Wednesday, 25 June 2014 15:58

No grounds ... no glory: instant is not the answer

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It was easier when I didn’t know the difference between good coffee and bad.


When a scoop of Swiss Mocha from a tin, dissolved in boiled tap water, was enough to make me feel sophisticated and, well, Swiss.
That said, I can’t remotely claim to be any kind of expert.
I may know that the best part of waking up is not Folgers in a cup. But I cannot discern, upon gargling a shot of fine roastings, that the coffee berries were grown on the shady side of the northern slope of a particular mountain in Sumatra, handpicked at the moment the morning dew evaporated on February 13th.
Nor can I say that it was a cloudy day in Columbia when someone (not Juan Valdez) hiked to a much higher altitude to get at the good stuff, leaving Juan to harvest the coffee berries that were flash ripened and summarily rejected by better bean buyers.
As for instant coffee, these two words call to mind only one thing: 1985. A time when freeze-dried crystals had achieved vogueness, alongside minute steak and muffin mix.
So when, some time ago, Starbucks first announced they were rolling out an instant of their own, I instantly developed a new scowl line.
This was just further proof that things were not what they used to be in Espressoville.
It’s okay, though. I don’t mind a serving of crow now and then, so long as I have enough ketchup.
To be clear, VIA has not replaced my daily drip.
Having nothing in common with coffee crystals, though, these little stick packets of micro-grounds have saved the day on many a day.
For example, when travelling in Alberta last month, when the courtesy coffee in my hotel room turned out to be little better than brown crayon shavings, I did not have to go to give my morning presentation without the benefit of a decent cup-of.
Likewise, when I’m trapped inside a WestJet next month, en route to Toronto for my very first time, I will say no to airline coffee, yes to hot water.
Ready-brew, while not a substitute for carefully ground and prepared coffee, solves the problem of bad coffee, weak coffee, flesh-eating coffee and flavoured coffee. Also church coffee, no coffee, false coffee and the friends who serve it.
Thankfully, my friends forgive me my pre-emptive packets of VIA, so I can forgive them their Caf-lib.
Or worse. Tea.
However, what’s on the menu today is not a beverage at all, though it still requires coffee, and requires that it be good (the same rationale that argues wine must be drinkable in order to cook with it).
While VIA can be used in a multitude of applications, from crusting beef tenderloin, making blender frappes, or just rubbing it on your gums for a quick caffeine fix (kidding, I’m actually a decaf girl), it’s also the perfect ingredient for turning a simple white angel-food cake into something sophisticated.
So, go to it. whip up some egg writes and tear open a stick of coffee. Just make sure you have some left for later, when the cake is done.

Italian Angel Food Cake

12 large egg whites, room temperature
1 tsp lemon juice
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour (spooned into measure and leveled)
1 stick Starbucks VIA, Italian Roast
1/4 tsp salt

Add lemon juice to the bowl of a stand mixer and swirl. Fit into mixer along with whisk attachment. Add egg whites. Beat 1 minute on medium until foamy. Increase speed to medium-high; beat another 4 minutes.
Continue beating while adding vanilla. Add sugar, about a heaping tbs every few seconds, until stiff, glossy peaks have formed.
Transfer whites to an extra large bowl. Sift in flour, VIA and salt in thirds, folding gently after each addition.
Spoon batter into an ungreased angel-food cake pan. Using a clean butter knife, swirl through batter to release large air pockets. Smooth top.
Bake at 350F for 35 minutes, until cake springs back when lightly touched. Invert pan onto a baking sheet. Let cool for an hour. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan and tube to loosen cake, then unmold.
Serve with fresh berries and whipped cream, and a dusting of VIA.

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