Thursday, August 11, 2016

A Tale Of Two Coffee Goos ...

I am the Peter Pan of coffee drinkers. I cannot drink coffee black. I can drink espresso – hyper-uber coffee! – with nothing in it but I can't drink coffee black. Go figure.

And so, for many years, I have been a regular purchaser and consumer of flavored coffee creamer a k a coffee goo. "Cream" is a bit generous, really.

But I know it's not the best thing for me to consume. I drink a full bottle of water every morning – filtered water, BPA-free bottle, set on my bedside table the night before – then I chase it with a travel mugful of coffee lightened with hazelnut goo.

At the store the other day, I stood before the case of goo and assessed my options. Fall and winter specialty flavors are already stocked, by the way. I've cut grains out of my diets but I'm still very much a fan of dairy and sugar. Still, I've noticed goo made with almond milk and considered making a change. And hey, there's a hazelnut option! Sold!

I brought my new goo home and vowed to use up my current goo and then make the switch.

This morning, with not enough current goo left for my mug's complement of coffee, I reached for the almond goo.

I shook it.

Huh. It's more difficult to shake. Thicker. Maybe it settles, like paint?

I unscrewed the cap and pulled off the seal. I licked the bit that remained.

Huh. It doesn't taste like hazelnut, really, and yet it doesn't taste like almond either.

I peered into the container.

Huh. It's an interesting color, kind of earthy, kind of ... chalky.

I poured it into my mug, to the point to which I always pour goo.

Huh. It looks like self-leveling cement.

At that point, I was having my doubts.

But the coffee finished brewing and I poured it into my mug and ... the color changed from very, very dark brown – as is true of black coffee – to ... very dark brown.

That seemed like a sign of nothing good. With my usual goo, the color changes to a lovely caramel hue.

I took a sip of this new concoction.

It tasted like ... coffee. With some unidentifiable flavor making a pathetic attempt to be noticed.

Well, shit.

I grabbed what was left of my usual goo and dumped it into the mug and gave the whole mess a stir.

It's drinkable now.

And later, I shall go to the store and procure more of my usual goo.

And this not-inexpensive almond-milk goo?

Maybe I can pour it into a bowl and set it on the counter and let the moisture evaporate and try using it as spackle.

I wonder if anyone is a repeat consumer of this almond-milk goo. I suspect not. I suspect everyone is like me, intrigued enough by the possibility to try it and then scarred enough to never buy it again. Eeesh.

Dear Usual Goo,

I'm sorry to have strayed. I know better now.



Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Adaptation: Brownie Edition ...

Last July, I finally got around to posting the recipe I use for brownies. Angelo refers to them as "crazy drug brownies" and they are indeed rather addictive, in a "I can just have one more little one" kind of way ... and then you realized that you've whittled down the contents of the pan to next to nothing and it dawns on you that, singlehandedly, you've consumed more than a stick of butter and enough sugar to make you yearn for compression stockings.

As it happened, last July was also when I finally cut grains out of my diet. And brownies, being made with flour, became a casualty.

Until yesterday.

I'd been meaning to pick up an alternative flour and try a test batch. And lo, yesterday I was tooling down the baking aisle on my way to the dairy case when my brain stepped up and said, "Look at flours!" I backtracked a few steps and glanced back and forth: almond flour or coconut flour? Coconut flour is more like flour. Almond flour might have better flavor. But almond flour might have too much moisture. But the brownies are super moist anyway.

In the end, it came down to price. I was more inclined to risk $5.49 than $9.89. Coconut flour it was. Into my cart it went. Shopping continued.

Last night, done with work, I ventured into the kitchen to bake. I figured I'd just swap in an equal amount of coconut flour for the usual all-purpose flour. Everything else about the recipe remained the same, ingredients-wise.

The batter was thicker than the original recipe yields.

I smooshed it into the greased pan and figured the heat of the oven would level things out.

Nope. So, lesson learned: next time, smooth the batter.

Given that it was such a stiff batter, I thought the baking time could probably be knocked down a bit. So I stuck the pan in the oven for 20 minutes.

Yup, that was enough.

I frosted them when they were partially cool, as I do with "normal" brownies." I could have frosted them a bit sooner. My frosting didn't end up with its usual sheen.

And while I planned to let them cool fully overnight and then try one this morning, impatience got the better of me and I tried one while the pan was still warm.

Tasty, for sure. But the texture was difficult to gauge.

So I had another one this morning.

There's just a hint of graininess to them but the flavor is practically identical. They're not coconutty, as I thought they might be, as coconut flour really smells like coconut. Go figure.

I'll try a batch with almond flour someday, too. But in the meantime, I'm back in brownie business!

Coconut-Flour Brownies

1 stick butter (I use salted)
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
3/4 cup coconut flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Walnuts (I toast mine first in a 350° oven for 13–15 minutes then let them cool)

Melt the butter, stir in sugar and cocoa. Add coconut flour. Mix. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix. Stir in walnuts. (I dump some into a Ziplock bag and press on them to break them up a bit first.) Spread the mixture into greased 8x8 pan (I spray it with PAM) and level it with the back of a rubber scraper. Unlike a traditional brownie batter, this one won't level itself in the oven.

Bake at 350° until done, about 20 minutes. (Start checking a little before then, as ovens vary. You may need to go a smidgen longer. It all depends.)

Cool on a rack until warm but not hot (10 minutes, maybe), then frost with:

Equal parts of butter and cocoa (For an 8x8 pan, you might use 3 tablespoons of each, maybe 4 tablespoons; depends on how much frosting you like)
Powdered sugar

It's hard to give people the recipe for the frosting, as it's just a taste thing. Melt the butter and stir in the cocoa until the mixture's smooth. Dump in some powdered sugar and a little milk and stir. Keep tweaking until you get desired sweetness and spreadability. Add the milk in smaller increments than seems reasonable. You can always add more. If you add too much, pour out a bit into the sink. If you thin the frosting too much by mistake, you'll have to add more powdered sugar to recover the consistency and you may end up with frosting that's too sweet for your tastes. So add milk in small amounts.

Double the brownie-proper recipe for a 9x13 pan. Frosting-wise, though, don't double the frosting. For a 9x13 pan, use 5 tablespoons to 6 tablespoons each of butter and cocoa and add powdered sugar and milk accordingly.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Birthday Sablés! ...

I have been baking sablés for a long time, more than five years, turns out. My first foray into these wondrous French butter cookies was for Angelo, as a nod to The Gnome.

I have made many variations since: dark chocolate, espresso, cheese. Oh, yes, cheese. As cookie doughs go, it's an excellent base for all sorts of additions. Toasted coconut would rock!

But I digress. My point is that it took me more than five years to think to add sprinkles into the dough to give 'em a bit of festiveness.

And so, I finally did.

I would prefer if the sugar would not melt, please, if the colors would not bleed. Alas, the rules of the natural world apply. Moisture + food coloring = a less-than-perfect confetti effect.

But the idea was there, suitable for sharing. (If these had turned out more garish, I would have whipped up a plain batch instead. If I'm going to share something with someone, I must meet my own standards first.)

To up the festive factor, I pulled a collection of bright colors from the drawer that holds my spools of curling-ribbon compulsion and I made up wee bundles of cookies and beribboned those suckers until the cookies were barely visible.

And then I boxed them up and sent them on their way.

I shall bake these again. They make a fun little birthday gift but I can also use them for favors the next time party favors are called for, as I may have outgrown all the tchotchke plastic trinkets from the party store.

Or maybe I'll just send folks home with both. Who doesn't need a plastic camel pen topper, too?