Physical addiction aside, I find it the most pleasurable beverage in the world. That first cup of steaming, black coffee upon waking makes the responsibilities of a new day seem easier to navigate and the nocturnal monsters of my mind seem to vanish.
Its seductively distinct aroma lures me out of bed and into a pleasant ambience. I am one of those lucky people whose spouse is in the kitchen about 30 minutes before I make my a.m. debut, and my cup of coffee is waiting to be sipped.
I am not a fanatic about what roast I'm drinking; to me, as long as it's dark, fresh and hot, that's heaven. Decaf coffee today tastes every bit as good as its caffeine-loaded sister, and it can be a delicious way to end an evening meal without worrying about wakefulness.
Try it with a piece of dark chocolate, and I promise you will be a dessert-coffee convert. Of course, coffee partners well with cookies, pies and cakes, and, if added to a dough, filling or batter, it intensifies the sweet flavors with its mysterious tang.
So, for those of you who love a cup of coffee with your dessert, how about some coffee in your dessert. It doesn't get much better than this.
(Dairy or Pareve)
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 cup tightly packed dark-brown sugar
3 Tbsps. instant espresso powder
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup coarsely chopped chocolate-covered coffee beans
Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly butter and flour an 8x8-inch pan.
Whisk together the melted butter, espresso powder and sugar in a bowl.
Add the egg and vanilla extract, and whisk.
Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, and mix it all together. Add the chocolate-covered coffee beans.
Pour into the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool. Cut into squares and serve.
Makes 9 blondies.
"Cream in Your Coffee" Pie
20 Oreo cookies
5 Tbsps. unsalted butter, melted
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk
2 pints coffee ice cream, softened
1 cup heavy or whipping cream
2 Tbsps. coffee liqueur
Crush Oreos in a food processor to a fine-crumb consistency. Add melted butter and mix well. Press mixture into bottom of a 10-inch pie pan. Freeze.
Melt chocolate, sugar, butter and milk in the top of a double boiler. Cook over boiling water until sauce thickens slightly, stirring continuously. Cool.
Spread softened ice cream carefully onto crust. Return to freezer.
Whip cream with liqueur until stiff, but not dry. Pour cooled chocolate sauce evenly over ice cream, then spread whipped cream topping over chocolate sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze 4 hours or overnight. Remove pie from freezer 20 minutes before serving.
Serves 10 to 12.
Espresso Panna Cotta
1/2 cup whole milk
11/2 tsps. unflavored powdered gelatin
11/2 cups heavy cream
3 tsps. (heaping) instant espresso powder
1/4 cup sugar
pinch salt chocolate-covered coffee beans for garnishing
Place the milk in a small, heavy saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatin over and let stand for 5 minutes to soften.
Stir over medium heat just until the gelatin dissolves, but the milk does not boil, about 2 minutes.
Add the cream, espresso powder, sugar and salt. Stir over low heat, until the sugar dissolves, about 3 more minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
Pour the cream mixture into 2 wine goblets, dividing equally. Cover and refrigerate, stirring every 20 minutes during the first hour. Chill until set, at least 6 hours and up to 2 days.
Place a few chocolate-covered coffee beans over each panna cotta and serve.
Mocha Mandel Bread
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsps. cinnamon
1/2 cup oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
23/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 Tbsps. instant espresso powder
3 tsps. baking powder
1 cup almonds, chopped
11/2 cups semisweet miniature chocolate morsels
Combine 1/2 cup of sugar and cinnamon and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease 2 cookie sheets and set aside.
With an electric mixer, cream remaining sugar and oil. Add the eggs, salt and extract. Beat until well-combined. Add flour, cocoa, espresso powder and baking powder. Beat until just combined. Stir in nuts and chocolate morsels.
Form into 2 loaves 2-inches wide on the prepared cookie sheets. Sprinkle with sugar-cinnamon mixture.
Bake for 30 minutes. Cut into slices and place, cut-side down on cookie sheet. Bake another 15 minutes. Let cool and store in air-tight tins.
Makes about 36 slices.
2 large egg whites
pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsps. ground coffee
1 tsp. instant espresso powder dissolved in 2 tsps. coffee liqueur
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 300°. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment.
Beat egg whites with salt until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time. Add the ground coffee, instant coffee mixture and vanilla, and whisk until well-combined.
Drop the batter onto prepared cookie sheet by teaspoonfuls, about 1-inch apart. Bake about 40 minutes until cookies are firm. Let cool completely on the sheet before removing. Store in air-tight container.
Makes about 4 dozen.
Louise Fiszer is a California cooking teacher and food writer. Among the six books she's co-authored is Jewish Holiday Feasts.