Friday, October 19, 2007

Connoisseur of Coffee

Peet’s Coffee first appeared on the scene in Berkeley in 1966 and soon acquired a zealous following of java-crazed caffeine addicts. Alfred Peet launched a revolution in coffee roasting and coffee appreciation that continues to this day. His recent death reminded me of the tremendous contribution he made to the drinking habits of a nation.

I know it’s almost impossible to believe there once was a time before Starbuck’s. That was a time when Dutch immigrant Alfred Peet began to share his immense knowledge of coffee and fine tea with the San Francisco Bay Area. A second-generation coffee roaster, Alfred Peet grew up in his father’s roastery in Holland and also worked in the tea business in London and Indonesia. He immigrated to San Francisco in 1955 and found a job in coffee importing. He eventually set about looking for a place to start his own company and began importing the finest beans from all over the world. For people who prefer their coffee in the darker roast range, Peet’s coffee set the standard. Take a moment and learn a little bit about the joys of brewing a magical cup of coffee.

The production of coffee shares some similarity with the production of wine, cheese and chocolate. What matters crucially is the terrain, the weather, the caretaking, the selection, handling, processing, storing, and aging. The knowledge and devotion these products require is what keeps us endlessly fascinated with artisan products. I bow to Mr. Peet’s love of the pursuit of the finest ingredients and the pleasure they bring to our everyday lives.

I love the flavor of good coffee in pastries and desserts. In honor of Alfred Peet, I put together the following recipe for those who share my fix. These cookies are for the adult in you. They are crisp and full of the flavor of fresh robust coffee beans; not too sweet, with a slight burst of intense dark roast sensation reminiscent of a great shot of espresso.

To Alfred Peet, a consummate connoisseur.

Bench notes:
- For a close-up of the texture of these cookies, click on the photos.
- For maximum flavor, use your very favorite dark roast coffee beans.
- These cookies taste great when fresh but are even better as the days follow.
- For even baking, it’s always a good practice to rotate your cookie sheet pans and exchange top to bottom racks half-way through the baking time.

Espresso Cookies

Makes 1 dozen 2” cookies or about 2 dozen 1 1/2” cookies

1 C flour
1/4 t salt
2 T finely ground espresso beans
4 oz butter ( 1 stick) @ room temperature
1/4 C + 2 T sugar
2 t Kahlua
1 t vanilla

Sift together the flour, salt and ground espresso beans.
Cream butter and sugar together until smooth and creamy but not fluffy.
Add Kahlua and vanilla and blend well.
Add the flour all at once and mix just until the dough starts to come together. Finish the mixing gently using a rubber spatula. For maximum tenderness, be careful not to overmix!

Place the dough on a piece of plastic wrap. Press it down into a circle. Cover with a second piece of plastic and roll to 1/4" with a rolling pin. Slide onto a pizza pan or baking sheet and chill thoroughly, preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut out cookie shapes and place 12 on a cookie sheet lined with either parchment or a silpat.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheets and switching top and bottom shelves half way through. Cookies are done when the edges turn a light golden brown and can be easily nudged without sticking. Allow cookies to firm up on the pan for 1 minute before removing to a cooling rack. Cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Enjoy with - what else? A steaming hot cup o’ joe.


Hillary said...

Espresso is amazing as is, and now you've put it into a cookie. Can life get any better? I'm not so sure it can.

pastry studio said...

Hi Hillary! So glad you share my delight with the megawatt greatness of coffee flavor. This cookie really hits the spot.

I'm also reminded of a Mocha Almond Cake I once did to replicate one of my favorite ice creams from my teenage years, Jamocha Almond Fudge. I'll have to post that one someday.

Anonymous said...

This recipe is amazingly similar to a recipe that was posted in Sunset Magazine a couple of years ago. Very good!

pastry studio said...

You're reminding me that Sunset Magazine used to be a good source for recipes many years ago! I'll have to pick one up and see what they are offering these days.

pastry studio said...

Many, many thanks to the very interesting blog Anchors and Masts

for spotlighting pastrystudio! Much appreciated.