Is there anything as comforting as the aroma of coffee? With all sorts of delicious flavour notes—chocolate, caramel, spice and fruit—it adds richness without sweetness to cookies, cakes, puddings and other desserts. Here’s how to jazz up tasty treats with java
Three Ways to Add Coffee Flavour
Any form of coffee can be used to make desserts, but a teaspoon of espresso powder functions differently in a recipe than a cup of brewed coffee does. Here’s how each one works best.
• Brewed coffee or espresso. To extract their full flavours, ground beans need to be brewed, so you’ll be adding liquid as well as that delicious coffee taste to recipes with these. Brewed coffee or espresso imparts a subtler flavour than freeze-dried or powdered varieties and works well in mousses, puddings and more—it’s a must for soaking ladyfingers to make tiramisu. Quick tip: While some cooks insist on using freshly ground beans for the best flavour, a good-quality ground coffee will work just fine in most recipes.
Strong Coffee 101
Some recipes call for regular brewed coffee, while others require strong brewed coffee or espresso. If the recipe doesn’t specify the strength, just make it using the standard proportions. If it calls for strong coffee, use one and a half times the normal amount of ground beans with the usual amount of water. Quick tip: If you need only a little bit of coffee, use instant or make a quick cup in a French press.
• Ground coffee. Whether you grind your own beans or buy them pre-ground, just a small amount of coffee in this form adds a bold flavour hit to recipes. It works best in batters, doughs and thick sauces, and it’s super convenient, since no brewing is required—just spoon it right in. And because ground coffee is readily available in a wide variety of flavours and roasts, it allows for a range of fun, delicious desserts.
• Instant coffee granules and instant espresso powder. These are freeze-dried brewed coffees, not finely ground beans. They are easy to measure, will rehydrate in any liquid and guarantee a reliable shot of strong flavour. Instant coffee or espresso is often used in cakes, cookies and custards, where a small amount can be “activated” by any liquid, even eggs or butter.
Stick to the Directions
Use the style of coffee the recipe suggests. A dark roast or robust espresso will give rich, hearty treats plenty of depth, while a lighter, fruitier variety won’t overpower a delicate dessert.
Follow the recipe’s instructions for coffee temperature, too. Hot brewed coffee is best in sauces and chocolate cakes made with cocoa powder, where it creates a rich, fudgy texture while intensifying cocoa’s chocolatey notes and downplaying its bitter ones. On the other hand, cold brewed coffee, whether it’s a tasty Sensations by Compliments Cold Brew or simply the leftovers from breakfast, works beautifully in chilled desserts.
Which Flavours Favour Coffee
The best flavours to pair with coffee are chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla, nuts (such as almonds or hazelnuts), caramel and certain fruits (such as orange zest, dried figs or fresh cherries). You can combine these flavours with coffee in a variety of ways. Stir vanilla or almond extract into a coffee-scented batter, or mix ground spices in with the dry ingredients. Or simmer equal amounts of brewed coffee and sugar together to make a coffee syrup. You can also infuse hot coffee with spices or dissolve instant in vanilla rather than water for an extra flavour hit.
Quick tip: Adding just a little coffee to chocolate makes the rich, dark flavours of cocoa pop in cakes and brownies—without actually tasting like coffee!
Coffee is as delicious cold as it is hot. Try it in ice creams, sorbets, semifreddos, ice pops, mousses or refreshing granitas. Wow guests with an Easy Panettone Tiramisu or luscious Chocolate Espresso Pudding Cups. Or mix hot and cold together in an affogato, a grown-up version of the classic ice cream float that features hot espresso poured over vanilla ice cream. These are great additions to any celebration menu, because they can be made ahead and require minimal prep right before serving.
Best Baked Goods
Coffee is made for baking. Its rich, bittersweet flavour adds depth to cakes, cheesecakes, pies, cookies, muffins, loaves and soufflés. It boosts the chocolatey appeal of Fudge Layer Cake with Chocolate Avocado Icing, Coffee Brownies and soft, fudgy Coffee Chocolate Crinkle Cookies. Not a chocolate fan? Try a Coffee, Nut, Blueberry & Meringue Cake for a delicious finale to a special dinner.
Be the guest everyone wants to welcome! You’ll always be invited back if you arrive with a box of irresistible homemade coffee-flavoured treats, like Chocolate Truffles rolled in espresso powder or creamy Tiramisu Fudge. Or bring a jar of Easy Chocolate-Coffee Sauce for dipping juicy strawberries or drizzling over ice cream or profiteroles. If you’re lucky, your host might even share!
Dessert in a Glass (or Mug)
Dessert doesn’t have to be served on a plate or in a bowl. A fancy coffee drink is a sweet way to end a meal. For a warm finish, try a Spiced Hazelnut Latte (spiked with hazelnut liqueur for an extra special treat), an Eggnog Coffee or a Gingerbread Almond Latte. For a cold one, stir up a classic Mocha Milkshake or an Espresso Martini enriched with homemade Irish cream.