This post was inspired by a cool company that contacted me recently, called Craft Coffee. They offer a "craft coffee subscription service", which intrigued me because I lived in Seattle enough years to become a snob about coffee. They offered me a free sample, and I took them up on it--after all, it was interesting, and I like interesting.
The way it worked was this: I answered a short questionnaire about my coffee preferences, and then a week or so later, a package came in the mail with all sorts of coffees to try. Each one was labeled with its taste profile and characteristics. Well, I am not much of a mindful sipper when it comes to coffee (I'll be honest) but I do know that what they sent tasted good. It made me buzz around in my baking projects, and the coffee quiz gave me a bit of fun, so I fully suggest this service if it sounds of interest to you. They even offered a code for me to give my readers a discount. It's like so: CAKESPY10. Use it if you wanna.
This is a long way of telling you that it got me thinking: how can I use coffee in baking? I mean, I know a few ways right off the top of my head: tiramisu, adding a bit of coffee to brownies to bring out the chocolate flavor. But I wanted to put together a list of some interesting ways to use coffee in baking, for my reference and yours. So here goes!
Five Ways to Use Coffee in Your Baking
One of the best tips I ever got about brownies came via the boys of Baked. It is this: a little bit of coffee in your brownies will absolutely make the chocolate flavor SING. It's true, too. Their recipe calls for instant espresso powder, but some of the strong coffee like I received from Craft Coffee would probably do, too.
This syrup can basically be used for anything you'd sweeten. You can use it as an ice cream topping, a drizzle atop bread pudding or brownies, or even to sweeten coffee (and caffeinate it further, cos why not?). All you need to do is combine equal parts strong brewed coffee to sugar, bring to a boil, and then simmer down until it has reduced to your desired consistency. Store it in the fridge and pull it out whenever you want to sweeten something.
Coffee whipped cream
Yes, coffee whipped cream. It's amazing, and it's a creative way to top an Irish coffee for an extra-indulgent treat. You can attain coffee whipped cream in a few ways. First, you can add a few teaspoons of instant coffee to your whipped cream once it has attained soft peaks, then whip it til firm. Second, you could add coffee syrup at the same point in the whipping process. Third, you could add a tablespoon of really, really strong coffee (like an espresso shot) to your whipped cream. Either way, the delicate creaminess works beautifully with the slightly bitter (in a good way) coffee.
Chocolate coffee ganache
Doesn't the phrase just give you joyful shivers? I think that ganache benefits very much from the addition of coffee. You could add instant coffee, as in this delicious recipe, or you could add a shot of espresso to the cream mixture. Up to you. Cakes of all sorts love coffee ganache.
I realize that you were expecting me to mention tramisu is the ultimate coffee-containing dessert, but that's kind of obvious. Opera cake, on the other hand, contains coffee syrup and coffee buttercream, and it's French. So that makes it like pastry royalty! Try Dorie Greenspan's recipe, which is most excellent. And while you're at it, read up on the history of Opera cake in my second book, The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America's Favorite Desserts.