Want the Perfect Iced Coffee? Try Cold-Brewing.

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In my neck of the sorta-northern U. S. woods, it’s common to see the flip flops come out when the outside thermometer reaches 60 degrees. While I don’t follow this particular footwear routine, I do have a similar mantra concerning weather and coffee: “60 degrees means iced coffee!”

But the thing about iced coffee, as obtained from a proper coffee establishment, is that it’s expensive. Maybe I’m overly thrifty, but having to pay up to a dollar more to have someone add ice to a cup of coffee is perplexing. So over the years I’ve tried to make my own…without much success. I tried brewing my normal coffee, letting it cool, and adding ice, but that never cut it. The coffee always ended up tasting weak and watered down. I tried brewing exceptionally strong coffee – espresso and French roasts. The results were better, but since I’m not a fan of dark roasts generally, I never found the tastes of these brews appealing. I tried k-cups that were supposedly designed to make iced coffee. They weren’t. (Quite the sham they are.) I eventually gave up on the notion of ever making great iced coffee at home. That is until I discovered cold-brewed coffee.

As I’ve come to discover, cold brewing produces an amazing cup of coffee. The process removes much of coffee’s inherent bitterness and acidity and leaves you with coffee that’s rich, bold, and very smooth. Best of all, because the resulting coffee is so concentrated, it requires some dilution, which occurs anyway with iced coffee, what with all the melting ice. Despite this, the taste remains as wonderful as a full-strength cup o’ joe.

The Internet is full of recipes for cold-brewed coffee/iced coffee, and here’s one more. It’s so very simple, if a little time consuming. Fair warning, my recipe here is specifically based on using an 11-ounce bag of ground coffee, the size of which is most prevalent in my grocery stores. (A good bit of trial and error was involved here as a lot of recipes call for 10 or 12 ounces of coffee, and you’d be surprised how much that makes a difference in the final results.)

The perfect cold-brewed iced coffee

For the coffee concentrate:
  • One 11-ounce bag of course ground coffee
  • 6 2/3 cups of cold water
  • A fridge-safe container large enough to hold 7-8 cups
  • Another fridge-safe container that holds at least 1.5 quarts
  • For straining, a fine mesh sieve, cheesecloth and/or coffee filters
  • A funnel

In a sealable container (one that’ll fit in your fridge and hold at least 8 cups), pour in the ground coffee and then the water. Stir the mixture until all the grounds are incorporated. (If you’re using a bottle-type container, shake vigorously, with the cap on, of course.) Put the container in the fridge and let it rest for at least 10 hours but not more than 14. (I’ve read that this time frame is the optimal. I’ve not tried it longer for longer than 14 hours – too scared to waste more coffee than I already have!)

After brewing, it’s time to strain out the grounds. Line your sieve with 1-2 coffee filters or several layers of cheesecloth, place it in the top of properly sized funnel, and then place your funnel into whatever container will hold the concentrate. Working in small batches, and replacing the filters or cheesecloth when needed, strain the concentrate from the grounds into the new container. (With waiting for a batch of liquid/grounds to strain out, this process took about 45 minutes, and I came away with about 1.25 quarts of concentrate. Your results may vary.)

To make iced coffee:
  • 1/2 cup of liquid gold, i.e. the coffee concentrate
  • 6 ounces of cold water
  • 1-2 ounces of cream, half-and-half, or milk
    (If you like your coffee sweet, a dash of simple syrup would do the trick.)

Pour all the ingredients into a tall glass filled with ice, stir, and enjoy. If my ratios don’t work for you, simply adjust the dilution. Once you have the concentrate made, the rest is really up to your taste buds!


While Cary’s happy to talk food here, she’s also pretty good at doling out words about video games at United We Game while simultaneously maintaining her own blog, Recollections of Play. You can also find an archive of fun, geeky articles from her and like-minded souls at Geek Force Network.

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Shhh…it’s a secret!

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In gaming, there’s nothing like a good secret, or seven. Sometimes, you stumble across a secret — a path you never saw before, an item that gives you special powers, or a new place to visit. Other times, secrets are revealed for the benefit of masses or handed down between generations. It’s often the same in cooking. Maybe you carry a centuries-old secret family recipe, or maybe you figured something new out last week when you attempted to spice up your boring macaroni and cheese. In this post, I’m sharing a few of my favorite food-related secrets, some that I’ve discovered through trial and error, others that came through word-of-mouth (or the Internet).

For the best lightly-sweetened, mashed sweet potatoes, try some honey.
Somewhere in the past, I stumbled across the world’s simplest recipe – honey butter sweet potatoes. Simply cook and mash sweet potatoes (or yams) and stir in a couple tablespoons each of honey and butter. But one time with this recipe, during a crazy “I must eat healthy!” moment, I eliminated the butter and used only honey. The results were surprisingly tasty! I was a little worried that the potatoes would turn out gooey or sticky, but instead they took on a silkier texture, kind of like the effect of adding cream to mashed white potatoes. But what was really great was that the honey sweetened up the potatoes just enough to really bring out their flavor. With a couple pinches of salt, they were perfect. I now always make my honey sweet potatoes around the holidays when everything else on the table is already rich and laden with calories.

Tired of bland stir-fry? Infuse your soy sauce with brown sugar and ginger.
A few weeks back, I posted a stir-fry recipe that’s in my regular meal repertoire. Well, it contains a big secret; one that I only recently discovered! Prior to making my own stir-fry sauce, I had been using the bottled “teriyaki” sauces from the grocery store. While not bad, they were always too salty and overpowering for my taste. Then a friend told me about her homemade stir-fry sauce, the main components of which were soy sauce, brown sugar, and ginger. Well, I took that idea straight to the kitchen and haven’t looked back at bottled sauces. Adding brown sugar and (ground) ginger to soy sauce gives it a great flavor that, when cooked, is reminiscent of your favorite Chinese take-out. The versatile sauce can be used over noodles and rice, vegetables and meat. And you can add all sorts of other flavors to it — garlic, onion, pepper, vinegar — depending on your taste buds. And if you think it’s too thin, a little bit of cornstarch will thicken things right up.

If you aim to make thin, chewy cookies, only use one egg in the mix. 
Despite having a decent, hands-on knowledge of cooking science, this one took me awhile to latch onto. As most of you know, eggs are a staple in baking and cooking. Not only to they add flavor and richness, but they also act as binders and as leavening agents. That last bit is important when it comes to flour-based baked goods like cookies and cakes — eggs work to help the batter rise properly as it cooks. So, generally speaking, when you make a traditional cookie recipe that uses two eggs, the cookies turn out light, puffy, and have a cakey, crumbly texture. If you eliminate one egg, thereby eliminating a leavening agent, the cookies generally turn out a little thinner, chewier, and crispier around the edges – almost like those “freshly-baked” cookies you see on TV! Of course, a lot depends on the freshness of the eggs, the temperature regulation of your oven, the batter itself, and so on, so a little experimentation may be required to get things to your liking.

What’s my powerhouse ingredient when it comes to seasoning homemade soup? Oregano!
I’d long held the notion that oregano was only for spaghetti sauce and pizza until I started making my own soup. I followed several recipes but soon ventured out on my own, particularly when it came to bean soup, a perennial favorite. The main issue I had when it came to bean soup was getting the seasoning right. While beans offer up unique flavors, just cooking them in broth wouldn’t do. Plenty of the soup recipes that I worked with included oregano as a component, but never as the main spice. Well, one day, being low on spices and with a ready pot of bean soup, I added in a good amount of dried oregano, some salt, a couple bay leaves, and some garlic powder, and let things simmer away. The results? Fantastic! The oregano gave the soup a hearty and bright aroma and lent the beans a nicely herbed flavor. I now keep loads of oregano round during the winter just for soup-making! (P. S. This goes mainly for broth-based soups, though I’m sure oregano has it’s place in cream-based soups as well.)

Want to punch up those chocolate brownies/cookies/cake pops? A little coffee goes a long way.
This is one of my favorite it’s-not-really-a-secret secrets. And I say this not just because I adore coffee, but because coffee and chocolate are simply a baking match made in heaven! Ever since discovering years ago a chocolate brownie recipe that used finely-ground coffee in the mix, I’ve been hooked on adding coffee grounds to any recipe that calls for baking cocoa. (And coffee in liquid form has it’s place too. 🙂 ) But the real secret behind using coffee in baking is getting it as finely ground as possible. Some coffee grinders do a suitable job of this — I think a mortar and pestle works even better. But however you grind up the coffee, the particulates need to be super-duper tiny in order to extract all the tasty deliciousness. And using it doesn’t make your chocolate dessert taste like coffee, it just makes it taste even more rich and chocolately!

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Do you have any favorite (and shareable) cooking or baking secrets?


Let’s see just how many blogs Cary can put on her roster before going mad! While you’ll find her here on occasion, you’ll more likely to catch her over on United We Game or Geek Force Network; or better yet, working on her own blog about gaming and nostalgia and such, Recollections of Play.

 

 

 

The Best Molasses Cookies in the Entire World

And when I say “entire,” I mean E-N-T-I-R-E. And I’m very serious about it. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m also serious about cookies, so this post is doubly serious! Seriously delicious!

Hahahaha! Ha..ha… …ahem…

In my neck of the woods, December is month of cookie swaps, which are really little more than an excuse to drink gin and eat cookies before dinner. Or coffee…and cookies. What did I say? Anyway, I picked up this recipe from my mother years ago. She always made molasses cookies around the holidays, and I loved every last crumb of those rich, spicy delights. Turned out that what I thought was a “secret family recipe” was, in fact, pilfered from the back of the molasses jar, with one little difference. If you happen to have Grandma’s® Molasses in your local stores, that’s where you’ll find this recipe. But, that one little difference added by my mother — coffee — sends these cookies to the moon. It’s optional, and the change in the flavor is subtle, but it’s there. Give the recipe a try with and without the coffee and see if you can taste the difference.

Or just enjoy some darn fine cookies with another glass of gin. Coffee. You know what I mean.

The Best Molasses Cookies in the Entire World

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter or shortening, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup liquid gold, er…coffee, the stronger the better (optional, but…c’mon)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
a couple tablespoons of white sugar in a small bowl (also optional)

Instructions
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease cookie sheet(s).
  • Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices into a small bowl.
  • In a large bowl, blend butter and brown sugar. Mix in egg, molasses, and coffee.
  • Stir flour mixture into wet ingredients until everything is just moistened.
  • Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes. (Dough can be made and chilled several hours in advance.)
  • Roll the dough into small balls. (Golf ball-sized dough balls will produce cookies that are about 3-4 inches across, which makes about 18-20 cookies, so judge accordingly.)
  • If you want a frosty, crispy topping on your cookies, dip the balls into the bowl of sugar, coating one side only.
  • Place dough (sugared-side up, if applicable) on sheet pans. For an extra crackly look, sprinkle a couple drops of water onto the tops of each cookie.
  • Bake for 10 minutes or until edges are slightly browned and set. (Don’t overbake!)

The cookies are great warm or cooled with gin coffee.


Let’s see just how many blogs Cary can put on her roster before going mad! While you’ll find her here on occasion, you’ll more likely to catch her over on United We Game or Geek Force Network; or better yet, working on her own blog about gaming and nostalgia and such, Recollections of Play.