Category Archives: Articles

Recipe: Chocolate Espresso Pudding Cupcakes with Caramel Milk Foam

The writer of one of our favorite experimental cooking websites, Dog Hill Kitchen, engaged in the Iron Cupcake competition for March, which had coffee as the essential ingredient. The result looked and sounded so delicious, we just had to pass it along to you.

Batter:

  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons +1 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons milk (Silk DHA Enhanced soy for us)
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping:

  • 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 4 teaspoons mini chocolate chips (Enjoy Life chips is my choice)
  • 6 tablespoons hot espresso
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Stir together the dry ingredients for the batter (the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt).
  3. Add the milk, oil and vanilla and stir until a smooth batter forms. Spoon equal amounts into 4 oven safe espresso cups or use 4 other oven safe ramekins or mugs.
  4. In a small bowl mix together the dry ingredients for the topping (the brown sugar, cocoa, and chocolate chips). Spoon equal amounts of this mixture over the tops of the batter filled cups.
  5. Place the cups on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
  6. Pour over the boiling water mixed with espresso powder or hot espresso. I spooned a tablespoon over each and then repeated with the remaining hot liquid until all was distributed evenly.
  7. Carefully place the baking sheet with cups into the hot oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. The cakes are done when the tops are puffed and set but you should be able to tell that there is pudding settled on the bottom.
  8. Remove the cups from the oven and cool slightly. Serve warm topped with caramel milk foam, whipped cream, ice cream or eat as is. You could foam some milk using a milk frother like this one.

Caramel Milk Foam
Based on tips from Garrett of Garrett’s Table. Thanks Garrett!
Makes a little over 1 cup of foam

  • 2 grams Versawhip 600K (soy protein powder purchased from Willpowder)
  • 40 grams of soy milk
  • 50 grams caramel syrup (I used syrup from this recipe)
  1. Whisk together the Versawhip and soy milk together until soft peaks form.
  2. Drizzle in the caramel syrup and continue whisking until all the syrup is incorporated and the foam is light and frothy.
  3. Spoon over the cupcakes and serve immediately.

Java & Jollies

Over the past several months, we have been seeing story after story filter across the wire regarding the proposed topless coffee shop in a small Maine town. Many of the stories were about zoning, town feedback, determining if it could be licensed, etc. — until last week when the business passed all the muster and opened its doors.

Now we love a nice piece of tail just as much as the next person, but when we read this article by CNN we couldn’t help but be a little bit disturbed by the underlying exploitation inherent in this business. We particularly liked it when the owner references that they didn’t ‘hire any 10’s’ or the fact that the shop was inundated with applications primarily because of the poor job market in that area (and, really, everywhere around the country right now).

Also, they mention that most of the customers right now are couples and women — maybe the men don’t want to do a lot of ‘splaining about their newly increased espresso budget.

Spanish Coffee

Coffee holds a special place in the hearts of most of the planet’s population and Spain is no exception. This great synopsis of coffee in Spain provides a detailed description of all the ways in which Spaniards enjoy their brew.

From the cafe con leche (half coffee, half steamed milk) to cafe bombon (half coffee, half condensed milk), this guide will teach you the tips you’ll need to know to satisfy your java fix from Andalucia to Valencia.

Get the Extinguisher Ready

From music to gadgets, we’re hearty supporters of the lo-fi movement — we love the simplicity and classic elements often employed in its design. We’re also fans of DIY projects and figuring out how to do seemingly complex activities easily at home, so when we ran across this article on home roasting, it tickled our lo-fi/DIY fancy and we just had to share.

Utilizing the sophisticated Heat Gun/Dog Bowl method, this step-by-step guide will lead you through roasting your beans at home without investing in a roasting machine. All you’ll need is a heat gun (available at any hardware store — basically, the tool version of a hair dryer that can cost between $15 – $100), a stainless steel bowl (the aforementioned dog bowl is quite popular, but the guide’s author prefers mixing bowls with a little more of an egg shape) and some green coffee beans.

Now, we haven’t tried out this method and did read some critical reviews of the technique, namely that it doesn’t provide uniform results and is kind of a headache to manage. Also, you’ll need to make sure you do this activity in a fire-resistant environment, as hot coffee beans could fly out of the bowl and ignite any flammable materials. So, clear the oily rags and the open jugs of paint thinner out of the garage before you start.

Let us know if you’re brave enough to take this project on — we’d love to hear about your results.

For the Birds

A couple of interesting articles that caught our eye recently are in regard to how coffee agriculture and birds interact.

The first, written about a biologist’s plea for people to purchase shade-grown coffee, talks about the effects that growing coffee in full sun (for increased production) have had on the migratory bird population in Vermont. The plantations they’re referencing are specifically in Central America, where historically coffee was grown under a tree canopy to help protect it from winds and pests. These older growth forests and complex ecosystems were inhabited by birds from North America as part of their migration pattern, but as the birds continue to fly south for the winter, their previous hospitable digs are being systematically cleared in favor of larger plantations. The use of heartier (more Robusta?) strains of coffee plants and pesticides are eliminating the need for the protection of a towering forest and increasing output, which farmers understandably love.

On the other side of the Atlantic, however, the story is quite different: Recent research reveals that the shade-grown coffee may be adversely affecting the bird populations of Ethiopia. The study researchers suggest that moving farming to open farmland and leaving the forest canopies alone for awhile may actually increase the bird populations in this area. One major benefit of shade-grown coffee is that the birds assist in pest control, reducing or eliminating the need for pesticides. It would be a shame to move coffee agriculture to an open prairie that would require chemical pest control, so we love the suggestion that tree planting should be part of this process. Instead of just plowing down the forest, plant coffee and trees elsewhere and, perhaps, significantly increase the habitable footprint available to more birds.

What these two articles demonstrate is the need for regionally-based agricultural and environmental impact studies that enable us to keep our world filled with all of the vibrant and lovely animals that keep it balanced. It’s a difficult prospect, however, given that coffee cultivation often takes place in some of the poorest countries in the world — and starving families understandably don’t really care about how their ability to feed themselves will reduce the number of woodthrush in Vermont.

Health Watch: Coffee & Strokes

A recent analysis of the much-lauded Nurses Health Study (which followed over 80,000 US women for nearly 25 years to document their lifestyles and health conditions) found a preliminary correlation between coffee consumption and a reduced risk of stroke.

Performed by members of the Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health, the analytical study found that women who lived a healthy lifestyle (particularly, non-smokers) and drank 4 or more cups of coffee each day had a 20% lower risk of stroke. Since it tracked the intake of several types of beverages that contained caffeine such as tea and sodas, the study was able to focus in on the effect of drinking coffee itself, meaning that the benefit is likely not sourced in caffeine but another molecular attribute unique to coffee.

Since the study is just out and will no doubt go through further analysis, it opens up an interesting discussion around diet and behavior — namely, do women who drink coffee at this level share anything else in common, specifically in regard to physical activity? The study authors are careful to note that this is just the first stage of analysis and that further research will be done in an attempt to determine the exact source of the benefit.

Bodum Shin Bistro French Press Wins 2008 Good Design Award

Bodum’s awesome Shin Bistro double-walled French press was awarded the coveted 2008 Good Design award from the Chicago Athenaeum — one of three of their double-walled, borosilicate glassware to be bestowed this prestigious honor.

French press coffee is not only some of the most delicious coffee available, it’s also probably the “greenest” — since it doesn’t use electricity to brew, it’s a great method for home use…and we love to take ours camping! The double wall provides increased thermal regulation and keeps the outside cool to the touch.

Also, borosilicate is the glass used in test tubes and beakers, so you can really drop some science when you brew up coffee for your pals (sorry).

Amp Up Your Ink

Just in from the ‘Green for Green Sake’ department, a new printer that uses coffee or tea dregs in the printer cartridge. The dreamchild of Korean designer Jeon Hwan Ju, this sepia-toned gadget utilizes a mixture of old coffee grounds or tea leaves and water and is powered by your brute force.

While form is definitely outweighing function here, in our opinion, this is a great step in a lovely-scented new direction and may be the basis for further development of more automated methods for using ink alternatives (and supporting more homegrown recycling methods) in printers and faxes.

Nevertheless, it’s nice to see coffee expanding it’s expressive scope from just accidental mug circles and spills to work histories and haiku.

Health Watch: Caffeine & Little Green Men

A few weeks ago, the coffee news world was inundated by newspaper and blog reports regarding a study that stipulated the discovery of a cause-effect relationship between high caffeine intake and the possibility of experiencing hallucinations. When we read through the study, however, we felt it to be lacking any truly cause-and-effect data and it seemed the sample group was too small and specific to imply any accurate general population claims.

And we’re not the only ones! One of our favorite study assessment sites, The British Medical Journal came to the same conclusions — and many more — regarding this study’s accuracy and data collection process. If you were confused or alarmed by the recent news, reviewing the study is well worth the read.

So, we’re not saying that you won’t hallucinate if you drink 15 cups of coffee in a 24 hour period, but we do think your daily java habit is highly unlikely to inspire deep conversations with an imaginary Marvin the Martian.

What’s Your Water Profile?

We’ve talked a little bit about the water mineral content for great espresso, specifically in terms of descaling vs. using distilled water, but we didn’t have a great understanding of how the water can effect coffee and tea brewing — until now.

In this informative article, Joshua Lurie of Food GPS introduces us to Cirqua, a customized water company employed by Starbucks, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and Intelligentsia, among others, to create a water profile specific to enhancing the flavor of the brew. He walks us through a taste test of both coffee and tea, with the only variable being the type of water used. The results? Low mineral content water produced a more bitter taste, high mineral content yielded a muted taste and the customized water…well, it was delicious.

While Cirqua’s products have been available only to commercial groups until now, they will be launching a kit for you to use at home in April at the Specialty Coffee Association of America. We’re excited to try it out and compare the difference!