New Obsession: Black Cat Classic Espresso

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I recently picked up a bag of  this Black Cat Espresso (one of the offerings of Intelligentsia’s Black Cat Project). This is not your over-roasted-to-mimic-flavor Starbucks espresso. The beans are a fairly light Latin American blend, with hints of caramel, brown sugar, chocolate and cherry. With a splash of milk, it’s a perfect mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

Most of the at-home espresso machines I’ve used make a dark, bitter, unappetizing shot. I prefer using a french press, which I feel makes it easier to control the outcome of the espresso–I get a rich cup with a fair amount of crema on top. Plus, they are about 90% cheaper than most espresso machines.

To brew espresso at home using a french press:

  1. Measure out 1/4 cup beans. Grind them slightly finer than you would for a typical press (about a medium grind).
  2. Measure 1 cup of cold, filtered water and heat in a tea kettle or saucepan until it starts to boil. Remove from heat (cover if using a saucepan) and let sit for 3 minutes.
  3. Pour the water over the ground beans and give it a quick stir and cover. Let steep for one minute, then press the plunger down. Pour immediately into a short mug (4-oz. mugs work the best). Try it with a swirl of honey, a splash of milk, or just on its own. Serves 2.
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Gluten-Free, Failure-Free: Red Currant Thyme Cake

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I’ve been experimenting with gluten-free baking for a few months now and have had quite a few failures. I would say maybe one in every ten gluten-free experiments actually turns out to be worth making again. This is one of those experiments, which was enjoyed immensely by both gluten eaters and gluten avoiders.

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Red Currant Thyme Cake

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Key Lime Coconut Sugar Cookies

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While these cookies might not be able to compete with the over-the-top showiness of the Twinkie Key Lime  Pie, they are a slightly more subtle (and just as delicious) alternative. Key lime zest and juice are combined with a chewy coconut sugar cookie and rolled in sparkling sugar to give them a nice crunch on the outside. Fiori di Sicilia gives these another level of complexity. You can substitute regular vanilla extract, but the splurge on this flavor is completely justified but the amazing flavor it gives. Regular granulated sugar can be substituted for the white  sanding sugar as well. This dough is best baked right after making. Chilling the dough yields an uneven cookie.

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Key Lime Coconut Sugar Cookies

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Almond Spice Cookies with Anise Frosting

These cookies are the answer to my love of Jingles cookies, but my dislike of crunchy cookies. I made an almond-gingerbread hybrid dough. The almond paste gives the cookie a nice chew and the ginger/molasses gives the cookie a hint of spice. A light anise buttercream frosting finishes these off with my favorite taste of the holidays.

Almond Spice Cookies with Anise Frosting

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Rosemary Sea Salt Blondies

I have a special place in my heart for all of my baked-good creations, but this one has an extra large piece of it. Blondies are my kind of dessert. I like brownies, but I really have to be in the mood for that much chocolate. Blondies are always delicious. They are like a thick, chewy cookie in bar form. Add a little savory rosemary and sea salt and you have a more sophisticated version, one that belongs in your holiday cookie tins.

Rosemary Sea Salt Blondies

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