What’s a Cocoa Nib?
Cocoa (or cocao) nibs have become a trendy ingredient over the last decade. These bits of fermented cocoa beans are both an ingredient in their own right and a just one step on the way to chocolate. Roast them, sweeten them, and grind them and you end up with the chocolate we know and love. But on their own, they’re unsweetened, slightly bitter, and very crunchy. Cocoa nibs make a great snack or mix in to baked goods and chocolate bars.
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I’ve added them to cookies (see my Chocolate Espresso Cookies) and truffles; and on occasion, I pour a handful for a snack. Cocoa nibs remind me of ground coffee beans–though actually edible where ground coffee decidedly is not. So, I wondered if you could brew them in milk to create an interesting ice cream.
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A Totally Unique Chocolate Ice Cream Flavor
The answer: yes! I actually started testing this recipe last summer. After a few iterations, I finally ended up with this recipe. This cocoa nib ice cream is chocolatey, but it’s not what you’d expect from a chocolate ice cream. It tastes like the essence of chocolate, but not as rich as a classic chocolate ice cream. While the nibs are steeping, the aroma is like brownie batter which is so enticing. Honestly, this ice cream reminds me of a totally sophisticated Wendy’s Frosty–and I’m definitely not mad about it.
This recipe is definitely unique, but it’s very simple. It’s a great reason to pull your ice cream maker out for the season.
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Cocoa Nib Ice Cream
- 1 cup milk
- ⅓ cup cocoa nibs
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ cup brown sugar light or dark is fine
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ cup cocoa nibs or mini chocolate chips to mix in
- Add the milk and cocoa nibs to a medium pot and turn the heat onto medium. Bring up to a light simmer. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until the mixture takes on a tan color and starts to smell like brownie batter.
- Add the heavy cream to the pot along with the sugar. Simmer for a few minutes until the sugar totally dissolves in the warm milk mixture. Turn the burner to low and whisk in the egg yolks one at a time; whisk well between additions. Be quick about this step so the yolks mix into the milk mixture and don't curdle. Once the egg yolks are well whisked into the mixture, turn the heat to medium whisking constantly. Cook until the mixture has thickened and will coat the back of a spoon. It will look like melted ice cream (because that's what this is!)
- Move the mixture into an airtight container and refrigerate for 6-24 hours. The mixture should be completely cool to the touch before churning.
- Once the mixture has cooled, strain into a large measuring cup or medium bowl using a fine meshed sieve. Gently push down on the cocoa nibs to pass the custard through the sieve leaving the spent nibs behind.
- Once strained, churn your ice cream according to the instructions for your ice cream maker. Churn until you hit thick soft serve consistency. Mix in your cocoa nibs or mini chocolate chips, if using.Move to an airtight container and allow to harden in the freezer for several hours, at least.
- The mix-ins are optional but each adds a different vibe. The cocoa nibs add a crunchy texture and bitter chocolate taste to the creamy, sweet ice cream. If you like to eat cocoa nibs straight from the package, this mix-in is for you. The mini chocolate chips add a bit more milk chocolate flavor and sweetness to the ice cream. I like each of them on their own merits.
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