Nibs of the non-licorice variety

During our road trip along the West Coast of the U.S. this past summer, we visited the Theo Chocolate factory in Seattle, Washington. That day, Seattle happened to be in the midst of a heat wave. The temperatures were easily in the high 30s in degrees Celsius, clearly less-than-ideal conditions for buying and transporting chocolate products. So, it was with a tear in my eye that I kissed goodbye my dream of a bag of chocolate nibs to call my own. (For those who are curious, nibs are the meat of the cacao bean after it has been hulled, cracked and toasted.)

But because I have good (and apparently attentive!) friends, a little bag of chocolate nibs found their way to my Ottawa mailbox in a birthday package from T. The card included the following postscript:

"P.S. I don't know what nibs are for, but I remember you considered buying them but didn't because of the heat? Anyways let me know."

If you're me, you use your nibs to whip up a batch of muffins based on a recipe for Muffins à la Framboise, Eclats de Fève de Cacao published on Chocolate & Zucchini, one of my favourite food blogs.

Nibs are crunchy, a bit bitter and very chocolate-y, all of which makes them the perfect match for the fresh, tangy cranberries in these muffins.

Cranberry Muffins with Chocolate Nibs

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 heaping cup fresh cranberries


1/3 cup cacao nibs
1/4 cup brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 400°F and prepare the muffin tin/mould.

Melt the butter and set aside to cool. In a small bowl, combine the cacao nibs and brown sugar. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt, and whisk to mix. In another medium bowl, whisk together the butter, egg, yogurt, buttermilk and vanilla.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients, and stir just until combined. Do not overmix; a few lumps are fine. Fold in the cranberries.

Spoon the batter into the prepared tin/mould, and sprinkle on the topping.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden.

Yields 9 big-top muffins.