A friend of mine owns and runs a small farm out on the North Fork of Long Island, where I live part-time. The local food scene is thriving, and there’s a tight-knit network of winemakers, farmers, fishermen, and cheesemongers, which I’m slowly starting to get to know. This farmer, Pete, always has something interesting when I stop by to say hi. He’ll offer me a ripe fig from the tree, or a just-picked cherry tomato from the greenhouse, or a few butternut squash sitting around his kitchen. In return, I bring baked goods.
Several weeks ago, I got an unusual message from him: I’ve got some black garlic, the note read, and I baked it into cookie dough. Want to try experimenting with it? Of course I did.
I must confess that I didn’t exactly know what it was. I’d seen it on menus, but I’d never tried it. I learned that black garlic is simply regular garlic that has been heated and aged at a controlled temperature and humidity until it turns black and sticky-soft, like a date. It takes weeks for the process to happen: the enzymes break down in the garlic, ridding it of that sharp garlicky taste, and the Maillard reaction occurs, creating the inky black color.
Black garlic smells like molasses, and it tastes sweet and earthy. The best comparison is a dried date: it’s just as sticky and has that same sweetness. I liken it to balsamic vinegar also, which is similarly sweet but a little savory, too. Just like dates, black garlic works beautifully in sweet and savory dishes. You can bake with it (I’ve made cakes, cookies, and cheesy pull-apart breads with bacon and black garlic) or cook with it (it’s ideal in Moroccan tagines, couscous, and all sorts of sauces).
I’ve fallen in love with it, and not just because of the sheer novelty and the odd aspect of such a commonly used ingredient. It’s so delicious and different, offering sweetness and a hint of umami, too. I’m honestly hard-pressed to think of something it wouldn’t be good in.
Thus, I’m encouraging you all to try it! Today I’m bringing you what I consider an “entry-level” black garlic recipe. This is a totally classic, totally perfect chocolate chip recipe from Sarah Kieffer, which has gained internet fame as the “pan-banging cookie” because of the ridges that form when you tap the pan during baking.
The cookie is simple and crowd-pleasing, so you can’t go wrong with it. Adding chopped black garlic to the dough elevates it to something more sophisticated and interesting. The garlic stays chewy, and really helps to highlight the flavor of the chocolate.
If you can’t find black garlic, you can substitute chopped dates and finish the cookies with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt. But I highly recommend seeking it out! You can usually find black garlic in Asian groceries, or lots of specialty grocery stores. Or, you can buy it online in the Food52 shop.
Make these, feed your friends, and tell them that they just ate garlic chocolate chip cookies after the fact. That’s half the fun!
Have you tasted black garlic? Thoughts? Let us know in the comments!