For centuries, coffee drinkers have paired some of their favourite beverages with a range of different foods. Perhaps most notably, desserts, from cakes and cookies to donuts and ice cream, have long since been enjoyed with a cup of coffee.
However, as the culinary world has developed, coffee has been recognised as more than a beverage to be enjoyed with a dessert. Instead, chefs are recognising its use as an ingredient, in tiramisu or an affogato, for example.
To learn more about how coffee can complement desserts, I spoke with two specialty coffee enthusiasts and patisserie professionals. They told me more about making desserts with coffee and how to choose a coffee to use, as well as providing me with four great dessert recipes. Read on to find out more.
You might also like our article on how to recreate a coffee shop cappuccino at home.
Using coffee in desserts: An overview
Hendrik Pretorius is a pastry chef and baker for Simpli Coffee & Bakery, a specialty coffee and dessert chain based in Lisbon.
Originally from Heidelberg, South Africa, Hendrik has also worked in specialty coffee in Dubai. He says that working alongside specialty coffee professionals has been a great learning experience, and that it has informed his baking.
“Coffee is a beautiful ingredient to use in baking,” Hendrik tells me. “As a coffee lover, I really appreciate the aroma and flavours.”
Hendrik says that in all of his recipes, the coffee he uses isn’t brewed or instant. Instead, he tells me that he uses very finely ground coffee, which he often mixes in with baking powder.
“It might sound strange, but the flavour is much more natural, especially with chocolate,” he tells me.
When it comes to choosing a coffee for his recipes, Hendrik tells me that he works alongside Bright Mbambo, an SCA-certified barista from South Africa.
Bright and Hendrik both recommend using coffees that have a fruity or chocolatey cup profile, as he says these (especially chocolatey coffees) complement desserts and cakes well.
They also both believe that the brightness, balance, and acidity that you can find in Panamanian Geisha and Ethiopian coffees from regions like Sidamo can be well-suited to dessert recipes, as they complement sweeter flavours very well.
Le gâteau marbré au café (marbled coffee cake)
For this recipe, Hendrik says: “The fresh ground coffee will give a beautiful dark coffee colour to the pastry… when removing these from the oven you will smell the aroma of the coffee.”
For a vegan alternative, Hendrik adds that you can replace the butter with vegan butter or margarine, and the milk with almond or oat milk. Replace the egg with a mixture of 1 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp vinegar.
- 10g ground coffee (added to the baking powder before cooking)
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- 100g almond powder
- 1 large egg
- 250g flour
- 200g butter
- 180g sugar
- 100ml milk
- 10ml vanilla extract
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Preheat your oven to 180ºC (356ºF).
- Combine the sugar and eggs together with a whisk, hand mixer, or stand mixer. Add the vanilla extract and mix until the mixture is light and fluffy. Melt the butter and add it into the mixture gradually.
- Sift the flour in, and add the almond powder alongside your coffee-baking powder. Gently “fold” the dry ingredients into the wet mixture until completely combined.
- Remove a small amount of the mixture and mix it separately with the cocoa powder. Return the cocoa mixture gently back into the bowl, and fold it in to create a “marbling” effect.
- Pour the mixture into a loaf pan, and bake at 175ºC (347ºF) for 50 to 60 minutes.
Mocha choc cookies
For a vegan alternative to these, Hendrik says you can replace the butter with vegan butter or margarine. Replace the dark chocolate with vegan chocolate, and replace the eggs with a mixture of 2 tsp vinegar and 2 tsp baking soda.
- 30g ground coffee
- 280g rye flour
- 250g dark chocolate chips
- 225g light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 220g unsalted butter
- 5ml vanilla extract
- 100g caster sugar
- 5g baking soda
- Kosher salt
- If using a stand mixer, use a paddle attachment; if you are mixing by hand, use a wooden spoon.
- Beat the butter, the caster sugar and the brown sugar lightly together until the mixture is fluffy (this will take about 10 minutes by hand).
- Add one egg at a time, mixing at a medium speed, and then add the vanilla essence. Make sure to mix it for at least two minutes, so it is well-incorporated.
- In a separate, medium-sized bowl, combine the ground coffee, rye flour, bicarbonate of soda, a pinch of salt, and chocolate chips. Once combined, pour the dry ingredients into the sugar and butter mixture slowly.
- Rest the dough overnight, either in an airtight container or wrapped tightly in plastic film.
- Preheat your oven to 180ºC (356º F) and place a rack in the centre of the oven.
- Line a tray with baking paper, and measure out your dough into 30g chunks.
- Roll each piece into a ball, then press it down onto the baking tray, leaving at least 5cm between each piece of dough.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cookies are crispy around the edges but still a bit soft in the middle. Let them cool down for about 10 to 15 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack and enjoy.
Micaela Victoria is originally from Argentina, but is currently based in Houston, Texas. She is a graduate of the School of Bakery and Patisserie in Paris, and a passionate specialty coffee brewer.
She says that both of her desserts go very well with coffee and can be successfully baked at home, even by beginners.
- 125g whole milk
- 125g water
- 110g butter (French style, 82% fat)
- 5g granulated sugar
- 2g sea salt
- 140g all-purpose flour, sifted
- 4 large eggs
- Coffee pastry cream (recipe below)
- Craquelin topping (optional, recipe below)
- Preheat your oven to 200ºC (392ºF). In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, water, sugar, and sea salt. Stir together with a wooden spoon. Bring it to a full boil.
- Once it comes to a boil and you see that the butter and sugar are well incorporated into the milk, turn off the heat.
- Take off the heat and stir in the flour with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula. When it is combined, put it back on a medium-high heat. Stir the mixture constantly until it starts to pull away from the edges; a film will start to form on the bottom of the pan.
- At this point, transfer the batter to a stand mixer, and mix on a slow or low setting for about two minutes while it cools down. While mixing, add the eggs one at a time, but make sure you fully incorporate each egg before adding the next.
- Check the consistency of your batter. To see if the consistency is right, when you pull the paddle up, it should stick to the paddle and hang down in the shape of a V.
- Fill your pastry bag with batter and pipe it onto a baking sheet. Add your craquelin topping (recipe below) to each puff if you are using it; if you are not, melt some butter in the microwave, and using a pastry brush or your finger, gently rub the entire surface, patting down any pointed tips.
- Bake for 15 minutes at 205ºC (400º F) and then turn down the temperature to 176ºC (350ºF) and bake for 20 more minutes, until golden brown. At this point, remove them from the oven, ideally transferring to a wire rack to allow the pastries to fully cool.
- Once cooled, fill your choux puffs with coffee pastry cream (recipe below). To do this, add the cream to a piping bag fitted with a small tip. Insert the piping bag into each choux and fill. Once full, lightly dust the top of each cream puff with cocoa powder or coffee pastry cream.
Coffee pastry cream
- 250ml milk
- 3 egg yolks
- 50g sugar
- 15g cornstarch
- 40g butter (refrigerated and cut into cubes)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Sea salt
- 2 tbsp instant coffee powder or ground coffee
- In a large mixing bowl, mix the yolks, vanilla, cornstarch, and sugar. Whisk until well combined and the mixture is light in colour. Heat the milk in a saucepan.
- When it comes to a boil, add approximately 80 to 90ml (one-third of the pan) to the egg mixture and stir well.
- Once mixed, add to the saucepan containing the rest of the milk, and cook on a low-medium heat for another couple of minutes, whisking constantly. Once thick and mixed, add the cold butter cubes and stir until well combined.
- Transfer the cream to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 to 4 hours (preferably overnight) to allow it to completely set.
- Mix 60g unsalted butter with 60g brown sugar until smooth. Add 60g plain flour, and continue mixing until it is a small paste.
- Place the craquelin dough between two sheets of baking paper, and flatten with a rolling pin until it is around 2mm thick. Place in a freezer for at least one hour before use.
Chocolate cookies with coffee ganache
- 125g unsalted butter
- 75g caster sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 200g pastry flour
- 25g cocoa powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 100g heavy cream
- 150g milk chocolate, finely chopped
- ½ tsp instant coffee
- Heat the cream and coffee in a saucepan until very hot, but not quite boiling. Pour your finely chopped milk chocolate into the pan and whisk the mixture until shiny and smooth.
- Let the ganache mixture cool, and refrigerate it for at least four hours (preferably overnight).
- For your cookies, mix the butter and sugar together in a bowl. Add the egg yolk and mix them briefly. Add the pastry flour, cocoa powder, and salt; mix until completely incorporated.
- Wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate for at least two hours. Roll the dough between two pieces of parchment paper until it is 4mm thick. Preheat the oven at 160°C (320°F), and bake the cookies for about 10 to 15 minutes. Once cooled, transfer them to a wire rack.
- Scoop the ganache into a piping bag and fill each cookie as desired, topping with cocoa powder or icing sugar.
These four coffee desserts have been meticulously designed by patisserie professionals who love specialty coffee.
They balance traditional desserts such as cakes and cookies with a delicate coffee flavour to bring out the best of both. Next time you’re stuck for dessert ideas, why not try one of these?
Enjoyed this? Then try Six Summer Coffee Cocktails You Can Make At Home
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