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Saturday, January 24, 2004

truffles today

patient readers know that i've been trying to make chocolate truffles for about a week now.

i've reviewed recipes by richard donnelly, alice medrich, and good ole jacques pepin.

however, mr. right is a tad picky, so there were a few things about each recipe to which he didn't cotton.

the great thing about truffles is that they are sinfully simple to make. say you spend 10 mins. chopping the chocolate and the butter, 4 mins. melting them, 2 hours chilling, and 20 mins. rolling them in cocoa.

that's only 35 mins. real work, if you can call licking excess chocolate off the spoon work.

thus in the end, i combined the appropriate elements of each, and the truffle mixture is cooling in the fridge even as we speak:

1 lb. bittersweet (55%-62%) chocolate, chopped into 1/2-in. chunks: callebaut is the minimum, valrhona is better
10 tablespoons french butter or plugra, chopped into 1/2-in. chunks
1/2 cup heavy cream (you could flavor this by simmering briefly with a shot of espresso, or cinnamon sticks, or fragrant tea in tea ball, or hunks of ginger, etc. to infuse with flavor)
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (or more to taste, or 2 tablespoons brandy, liqueur, etc.)
2 egg yolks, brought in a double boiler to 140 degrees (but not scrambled!)

since i'm lazy but want delicious stuff, and mr. right wanted vanilla truffles, i just tossed the chocolate and butter in a large soufflé dish and popped it in the microwave on medium-high.

this much chocolate takes about 3 to 3-1/2 mins. or so to melt. so set the timer for 1 min.; stir mixture; heat another minute.

if you've infused your cream with cinnamon or whatever fish it out, and add cream to chocolate mixture. stir well. heat final minute.

stir the chocolate mixture until well-combined -- usually any final chunks will melt from the residual heat. if not, pop it back in the microwave for another 30 seconds.

stir in your now-salmonella-proof egg yolks. mix well; make sure there aren't any lumps of egg. that would be yuck.

if you've infused your cream and/or are using liqueur, you may not want to add the vanilla. hey, they're your truffles.

add whatever, stir well, and taste to see if you like it. adjust until you like it. i ended up adding about 1-1/2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste.

remember the truffles will be cool-to-room temperature when you serve them, so you may want to add a little more flavoring than you think.

when you have your truffle mixture tasting yummy, cover the soufflé dish with plastic wrap and let it chill in the fridge oh, 1-3 hours.

if it's too firm, let it sit on the counter to warm up a bit; you want to be able to scoop out rough nuggets with a small teaspoon. think nothing larger than pecan- or walnut- size (in the shell).

lay out 2 plates and a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. 1 plate is dusted with powdered or confectioner's sugar; the other with about 1/4 cup cocoa powder.

if the truffle mixture seems sticky at all, dip your fingertips lightly into the sugar, grab the truffle off the spoon, and shape into some attractive knobby rustic hunk.

roll this in the plate of cocoa powder, then remove to cookie sheet. or place a few truffles on cocoa plate and shake some cocoa over. you'll figure it out.

repeat. repeat. repeat. try not to eat them all as you are coating them in cocoa. . . .you should easily get 45-50 walnut-sized truffles outta this.

these technically keep for about 10 days at room temperature, but really are best in the first few days. if you can't eat 'em in that time, give a bunch away.

or wrap them well in layers of waxed paper, put them in a good tupperware, and freeze 'em for no longer than 2 months. thaw to room temperature before serving.

fresh chocolates are delicious; your own homemade truffles can be more impressive than those of most candymakers because of great ingredients and strict freshness.

so don't scrimp on the ingredients and ensure they are eaten while fresh.

oops! i just noticed i'm out of half-n-half for that planned afternoon cafetiére of gillies carioca. . .

posted by fortune | 9:09 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Friday, January 23, 2004


thus it was with great eagerness this morning that i awoke and practically dove into the kitchen to taste the fresh batdorf guatemala antigua "finca el valle" that arrived yesterday.

this is a bccy kind of coffee: shade-grown, most likely bird-friendly, altho' apparently not actually so certified. jessica didn't give me a roast level, either in common parlance or by whole-bean agtron, so i'm going to guess and call this coffee just a hair past full-city roast, flirting with vienna.

tasting the coffee was as fun as always. note that when tasting or cupping coffee, it helps to do it twice: once when hot, once when cool. when the coffee's a little cooler you get a better sense of the brightness level.

brightness is the term i use in place of the often-misunderstood term-of-art, acidity. acidity in coffee isn't really acid, like ph-level, but a jargon phrase meaning the coffee's sense of "dancing" or "sparkling" on the tongue tip.

here at bccy i use the flavor wheel terminology developed by amazing scaa chief ted lingle (on the left). i call this way of talking about coffee linglese [lin-glaze-ay, along the lines of the italian word for english, inglese].

thus, i'd say this is a medium-bodied, medium-bright coffee, full and nippy, with a sweetly floral fragance somewhat like fresh basil but with a hint of fresh-cut orange, and offering malty, syrupy, and vanilla-y notes. (for my huge discussion of coffee bouquet, wade through this.)

in the interests of a real road test, i then made some up in the cafetiére (a.k.a. press pot) and added a tablespoon of light cream and a pinch of raw sugar. i mean, that's how most humans will actually be drinking it after all.

with the sugar it acquired a pleasant, balanced aftertaste. . . in the objective interests of accurate coffee perception, i poured another cup. . . you can try this coffee yourself, dear readers, right here.

posted by fortune | 11:43 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Thursday, January 22, 2004

this really shouldn't be noteworthy . . .

but it is: "the café that serves coffee ground from beans while you wait." so few coffeeshops nowadays grind espresso to order just for your shot, it's really worth remarking upon when it happens.

all too often i've had cups that should be nice spoiled by the fact that the retailer instructs the poor ptbc (person behind the counter) to grind enough to fill the entire doser all at once in the morning. this means that by the afternoon, the ground coffee's a few hours old.

and that leads to reduced flavor and crema in an espresso, always a disappointing experience. so i applaud the ruby elephant in kalona, iowa! you don't have to live in a huge trendy city to have great coffee -- you just need a retailer who devotes themselves to quality.

and speaking of quality, my lovely care package from the charming jessica at batdorf arrived today with some yemen mocha, guatemala antigua "finca el valle," another ethiopian harrar, and the southern-italian-style vesuvio espresso blend. can't wait to taste these in the cafetiére (a.ka. press pot).

here's an amusing story: man sentenced to yoga as a form of anger management. well, why not? (i can think of a certain democratic candidate whose image might benefit from it. . .)

posted by fortune | 11:26 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

huge response

i'm so happy with the response to the new gillies retail price list with its extra discount for the scaa consumer membership. since i put it up yesterday morning, it has already been downloaded 300 times!

whether you're a home roaster seeking the highest-quality specialty green beans or just want some very special fresh roasted coffee by mail order, i hope this new list offers pleasing choices. further, i hope to work with other scaa professional members to offer more retail green lists.

thus, i encourage all scaa pro members to draw up an enticing selection for c-members and email it to me. i'll post it pronto!

on the yoga front, for those who are particularly interested in viniyoga, or in the history of yoga in recent times, i recommend highly an upcoming workshop at the breathing project. it features dr. srivatsa ramaswami, himself personally a student of famed yoga teacher sri krishnamacharya.

whether you do ashtanga yoga by p. jois, iyengar yoga, viniyoga, or whatever, you are basically doing krishnamarcharya's yoga. he's our "root" teacher for what has evolved into all these schools of modern yoga.

thus a workshop with ramaswami is an amazing opportunity. . .

posted by fortune | 9:47 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

news flash: gillies new green & roasted coffee price list!

while don schoenholt is still redoing his website and working on his elaborate descriptions, i frankly just pled, wheedled, nagged, wept, threw myself on the sidewalk in front of the trucks, held my breath until i turned blue, chained myself to his cement mixer singing songs of social justice and heart-felt protest, etc. to get my hands on a good copy of his retail green & roasted list.

and so i'm just posting it with mad abandon! but let me offer don a heart-felt, huge bccy thank you! he's the best.

few have had the vision to support scaa consumer members and alties the way he has; for years and years! we're grateful. as for the in-depth cupping notes on the listed coffees, origin info, and all that should appear when don's new site goes live.

don is offering his very special beans at an extra 10% discount for scaa c-members. please have your c-member number ready when ordering: 800-344-5526.

also please remember that gillies is open during wholesale hours. in general they are open for retail service between 10am and 4pm eastern time, monday - thurs. hours are 10am and 3pm eastern time on fri.

gillies accepts american express and paypal is pending. order 2 lbs. or more roasted or 10 lbs or more green to receive free ups ground shipping in the continental united states.

those ordering 25-lb. lots or more may inquire about wholesale pricing and take advantage of wholesale rates. isn't that tremendous? you monster homeroasters -- and i know for a fact you exist -- can now buy absolutely wholesale, set up a wholesale account, everything.

gillies list, 1/04 (adobe acrobat format)

posted by fortune | 11:37 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

don't know whether to weep or laugh with joy

"only vaguely aware that her job title is 'barista'. . ."

of course i'm glad that people are beginning to understand that many many teens/students enjoy coffee. that the young and old are returning to coffee.

this fact-on-the-ground is in direct contradiction to what many long-time coffee pros believe. (and i offer my deepest apologies here to former scaa prez, steve colten!)

coffee isn't losing market share for much longer; it's turning around with speed. but the process could happen much faster; the specialty coffee industry is not necessarily successfully reaching its audience yet. however, it is improving, which is a fantastic sign.

naturally we at bccy are determined to help in this regard by increasing the appreciation of fine coffees as much as we can. some in the coffee industry feel these young people drinking vanilla lattes aren't real coffee drinkers.

but let's face it, we all have to start somewhere. once they are in the coffeehouse, students can over time be educated and exposed to finer coffees.

young people aren't stupid and there's no need to talk down to them; in fact, young people rock! (and i'm not just talking about my new po-punk band of the moment, pretty girls make graves.)

offer them choices and information without patronizing them -- that's all we need to do. over time (and a relatively short period, too, i think!) they will discover for themselves the fascination of individual origins and estates, of italian-style espresso. . .

in this regard, today's article makes me happy. but in the other regard, the "vaguely aware her job title is barista" sense, i'm bummed out.

i applaud the cafe muse for creating a welcoming environment that brings people to coffee. but i also encourage them to improve staff training.

"barista" should become part of a respectable career path in the coffee industry, not a "soda jerk" dead-end type job. . .and the baristas' guild agrees with me!

i'm personally committed to working with the specialty coffee industry through the consumer membership program to help coffee lovers develop their knowledge and love of the world's most social beverage!

the great thing is that it's not a humorless mission-from-god -- but a non-stop, terrific pleasure. please come to our party, to paraphrase another new fave band of mine, special pillow.

my final beef with the article is its dread tone -- is coffee horrible for students? when will this infantilizing condescension stop?

have the lives of generations of europeans been destroyed by those café au laits or latte macchiattos on school mornings?

good heavens, is coffee the new rock-n-roll that will corrupt the youth of america? it is as deadly as the fearsome hip hop? as terrifying as the string bikini?

posted by fortune | 8:48 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Monday, January 19, 2004

live finches. . .

and the "ladies from hell." this oregon coffeehouse sounds just grand. i want one exactly like it here in new york. . .

also, welcome to all you first time bccy readers who are linking over from meetup. thanks for stopping by.

i hope to get materials soon on specialty coffee month, coming up in february. i'll post them here and link to them from my personal notebook.

i'll have a lot to say about the specialty coffee month info when it arrives; i hope you'll look at it and considering voting yes to add it to the meetup agenda.

the scaa has a lot to offer and i think you'll be interested in the materials and the membership once you ponder it over your favorite cup.

now about those truffles i was going to make today. alas, my non-apple monitor gave up the ghost.

so i trucked down to j&r at noon to buy a new spiffy 20 in. apple beauty, only to discover the plug was incompatible with my g4 graphite.

by the time i priced the new monitor and the board i would have had to replace to use it, fuggedabudit, as we say in bklyn. it would have cost almost as much as a slice of goose paté at dean & deluca! my grandma just don't have 3 kidneys.

i now enjoy a nice 19 in. sony. but alas, no truffles now. . .this weekend, if the cream keeps.

one the other hand, i had a wonderful telephone conversation with jessica at batdorf again. she's the greatest!

i hope to soon sample her logo chocolates, made with guittard, as well another of her espresso blends. stay tuned to this page for a review.

and finally, what's up with new york? more new yorkers i hope will scurry over and represent on meetup -- that we couldn't have a coffee meetup in this java-lovin' town is shocking.

after all, we dutch new yorkers practically introduced the beverage to these tea-slurpin', li'l-pinkie-lifting english colonies. . .

posted by fortune | 6:45 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Sunday, January 18, 2004

snowy day

what better thing to do on a snowy day than have coffee, go to yoga, make pizza, and pick up supplies for making truffles?

yes, tomorrow i'm celebrating the martin luther king holiday by making chocolate candy! i have 1 lb. callebaut, some real heavy cream, a pile of french butter, a box of droste cocoa, and so i'm off to the races.

in between making piles of coffee-related phone calls, i'm pondering: whose recipe? donnelly or medrich? hmmm. . .

posted by fortune | 8:15 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

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