

Combine the butter and sugar, in bowl of electric mixer and beat on high speed until smooth and creamy (1 minute). Add the vanilla and Cognac. Beat in the pistachios and cocoa nibs. Add all the flour at once. Beat on low speed until flour is incorporated.
Form dough into 12-inch log about 2 inches thick. Wrap in parchment and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. At this point you can freeze the log for up to 3 months.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Use a sharp knife to cut the cold dough log into 1/4 inch thick slices. Place cookies at least 1 1/2 inches apart on parchment-lined cookie sheets.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the cookies are light golden brown at the edges. Let cookies firm up on the pans for about 1 minute before transferring them to a rack to cool completely. Try to save some for the day after, they taste even better 24 hours later. The cookies can be stored in airtight container for at least 1 month.

Makes about 2 dozens

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