Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Infusions: Cacao Nibs

So as a followup to my work on the infusions-liqueurs class I am going to be posting some of the things that we infused. I'm hoping to expand my experimentation with liqueur making and post the success stories . . . as well as the failures here. First is a classic in our house.

Cacao Nibs are the unprocessed bean that is used to make chocolate. The bean is generally crushed into small pieces that are a few millimeters wide. As an ingredient it has a very nutty flavor that is vaguely reminiscent of chocolate, but really has a profile all its own. When made into a liqueur the effect is somewhere between Creme de Cacao and Amaretto. There is no real way to describe it adequately, but it is something you will never find in a liquor store and is well worth investing in doing at home. This ingredient does have a tannin profile. If you do not mind the tannins then this can be left to infuse for weeks. If you want to more closely monitor the tannin development then test a teaspoon of the infusion mixed with a teaspoon of simple syrup periodically after the third day of infusion. Strain when you like the finished effect.

Ratios: Fill the container you are going to infuse in a quarter to a third full of nibs. Then fill the container with a clear liquor like Rum or Vodka. I personally use Don Q whenever I can find it. It's a bit smoother than Bacardi, but tends to be less expensive in America. The important thing is for the liquor to be smooth and not really bring anything to the party that might interfere with the flavors of the nibs.

Flavor Profile of Final Infusion: Nutty with a light but earthy finish. Mild to moderate tannins depending on how long the alcohol is given to infuse. This pairs well with coffee, vanilla, cinnamon and other spices that go well with nuts or chocolate. It is also an ideal candidate for turbinado simple syrup. In addition using golden liquors for this infusion could be quite nice. A delicate whiskey or golden rum can add some additional complex woody flavors that could make for a delightful final liqueur. Don't use anything with too much burn though or you will overwhelm the cacao profile.

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