Cacao nibs are sold both roasted and raw. The roasted nibs have more developed and intense flavours. It is, of course, possible to roast raw nibs at home. Follow the same process as for roasting nuts — spread the nibs on a baking tray, and place them in the oven at 180°C for 5-10 minutes, keeping a keen eye on them, and constantly sniffing the air to ensure that the nibs don't catch and blacken.
Nibs are most often taken straight from the packet, and sprinkled over dishes as a textured garnish. To change the size of the shards, use a chef's knife to chop them as you'd chop nuts. The nibs can also be pounded in a pestle and mortar and ground into a powder in a coffee grinder (the coffee remnants often enhance the flavour!)
Another interesting application is infusing the cacao nibs in a milk, cream or custard. It means that you introduce chocolate flavours to a dish without any brown chocolate colour. Add approximately two heaped tablespoons of nibs to 500ml of liquid (dependent on how strongly-flavoured the liquid should be). Gently heat and then strain.
Introduce cacao nibs to chocolate desserts - help pick out the more complex, bitter notes of a chocolate mousse, chocolate fondant or chocolate torte. Unsurprisingly, the flavours of cacao nibs make a natural partner to other flavours known to go well with chocolate, like fresh or dried fruits, caramel, coffee and nuts.
The hard texture of cacao nibs make it an interesting replacement for nuts in granola, brownies and biscuits. Also use it as a garnish to top soft mousses and parfaits, and experiment with more unusual applications like tuiles.
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