Monday, January 26, 2009

Buckwheat Cookies with Cocoa Nibs

Do you have an ingredient that lures you to a recipe like a siren? For some people it's chocolate, for others it's garlic. You are probably thinking, it's fish for me. That would be a very reasonable guess, but these kinds of obsessions are not reasonable. I can calmly read fish recipes without losing my head. I can't resist fish at the fish market, but the recipes are not a huge turn on for me. My secret obsession is buckwheat flour. Whenever I see a recipe that involves buckwheat flour -- no matter how wacky the recipe might sound -- I must try it, or face being haunted by it for weeks until that terrible buckwheat craving goes away.

When I saw Alice Medrich's recipe for Nibby Buckwheat Butter Cookies on, I was hoping I'd resist the buckwheat siren's song. First of all, I don't do cookies. I don't even bake them for Christmas. When I have to give people food gifts, I give pies and tarts. Second of all, I have not jumped on the cocoa nib bandwagon like everyone else. I know, I know -- it's cocolate and it's good for you. How can one resist? Well, I find them terribly bitter, and I don't like how they stick in my teeth. Of course, you can put them into something very sweet, like ice-cream, but that defeats that "good for you" part, in which case, I'd rather have Valrhona dark chocolate. But in spite of all these drawbacks, the recipe had buckwheat flour and I only managed to hold out for one week before trying it.

This was a phenomenal cookie. Of course, I don't know if you want an opinion of a person who needed buckwheat to attract her to chocolate and who doesn't normally like cookies. It tasted like a perfect shortbread -- crisp, crumbly, with an intoxifying flavor of butter. But the buckwheat added a whole new dimention to it; it made the flavor deeper and more earthy. I was seriously contemplating replacing the cocoa nibs with walnuts or pecans, but I am glad I didn't. When baked, cocoa nibs no longer stuck in my teeth, and added a pleasant gentle crunch. As for the bitterness, it actually provided good balance to the cookie's sweetness.

Alice Medrich's recipe was perfect. I loved that she gave the weigh measurement for flour. I strongly, strongly encourage you to use the weigh measurement, and not the cup one. If you don't have a kitchen scale, you can get one on amazon for $25. Here is why I am obsessing over how to measure flour. The recipe can easily be halved if you don't want the temptation of having all those cookies in the house. They do last for about a month in an airtight containter, but our half batch was gone in 2 days.

I won't post the recipe here since it's already published on Culinate and a ton of other blogs. I am tempted to buy Medrich's Pure Dessert book where this recipe is from, but I am worried that it might convert me into a dessert person.

So, do you have an ingredient that lures you into trying almost any recipe? What's the best or most surprising thing you've made with it?


Kate said...

Coming out of lurk mode to proclaim: Butternut squash! In addition to ravioli, there's butternut enchiladas, soups, salads, casseroles. I cannot get enough sweet orange goodness.

joanne said...

The cookies look yummy. I bake cookies like crazy but have never tried buckwheat. Good tip - I'll give it a try.

Helen said...

Butternut squash is up there for me too :)

Diana said...

Medrich's book is great. And what's wrong with being a dessert person? =)

We found that cocoa nibs differ a lot between producers. Valrhona is good. Taza is bad. (The fact that our local chocolate manufacturer is not very good pains me greatly, especially since they are reportedly good people.)

I don't think I have an ingredient that lures me into recipes, but I obsess over dumpling and bread recipes.

Helen said...

Hi Diana,

So I am not the only crazy person who thinks that Taza chocolate doesn't taste good? I haven't tried their cocoa nibs, but there chocolate didn't do anything for me. I have always attributed it to me not being a real chocolate dessert person (I am more of a fruit person). They get such great publicity that you'd think they were the next Valrhona. I think I just saw a story about them in Gourmet. My guess is it's more the feel good, organic, local, fair, etc. that gives them their name, not the actual taste. But it always amazes me how many people persuade themselves that all the feel-good products taste good even though they don't always.

By the way, were do you get valrhona cocoa nibs. The ones I got from Whole Foods are made by Navitas and they are nothing to write home about.


Diana said...

Helen -
I'm afraid you have to order Valrhona cocoa nibs over the internet. Or go to New York. If you find them in Boston somewhere, do let us know!

Dazy said...

I'm planning to make this tomorrow. I think I'll try to shoot it, but I don't think it will be as pretty as your picture!