All hail the cocoa bean!
Seriously, I think I want to gush about chocolate right now. Because I used to study the heck out of it, and now I’ve switched concentrations a bit. I miss it!
I’ll keep this post short and sweet (ha! Get it?). This is really a way for me to nerd out and enjoy cocoa, and I’m using you as a scapegoat.
I’ve given all the basics of the pod, fermentation, roasting, crushing, conching, and tempering in the past. I think I’ll just highlight one here, but if you’d like to get your full geek on, head over right this way when Sara and I visited Nathan Miller Chocolate in Pennsylvania.
My favorite two steps during pod to bean to chocolate are fermentation and roasting. Those are crucial for flavor development. If you tasted a bean fresh out of a cocoa pod, you would never think ‘chocolate.’ Fermentation is a beast to tackle in this post, so I’ll go straight to roasting.
Roasting of beans/nibs: the beans are sorted and roasted. When you roast the beans, Maillard browning forms almost all of the flavors you experience in chocolate. The complex pre-cursors formed during fermentation ensures that these flavors are truly unique. The outside husks of the cocoa beans are removed by gently crushing the beans to get at the “meat” or nibs. This is called winnowing, and it can occur before or after roasting.
Fun fact! Flavor chemists routinely describe chocolate as one of the most difficult flavors to mimic due to the hundreds of different compounds that contribute to its overall experience!
This granola is a great way to wake up or snack through the next few rainy weeks heading our way. You can really make as many free-thinking decisions as you’d like with this mix. It’s a choose your own adventure recipe. For example, the golden raisins can be easily exchanged for regular raisins, dried cranberries, dried sour cherries, etc. The nuts can be switched around if you’d like to add in hazelnuts, pistachios, or another nut situation. (I would shy away from peanuts or cashews, as they’re less likely to complement the mix) Steel cut oats are an easy swap for the groats if you don’t have them on hand. Likewise, dark chocolate is a fabulous choice, but I love to use this coffee conched dark chocolate from Michel Cluizel.
FOR SURE don’t skimp on the nibs. And make sure you like the flavor and texture of the nibs. Cheap nibs tend to be dry, brittle, and overly bitter. Nibs should give you cocoa, fruity (banana, cherry, etc.), and nutty notes. Not just bitterness. I’ve highlighted roasting above, but you can certainly use raw nibs here! They’ll be fruitier and lighter in flavor.
Nutty Cocoa Granola
I like to use black cocoa in this recipe because it adds a bunch of depth here, but regular alkalized cocoa powder will work great as well. Think slightly Oreo versus brownie.
Makes 5 cups
½ cup almonds, slivered or whole, roughly chopped
¾ cup dry roasted, unsalted pecans, roughly chopped
1 ½ cups rolled oats
3 tablespoons flax seeds
3 tablespoons groats (either buckwheat or oat)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (see note)
½ cup cocoa nibs (either raw or roasted)
½ cup golden raisins
5 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (or THIS)
- Preheat oven to 300° Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
- Combine almonds, pecans, oats, flax seeds, and groats in a large bowl. Add the brown sugar and salt and toss to combine. Pour the maple syrup into the bowl and stir to evenly coat. Spread evenly onto the parchment paper-covered sheet pan.
- Bake the oat mixture for 25 minutes, stirring halfway through to break up clumps. The oats should be dry on the edges. When you remove from the oven, give it another stir to prevent clumps. Let cool.
- Melt the butter and cocoa powder together in a small saucepan. Meanwhile, combine the nibs and raisins together in a large bowl. Add the baked oat mixture to the bowl, setting the sheet pan aside, and stir to combine. Pour the melted butter/cocoa over top and mix to thoroughly combine.
- Finally, add the dark chocolate and stir to combine. Dump the granola out onto the sheet pan from earlier and spread into a single layer to let the coating fully cool/solidify. Enjoy within a few days!