Breakfast and Brunch The Book

144. Coffee Coffee Cake with Espresso Glaze p.644

The recipe

I brought this cake to a brunch at a friend’s last spring. I’m going to have a difficult time giving it a fair rating, because I had horrible seasonal allergies and couldn’t taste anything. I barely remember the brunch, and had to leave after about an hour. My head was so muddled that I’d forgotten my camera, and had to borrow the hosts. He sent me the photos recently, and I’ve been trying to piece this dish back together. The recipe is found in the Breakfast and Brunch section, but it could certainly work for a dinner party.

I should say to anyone reading this that actually attended the brunch, that even though I was feeling awful and sneezing with abandon, I was scrupulous about leaving the room to sneeze, and washing my hands thoroughly before touching your food. I really hate to cook when I’m sick, and definitely worry about contaminating people. I’m not sure how paranoid that actually is though. People who work in restaurants go to work sick all the time, it’s not something we like to think about, but it’s true. If Anthony Bourdain is to be believed they also go to work high, blood splattered, and vomiting, and we’re generally all right. I have a lot of faith in the awesomeness of the human immune system, and the abilities of heat to kill off the nasty stuff that’s gotten into our food. That doesn’t mean I’m willing to take a chance with someone else’s health though.

The recipe followed a fairly standard cake method, mix the dry ingredients, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, in a bowl, then cream butter and sugar in another bowl, add eggs, and vanilla. Then, add the dry ingredients, and sour cream, in alternate batches to the wet ingredients. You then separate 1/3 of the mixture, and add barely dissolved instant espresso to it. You then layer the light and dark batters in a buttered bundt pan and bake for about an hour. Once the cake is unmolded and cooled, you cover it with an espresso glaze made with instant espresso powder, strong brewed coffee (I used a shot of espresso), and confectioners sugar.

I did eat a piece of this cake, but I have no idea what it tasted like. The bitterness of the coffee was the only flavour that managed to cut through the fuzzy sock coating my tongue. Since it’s from The Book, I’m willing to to out on a limb and say that it was probably too sweet. It had a very appealing texture though, moist, with a big fluffly crumb. My dining companion remembers this cake fondly, and it was well received at the brunch. Most of it had disappeared by the time I crawled home to bed. Since people praised it at the time, and brought it up weeks later, it can’t have been bad. The recipe is found in the Breakfast and Brunch section, but it could certainly work for a dinner party. If I didn’t have so many other recipes to get to, I’d make it again, just to find out what it was really like.

I’ll give it an estimated rating of

Cookies, Bars, and Confections The Book

66. Mocha Toffee Cashew Bars p.694

The recipe.

Opinion varied wildly about these bars. We brought these to dinner with another couple. The guy loved them, my dining companion hated them, and the other girl and I were of mixed opinions. They’re built on a fairly dense espresso flavoured cookie base, then topped with chocolate and salted roasted cashews.

I thought things were going well until the cashews. The cookie base was rich, full of espresso flavour, firm and a bit chewy. All on it’s own it would have made a very good cookie. Adding chocolate on top was a perfectly good idea, espresso and chocolate do wonders together. Adding cashews didn’t seem like a bad idea either, but this is where the problems came in.

The recipe called for a quite a lot of nuts, 3/4 of a cup, which may have been a bit excessive, 1/2 cup would have been fine. The nuts were supposed to be chopped. I thought I’d chop them with a few pulses in the food processor, which resulted in more of a cashew dust than anything else. The real issue with the cashew topping was the salt though. It’s possible that I just picked up particularly heavily salted cashews, but I don’t really think that was the case. Adding this much salt to a sweet bar made things very confusing for the palate. There was definately something wrong with the flavour, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Eventually my dining companion pointed out that they tasted like trail mix. Once she said it my imagination filled in the little bits of dried fruit, and my ability to imagine this as a refined after dinner square to be sipped with a macchiato disappeared. The final effect of these squares is like a coffee flavoured energy bar.

I had some of the leftover bars as afternoon snacks, and they worked much better in that context. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the flavours going on here, other than the excessive saltiness, they were just poorly marketed.