Coffee with gusto
I’m a tea drinker through and through. It’s impossible to start the day until I’ve had my first cuppa and I would prefer someone to bring me a cup of tea in bed than give me a diamond ring (honestly!). My childhood family memories are punctuated with cups of tea and the only coffee we had in our house was a jar of instant. As an avid listener of The Archers, something rankles with the amount of coffee they seem to drink. I can understand that Brian and Jennifer might have a pot on but Pat and Tony would be tea drinkers, as would Jill Archer. (Sorry if I just lost you there). Call it my heritage, my background, my up-bringing, my nationality (British) but I gave up tea for a day once and decided that life was far too short for such a sacrifice.
Coffee is not central to my life (pause for the shouts of coffee addicts to die down) but when Nescafe asked me if I’d like to test a Dolce Gusto coffee machine I said ‘maybe’, then ‘yes’ about 5 seconds later.
This Custard Pie space of mine is solely to pursue my fascination with food and drink and I do not earn any money from it. I turn down a lot of invites, it’s easy to be tempted to dinners, lunches, product launches and the like, just because they are free; but if there isn’t a genuine food interest there, it’ll be really boring to write about (and read). However with my marketing communications hat on (my profession), there was something that intrigued me about this coffee machine launch. Nestle was getting ‘digital influencers’ involved which is quite unusual in the region, so I wanted to know how they would do it.
A large box was delivered with my name on the outside proclaiming ‘digital influencer’. The box of the Nescafé Dolce Gusto was personalised with my Twitter profile, name, image and some of my tweets. The individual coffee boxes mentioned people I converse with on Twitter. To borrow a phrase from my teens, I was well-impressed. They, however, thought it was creepy!
The instruction manual was of the Swedish school. I bristled; I like words not pictures (and with a spell-check!). I did finally work it all out and the machine was actually really easy to use. The Grande Intenso tasted pretty good, strong and smooth, the cappuccino (where you have to use two capsules) a slight improvement on packet mixes (which I loathe), Chococino (hot chocolate) was ok, and Espresso strong (if slightly bitter). The Cappuccino Ice remains untasted. All the coffee is 100% Arabica.
The main advantages are the compact size of the machine, the speed of making coffee, the lack of mess and the ease of cleaning. It looks Italian and funky and suits our light coffee drinking household perfectly. If we were heavy users I would be very uncomfortable about throwing a plastic capsule away every time (very wasteful and unsustainable). Nescafé didn’t supply the retail price of the machine or the capsules which is available from 1st March 2012.
All this coffee drinking made me yearn for the taste in an another form.
Coffee walnut cake (cake adapted from a recipe by Annie Bell combined with buttercream)
225g self-raising flour
225g soft light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
225ml vegetable oil (I used sunflower)
4 medium eggs, separated
50ml strong espresso coffee
75g walnuts, roughly chopped
Ingredients for buttercream
350g icing sugar, sifted
150g unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons espresso
Butter and line a 22cm loaf tin. Sift the flour into a large bowl and add the sugar, salt, oil, egg yolks, espresso and milk. Beat with a wooden spoon until smooth. Whisk the egg whites until stiff (I used my Kitchenaid). Gently but firmly fold half the egg whites into the mixture; then fold in the other half and then the walnuts. Spoon the mixture into the tin and give it a knock on the work surface to distribute. Put on the centre shelf in an oven preheated to 190 C. Bake for 50-55 minutes (check after 40 minutes and if the cake is browning too quickly place a piece of greaseproof paper over the top). Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack. Make the buttercream: Beat the butter in a bowl with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy. Stir in the icing sugar and coffee until light and smooth. Cut the cake in half horizontally and spread half the buttercream in the middle and the rest over the top.
I made coffee glacé icing for the one in the picture but it was too sweet, so have doubled the buttercream in the recipe.
So are you a tea or coffee person?