Who would ever have guessed that March in Canada would become coffee season? Apart from the rim-rolling, there’s at least one chain giving it away.
And, yes, I’m hooked. I line up every morning, just like the rest of you, waiting for my fix. The only difference is, this time of year the line seems longer.
I won’t change my drinking habits for a contest, nor my baking. Coffee has always been one of my go-to secret or not-so-secret ingredients. Used sparingly, your guests will ask, “What is that delicious smoky flavour?”
On the other hand, you can unashamedly make coffee the star of your dessert.
Dark chocolate coffee brownies
To offer up these super-rich squares with your morning coffee at the office, melt a package of semi-sweet chocolate chips into 1/2 cup of nearly-boiling whipping cream and spoon over top as a dark glaze — allow them to set, of course. For a decadent dessert, serve them as is with a small scoop of — what else? — coffee ice cream.
3/4 cup soft unsalted butter (no other)
5 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
4 tsp. instant coffee granules
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup flour
Line an 8-inch square pan with foil or parchment paper — allow it to hang over the edges of two sides — and grease generously. In a heavy pot, combine butter, chocolate and coffee. Stir over low heat until melted and smooth; pour into a large mixing bowl and allow to cool 15 minutes. Add sugar and vanilla to chocolate mixture and beat until light. Beat in eggs one at a time. Whisk together flour and salt and stir into batter until just combined — don’t beat any more. Pour into prepared pan and bake at 325 F for 45 minutes — a tester in the middle should come out with some gooey bits still attached. Cool in the pan 15 minutes, then, using the paper overhangs, lift the entire thing out of the pan and cut into squares.
Coffee hazelnut stir cake
Here’s your easiest go-to recipe for company dessert. To toast nuts, put them in a dry frying pan and heat until you can smell them, or spread on a baking sheet and bake at 350 F for a few minutes — keep your eye on them either way. If you prefer mounds of fluffy frosting instead of a glaze-like topping, then please feel free to use your favourite chocolate icing recipe, but don’t forget to add some coffee flavour to complement the cake.
2 cups flour
1-1/4 cups sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
pinch nutmeg, freshly ground if possible
1/2 cup softened shortening
4 tsp. instant coffee dissolved in 1 tbsp. hot water
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup milk (divided)
1 cup toasted chopped hazelnuts
2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp. instant coffee granules
1/3 cup soft butter or margarine
1/4 cup toasted flaked hazelnuts
Beat together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, shortening, eggs, coffee mixture, vanilla and about half the milk until smooth — a minute or two. Add remaining milk along with chopped hazelnuts and stir until well combined. Pour into two greased and floured 9-inch cake pans. Bake at 350 F for 35 minutes or until a tester in the middle comes out clean. Cool in pans 5 minutes, then cool completely on racks. For the frosting, melt chocolate chips together with milk and coffee granules over low heat, stirring until coffee is dissolved and mixture is smooth. Stir in butter until smooth and refrigerate mixture until spreadable — an hour or two. Place one layer bottom up on a serving plate and spread a scant half of the frosting on it. Top with remaining cake layer, right side up. Spread remaining frosting on top, going as close as possible to the edges, and sprinkle flaked hazelnuts on top.
Mocha dream pie
This pie should come with a warning — it will completely blow your daily calorie intake unless you’ve only eaten lettuce all day or it’s your birthday. If you have the chocolate melted and cooled and the cream whipped and waiting, this becomes an easy recipe — more about assembling than baking.
1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped Oreo cookies
3 tbsp. melted butter
2 tbsp. each Tia Maria and water (or use all water)
1 package unflavoured gelatin
1 tbsp. instant coffee granules
1/2 cup sour cream
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1-1/2 cups whipping cream
1 cup icing sugar
chocolate curls or more crumbled cookies for garnish
Grind cookies to crumbs in a food processor (or put them in a plastic bag and have at them with a rolling pin). Stir in melted butter until well combined and press into the bottom and up the sides of a greased deep-dish glass pie plate. Bake at 350 F for 8 minutes; cool completely. For the filling, combine liqueur and water in a small pot and sprinkle on the gelatin. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, long enough for the gelatin to soften. Heat gently over low heat until nearly boiling, stirring constantly. Add coffee and stir until dissolved; set aside to cool. Whisk sour cream into gelatin mixture. Melt chocolate chips over hot, not boiling, water, stirring until smooth. Cool for a few minutes and whisk slowly into sour cream-gelatin mixture. Whip cream until thick but still soft. Add icing sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Fold about 1/3 of the whipped cream mixture into chocolate mixture — it will look speckled, not smooth. Fold in remaining whipped cream, mixing until colour is barely uniform, and spoon into cooled crust. Refrigerate 3 hours before serving. Garnish as you like.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c-o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, N.L., A1E 4N1.