Coffee pairs so naturally with a wide variety of flavors, it's no surprise that bakers have been incorporating it into their treats for years. Coffee can happily marry both with baked goods—muffins, cookies, and cakes—as well as with some more unusual baked fare, like Baked Oatmeal or Cowboy Baked Beans. Tradition holds that cowboys, unsure when they might strike the next river, would save their coffee for cooking beans later in the day.
Coffee is an excellent match in baking alongside chocolate, cinnamon, nuts and fruit, likely because these flavors actually show up in the coffee itself. Coffee, typically defined by its roast (light to dark) and its body (light to full), aligns quite well with the following foods:
Baking with Espresso
Espresso is a drink made from the darkest roast of coffee bean brewed in a unique process that forces almost-boiling water through the grounds, resulting in a highly concentrated form of coffee. Experienced cooks tend to keep a sharp eye on trends, and as espresso and other European-style coffees have become increasingly popular in America, bakers have taken notice. Baking with ground espresso lends an even richer, deeper flavor to the recipe than lighter roasts do.
In cooking, excess water is the enemy, simply adding blandness to what was once a potent, flavorful recipe. Baking with traditional drip coffee can water down a recipe, while espresso, however, delivers twice the flavor with only a quarter of the moisture.
DIY Espresso Powder
A current trend in baking is to create your own espresso powder to add to home-baked goods. You can make your own with used espresso grounds—as in, the leftover grounds from the cappuccino you made this morning. Save those grounds and allow them to dry; then crush them into a fine powder and use them to flavor your baking. It’s the best recycling trick ever.
Delicious recipes for baked goods using coffee as an ingredient are easy to find; here are a few that are a little further off the beaten path.
Pecan Harvest Loaf
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/3 cups toasted pecans, coarsely ground
- 5 ounces butter
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 4 eggs, separated
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon strong brewed coffee
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 recipe Lemon Glaze
- Grease an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan and preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt. Add the ground pecans and mix well.
- Cream the butter and sugars and add the egg yolks, milk, coffee, and vanilla.
- Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry.
- Add the flour and pecans to the wet ingredients. When just combined, fold in the egg whites.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until done. (Insert a straw or cake tester into the center of the loaf. If it comes out clean — or if loaf has a springy feel when you press on it — it’s done.)
- Allow to cool slightly, then glaze with Lemon Glaze.
Maple Espresso Baked Oatmeal
- 2 1/2 cups rolled oats
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon powdered instant espresso
- 2 ounces unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
- 2/3 cup grade B maple syrup
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- 2/3 cup whole milk
1 cup chopped pecans 3/4 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped if they're very large
- Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook it until it is brown and smells nutty. Set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl, mix together oats, baking powder, salt, and powdered espresso.
- In a medium bowl, mix together syrup, milk and eggs. Whisk well until well-blended. Stir in melted butter and whisk until blended. Pour into oat mixture and stir well. Let it sit for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, while the oven is heating and you're preparing the pan you're using.
- Heat oven to 350. Butter a loaf pan, or line a 12-cup muffin tin with foil liners and butter the liners.
- Stir nuts and cherries into oat mixture until well mixed. Scoop mixture in half-cup measurements into your muffin tin, or spoon into your prepared loaf pan. Press down on tops to compact somewhat.
- Bake at 350 for 35 to 50 minutes (a loaf pan will take longer), until a tester comes out clean.
- Serve in a bowl with milk, yogurt, or crème fraîche. You can refrigerate leftovers and reheat them in the microwave.