WHB : Nibby Bittersweet Brownies

Never gonna give you up
Never gonna let you down
Never gonna run around and desert you
Never gonna make you cry
Never gonna say goodbye
Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you
— Never Gonna Give You Up, Rick Astley.

Damn brownies!

Every time I think I’m over brownies (too rich, too chocolate, too over the top..) I suddenly discover new reasons to love them again. If it’s not the depressing weather (rain and more rain) or an exhausting new job that makes you feel like you need a pick-me-up, the brownie is always there, waiting to lift you up like a schmaltzy Rick Astley song.

Then, every time I think I’ve finally found my ultimate brownie recipe, I stumble across one that is amazing enough to warrant a little bit of trumpeting to the world at large.

This one by Alice Medrich, is my Rick Astley brownie. It also happens to feature a little extra something I have been using a lot of lately : cacao (or cocoa) nibs. These nibs are actually the beans from the cacao plant which have been roasted and lightly crushed. They have a beautiful bittersweet flavour and a texture reminiscent of coffee beans, and are fabulous added to biscuits and brownies especially due to the crunch factor. The nibs can also be used to infuse a milk for a pannacotta, or a custard to make ice-cream. In fact, you could sprinkle them onto almost anything, for a bit of a sugar-free cocoa hit.

As for the brownies? Well, they are definitely on my list of greatest hits because they are meltingly moist inside, with a crisp shell on top that stayed crisp even a few days after the brownie was baked.

Cacao nibs and bittersweet brownies are my contribution to this week’s WHB, hosted by Maninas of Food Matters.

Nibby Bittersweet Brownies :
(from Pure Dessert, by Alice Medrich)

226g 70% bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
90g unsalted butter, cut into several pieces
3 large eggs
225g sugar
scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
34g plain flour
3 tablespoons cacao nibs

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 176’C. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with baking paper. [I usually line with excess paper rising at least 2cm above the top of the pan. This will help you ease and lift the cooked brownie out of the pan]

Place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set in a wide skillet of almost-simmering water. Stir frequently until the mixture is melted and smooth and quite warm. Remove from the pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla with a hand-held mixer on high speed until the eggs are thick and light coloured, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the warm chocolate. Fold in the flour. Stir in two tablespoons of the cacao nibs.

Scrape the batter into the lined pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of cacao nibs over the batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack.

Invert the brownies on a rack and peel off the paper. Turn right side up on a cutting board and cut into sixteen 2-inch squares. [Gripping the excess paper, I lifted the brownie out of the tin, rather than invert it, because I didn’t want to ruin any of the beautiful crust that had formed on top of the brownie]


  1. Aran said,

    June 8, 2008 @ 8:18 pm

    i like the cocoa nib touch on top. Very clever!

  2. Helen said,

    June 9, 2008 @ 5:22 am

    Your blog is my Rick Astley brownie.

  3. Lorena said,

    June 9, 2008 @ 9:23 am

    Your blog is a dangerous thing indeed! I have a batch of these in the oven (with the addition of dates – I can now call them ‘health bars’) and at this time of morning, they might just be breakfast.

    I’m a big fan. Thanks!

  4. Lorraine E said,

    June 9, 2008 @ 12:07 pm

    Hehe love the Rick Astley reference. Do you remember the small controversy that said that Rick Astley was just Kylie Minogue in a lower octave and that Kylie’s voice was a fabrication made up by Stock Aitkin Waterman as they were both on the label? Ahhh the 80s!

    Love the cocao nibs and it’s making me crave gooey brownies now!

  5. Sophie said,

    June 9, 2008 @ 1:37 pm

    This brownie is a beauty. It looks so moist, and I really like the nibs idea :D! I’m so excited…my hubby’s bday is monday and he loooooves chocolate (more than any woman I know ;), so I hope to use these nibs to make him a chocolatey cake!

    i really like the way you begin your entries with lyrics :D.

  6. Lisa said,

    June 9, 2008 @ 5:44 pm

    oooh, that looks fantastic! I haven’t had brownies in such a long time! Quick question, where would one buy cacao nibs in Sydney? I haven’t looked for them especially, mind you, but I’d have no idea where to even start!

  7. Eva said,

    June 9, 2008 @ 6:17 pm

    I’m guilty of adoring Rick Astley, too, back in the days..;-)
    And seeing these brownies, I’ll be doing something else that a more reasonable person probably wouldn’t do – I’m going to bake the second cake of the weekend! This time without cocoa nibs, though, as I also have no clue where to get them – maybe you can help?

  8. cathy x. said,

    June 9, 2008 @ 8:48 pm

    as a certain japanese actress who happens to find herself on the judging panel of iron chef would say “Mmmm! the texture of these brownies.. i don’t want to ruin it by eating it, they look so wonderful! [stifled giggle]”
    so you don’t say i didn’t tell you, this recipe will certainly be finding it’s way into my collection sometime in the near future doo..do..doo… 😛

  9. Maninas said,

    June 10, 2008 @ 4:35 am

    hahahahaaa i laughed outloud when I what you sang to these brownies! 😀 Lovely!

  10. Maninas said,

    June 10, 2008 @ 4:35 am

    btw, i classified cocoa nibs as ‘plants’ in the round-up for whb. please correct me if i’m wrong. i wasn’t sure where to include them.

  11. Mike said,

    June 10, 2008 @ 10:14 am

    These brownies look mouth-watering. I’ve sadly never had nibs before though–I’ll have to find some!

  12. noobcook said,

    June 10, 2008 @ 12:30 pm

    The brownies look really lovely!

  13. Ellie @ Kitchen Wench said,

    June 10, 2008 @ 7:36 pm

    Ms Medrich knows her chocolate – I haven’t got Pure Desserts (yet) but I have enough faith in her and your ability that I’m sure they’re as tasty as they look 😉

  14. pea & pear said,

    June 10, 2008 @ 9:20 pm

    Yum Brownies. The weather is getting a little tiresome isn’t it. I haven’t actually looked for nibs anywhere yet, but another recipe I saw called for them as well… maybe yet again you could save me the time and tell me your nib source…heheheh you will start charging me a finders fee soon 😉

  15. Y said,

    June 10, 2008 @ 9:52 pm

    Thanks to everyone for the comments. I’m a bit slow at responding these days because of work. Nevertheless…

    To the lovely people who wanted to know where to get cocoa nibs in Sydney, I got mine from Essential Ingredient, but you can also find them at Macro Wholefoods in Crows Nest, and the David Jones Foodhall in the city probably has them too. A 250g container cost about $15 or so, from memory, but they really go a long way – I’ve been baking with them very frequently of late, and still have at least 2/3 of a container to go.

    Lorena: Health bars! I like that.. a chocolate a day is healthy by my books anyway 😀

    Lorraine: I don’t remember that tidbit about Rick Astley, but it’s hilarious! Kylie got a lot of flack in her time, didn’t she. Look who’s still going strong in the music industry though 🙂

    Cathy: Hahaha! I can so hear that certain Japanese actress saying that!

    Ellie : When you get Pure Desserts, I think you might find you’ll be wondering why you didn’t get it sooner, because it’s such a lovely book. One of my favourites at the moment. The recipes may seem pretty simple – eg. shortbread, pound cake, ice-cream, etc., but I think the choice and combination of ingredients are a stroke of genius, and each one I’ve tried have been a revelation.

  16. Marija said,

    June 11, 2008 @ 3:48 am

    Your brownies look amazing! Too bad I can’t find cocoa nibs where I live 🙁
    Btw, photo is amazing!

  17. Emiline said,

    June 11, 2008 @ 2:23 pm

    Mmm, I love a good brownie. My favorite dessert. So, I really like cacao nibs. Good thinking, with adding them to a brownie.

  18. Y said,

    June 11, 2008 @ 5:20 pm

    Thanks Emiline and Marija!

    Also, I wanted to add that I was at Chefs Warehouse in Surry Hills today and they have Callebaut cocoa nibs there, for $17.50 (can’t remember weight.. maybe 750g?). Worked out to be cheaper than Essential or Macro.

  19. Rosie said,

    June 11, 2008 @ 5:41 pm

    Many thnaks for visiting my blog and also for your lovely comment 😀 You have a great blog here and I have subscribed to your feed too!

    Just love that song of Rick Astley but loving your yummy brownies more 😀

  20. Kalyn said,

    June 11, 2008 @ 11:50 pm

    Love the sound of the cocoa nibs in this! I’m thinking they could be good in some savory dishes too.

  21. Y said,

    June 12, 2008 @ 9:19 pm

    Kalyn, I agree. Look out for a savoury nibby recipe in a future WHB contribution 🙂

  22. Cakelaw said,

    June 14, 2008 @ 2:55 pm

    Oh my goodness – absolute chocolate overload – I love it!!!!!

  23. Tartelette said,

    June 28, 2008 @ 1:32 am

    There is nothing 80s about this brownie but I can understand not wanting to give it up!!

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