Recipe: Black Bottom Espresso Cupcakes

These delectable delicacies are perfect for dinner party desserts or an afternoon snack — you’ll need to keep them refrigerated.

Ingredients

- For Cupcake Batter -

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

- For Cream Cheese Filling -

  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon finely ground espresso
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and place rack in the center of the oven.
  2. Line muffin tins with paper liners — muffins should be 2.5 inches in diameter, recipe calls for 20 muffins total.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the dry ingredients with an electric mixer on slow speed.
  4. Add the liquid ingredients and beat on medium speed until thoroughly mixed and smooth.
  5. Pour the batter equally into all 20 cupcakes.
  6. For the filling, put cream cheese, espresso, sugar, salt, egg and vanilla into a medium sized bowl and beat until smooth.
  7. Stir in mini chocolate chips.
  8. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the cream cheese filling into the center of each cupcake.
  9. Bake the cupcakes for 20 – 25 minutes (monitor closely, they may bake more quickly depending on your oven), or until cupcakes spring back when lightly touched.
  10. Remove and let cupcakes cool in muffin pan for about 5 minutes, then carefully unmold to cool completely on a wire rack.
  11. Chow down!

Fresh n’ Puffy

We carry a diverse selection of Lavazza’s whole bean coffees, and sometimes the bags are puffier than others, so we asked our importer to give us the lowdown on bean packaging.

It’s fundamental to their freshness that they are packed in manner that will give them a long shelf life — if they’re allowed to oxidize, flavor compounds and aromatic properties will slowly degrade. To preserve freshness, Lavazza immediately packs their beans directly after roasting in high-barrier multilayer material that guarantees perfect vacuum packaging.

The roasting process, however, allows for the release of carbon dioxide and this represents 90% of the gas that forms inside of the package. To keep the bag from bursting, one-way valves are sealed into the package to allow the gas to escape without letting any air in. This one-way valve system guarantees vacuum packaging, even though the bag may sometimes be “puffy” and not compact.

Caffeine: The Dirty Truth

Will that ink black cup of coffee really get you on the straight and narrow after you’ve seen the bottom of a few too many shots of Patron? Or is your daily cup of joe really dehydrating you while perking you up?

WebMD examined 8 different common beliefs about caffeine and compared them against available studies to determine if they were fact or fiction. If you’re wondering if you’re working under any misconceptions about the brew, check out their opinions.

Oh, and that sobering up bit? Sorry…no:
Actually, research suggests that people only think caffeine helps them sober up. For example, people who drink caffeine along with alcohol think they’re OK behind the wheel. But the truth is reaction time and judgment are still impaired. College kids who drink both alcohol and caffeine are actually more likely to have car accidents.

Health Watch: Caffeine & Pregnancy – Part Two

The most often used mood-altering drug around the world, caffeine has nearly an equal amount of advocates as it does detractors — it’s even moving into the holy ‘anti-oxidant’ status, previously reserved for the likes of broccoli and pomegranate.

But up for debate is how much should be consumed by pregnant mothers, and we found this interesting article that highlights different studies and their findings, with an overall recommendation that coffee consumption be either avoided or greatly reduced while pregnant.

Recipe: Coffee Liqueur

Perk up your favorite cocktail with a little homemade coffee liqueur! Our favorite is a recipe from A.J. Rathbun (author of Luscious Liqueurs):

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup instant espresso powder
  • 2 & 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup whole coffee beans of your choice
  • 3 cups brandy
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Combine instant espresso powder, sugar and water in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat; stir occasionally until mixture is almost at a boil.
  2. Lower heat & keep it at a low simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Turn off heat and let syrup cool completely in the pan.
  4. Put syrup, coffee beans and brandy in a glass container with a tight lid, stir well.
  5. Seal and place the container in a cool, dry spot away from sunlight.
  6. Let mixture sit for 2 weeks — swirling it occasionally.
  7. After 2 weeks, add vanilla, stir again and reseal. Let it sit again for 2 more weeks in a cool, dry spot away from sunlight.
  8. Carefully strain liqueur through a double layer of cheesecloth into a pitcher.
  9. Strain again through two new layers of cheesecloth into one large bottle or a number of smaller bottles — your preference.

Makes about 3 pints.