Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Every once in a while I like to peruse the aisles at Whole Foods because they carry so many interesting and exotic foods that I’m not familiar with.  It was on one of those leisurely trips that I came across cocoa nibs in the bulk section.  Sure I’ve heard of cocoa nibs, but I’ve never eaten or cooked with them, so I decided then and there to change that.

When I got home I could barely contain my excitement as I unpacked my groceries.  I removed the cocoa nibs, put a few in my mouth and bit down…

Ugh, not at all what I expected!  I tried it again, and again hoping they would taste good.  They were bitter and reminded me more of coffee beans than chocolate.  Not horrible, but not really that good.

Then I was at a loss as to what to do with these nibs, so there they sat, for weeks.

My friend Kiran who writes one of my favorite blogs had been in the same dilemma, and she had dreamt up Coconut Zucchini Cocao Nib Cookies and encouraged me to come up with something.

So when I wanted to make something sweet using leftover pizza dough and ricotta cheese I remember the neglected cocoa nibs, I sprinkled a few on a spoonful of ricotta just to taste…and it was amazing! 

The sweet creamy ricotta with a touch of floral honey made the cocoa nibs taste like rich dark chocolate!

All that was left to do was to wrap it up in some pizza dough and bake it.  The result Ricotta & Cocoa Nib Surprise Roll; “surprise” because of the fact that you don’t know what’s in the center until you pull it apart, and “surprise” because cocoa nibs are way yummier than I ever would have guessed! 

Ricotta & Cocoa Nib Surprise Rolls are super easy to make and because they’re not too sweet they’re perfect to serve for breakfast or coffee.

Here’s what you do.

Mix some ricotta cheese with a little honey, a touch of vanilla extract and an egg.

Stir in some cocoa nibs.  

Don't be surprised that when you taste cocoa nibs plain, they don't taste great, but once they're baked into these delicious rolls they are transformed into a more chocolaty flavor.
Using cooking spray or brushing on olive oil, grease just 8 of the cups of a regular size muffin tin.

I had half of a one pound ball of pizza dough left over so that's what I used.  

Cut it into 8 and roll it, press it, stretch it to about 6 inches circle or square.  

A can of refrigerated pizza dough can also be used, but it will make a couple extra, either reduce the amount of filling put in each cup just a little, increase the recipe for the filling by 25%, or fill them with some shredded mozzarella.

The dough should come up just over the top of the muffin cups. 
They dough will want to shrink back down, but it's very forgiving so you can just pull it back up as you fill the cups.

It's best to fill the cups one at a time, because of that shrinking dough; so fill a cup with 2 1/2 Tbsp. of the filling.

Then pull and gather the sides up.

Pinch the dough close right above the where the filling rests.

This is how I filled my pan, but in hind sight I would have used the cups on the perimeter of the pan because they browned the dough better.

Brush some good olive oil on to each roll, completely coating the dough.

Bake in a pre-heated 425 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes; until the tops are deep golden brown and when you lift one of the rolls out to have a look the bottoms are cooked.  

You may need to lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the rolls for the last few minutes of cooking to keep the tops from getting too dark.

Ricotta & Cocoa Nib Surprise Rolls have just a little floral sweetness from the honey with a touch of bitter chocolate flavor from the cocoa nibs; making them perfect as a light breakfast, for a snack with a cup of coffee, or even better served on a brunch buffet. 


Makes 8

1              cup         Ricotta cheese
2 ½          Tbsp.        Honey
1                            Egg
¼             tsp.         Vanilla extract
¼             cup         Cocoa nibs
½             lb.           Pizza dough
1              Tbsp.        Extra virgin olive oil

   1.       Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
   2.       In a medium bowl mix together the ricotta, honey, egg, vanilla extract, and cocoa nibs.  Set to the side.
   3.       Grease 8 cups of a muffin tin with cooking spray or brush with olive oil.
   4.       Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces and roll each piece into a six inch circle.  A square will also be fine, just be sure that the dough is big enough to come just over the top of the muffin cup. 
   5.       Line each of the greased muffin cups with a piece of the rolled out dough. 
   6.       I find this part easiest to do one at a time.  Spoon about 2 ½ Tbsp. of the ricotta filling into the center of a dough lined cup (you may need to hold the dough to keep it from slipping, but it’s very forgiving), pull all the sides up and pinch the dough together right at the top of the filling.  It will look like a Beggar’s Purse.  Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
   7.       Brush the tops with the extra virgin olive oil.
   8.       Bake for 20 to 25 minutes; until the tops are deep golden brown, and when lifted from the pan the dough on the bottom is cooked.  You may need to lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the rolls if tops begin to get too dark before the bottoms are done.

Note: a can of refrigerated pizza dough can be used, but there will enough dough to make 10 rolls.  Either increase the recipe for the ricotta filling by 25 % (recommended), reduce the amount of filling that goes into each cup to 2 Tbsp., or fill the dough with your favorite cheese.

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  1. These things are so fun, all knotted up and cocoa nib-ed out! The perfect roll for Thanksgiving!

  2. These rolls look great! Next time I am at whole foods I'll have to check out those cocoa nibs.

  3. These rolls are indeed a delicious surprise!! I'm glad you finally did something with the nibs. Yum :)

  4. Holy Moly - Yum. They would be so increbible straight out of the oven. Crave!!