Gift Guide: For Coffee Lovers

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We are coffee geeks. Well, to put more accurately, Mr. Debtist is a coffee geek and I happen to benefit tremendously from his random tidbits of coffee knowledge. We have traveled the world, he in search of the best coffee, me in search of the best bread. It’s a good marriage, coffee and bread.

We have visited to a coffee farm in Hawaii, attended coffee cupping classes, and visited cafes in Mexico City, MX, Melbourne, AU, and San Francisco, CA to name a few. Over the course of our time together (it has already been ten years!), we have owned all sorts of gadgets and have experimented with everything from uniquely processed coffee beans to cupping vessels.

Coffee, to me, is more than energy fuel. It is a symbol of slow living. Ironic, isn’t it? I don’t drink coffee to get stuff done. I don’t even drink coffee to wake myself up. I drink it because I like the preparation process. I like the nuances in taste, which is dependent on everything from type of bean, location of the coffee farm, roasting process, roasting date, water temperature, and of course, how you pour. There are very few activities that keep me in the present moment but making coffee is one of them. It is the part of my life that keeps my day-to-day united. Whereas some people consider their days in terms of new beginnings and an end, I am trying to view them as connected to each other; a continuous cycle, if I may. Coffee is one of the things that ground me in that cycle. Every evening, I look forward to the next morning’s cup. Every morning’s cup creates space to slow down and think about all the things that happened to me the day before. And so it goes, connecting my days into one full life.

Of course coffee symbolizes different things for different people. Whereas I view it as my reminder to live slowly, others may view it as the giver of life. Even if coffee isn’t your thing, there is likely someone you know who loves coffee. In which case, here a coffee gift guide, for whoever needs it. These are our favorite products (all of which we have either owned at some point or personally tried).

Cheddar and Herb Scones

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When it comes to breakfast items, I am one who favors savory treats over sweets. That is why these Cheddar and Herb Scones are a staple in our household! I am already a big fan of scones in general for their simple and quick process. As much as I love my Kitchen Aid Mixer, scones are one of the few baked goods that I make by hand, without any electric gadgets. There is something very meditative about the sifting of flours, the pinching of cold butter bits in between my fingers, and the kneading of shaggy dough with my hands.

My favorite time to whip up these beauties is in the early morning hours, between rising and making coffee. It helps ease me into my day. Rote motions work subconsciously as my body wakes with every memorized movement. The oven pre-heats, warming the cold kitchen cement floors while I prepare the dough. The scones bake for 18 minutes exactly while I wash the dishes I used and boil water in my Fellow kettle. I make my pour-over coffee with my Chemex, the sound of coffee drips melding in with the smell of cheese. I pour my coffee into my favorite East Fork mug just as the oven beeps. It is a routine that I have mastered and re-mastered.

Scones also get bonus points for their versatility. I like to play with different types of flours as well as toppings. I had previously published my favorite Rye Strawberry and Thyme Scone recipe here. Alternative additions in our household include Blueberry and Lemon, or Caramelized Onion and Bacon. This Cheddar and Herb Scone Recipe is a modification of all those recipes. Once you have a good scone recipe down, you can’t really go wrong with the experimentation.

I hope you enjoy this as much as me and the housemates do!

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup dark rye flour
  • 1/3 cup spelt flour
  • 1/3 cup einkorn flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
  • 3 tbsp. sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbs unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
  • 1/2 cup fresh herbs (I like a mix of chives, thyme, and rosemary).
  • 1.5 cups Mexican cheese, shredded
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream plus additional for brushing
  • Smoked Maldon sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

The Process:

  1.  Preheat the oven to 400 F with a rack in the center.
  2. Sift the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Add the butter pieces and with thumb and pointy finger, flatten the butter, pinching floury bits into it, Tara Jensen style. Alternatively, you can use two knives to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles small peas.
  4. Stir in the cheese and herbs.
  5.  Whisk the eggs together in a separate bowl. Add heavy cream and vanilla to the egg mixture and whisk again until well mixed.
  6. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture with a fork, mixing until just combined. I l liken the end result to one big, shaggy mess.
  7. Lightly dust a clean work surface (I use my marble pastry slab from Crate and Barrel which I use for all my baking needs, but a wooden surface works well too), with flour. Turn the dough onto this surface and knead until just combined.
  8. Shape the dough into a square (6 inch x 6 inch). Cut the dough into four 3-inch squares using a bench scraper (my favorite is by Ateco but something like this would do, too), then cut the smaller squares into triangles.
  9. Arrange the scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the tops with heavy cream using a pastry brush. Sprinkle the tops generously with Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Depending on the flavor profile you are aiming for, you can favor one topping over another.
  10. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Transfer the scones to a rack and cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

This recipe was modified from Kinfolk Table, by far my favorite published recipe book for its unassuming simplicity and charm. If you can, support local and small bookstores such as Lido Village Bookstore, one of my SoCal faves.

At-Home Cold-Brew

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It’s my favorite season again; cold brew season! Iced coffee in glass cups behind tall windows, as your whole being gets warmed by a magnified sun. It used to be that I would enjoy nothing more than biking to a favorite local coffee spot, ordering a glass of cold brew, and being swallowed by a nook with one of their magazines to peruse. I wouldn’t say “gone were the days”, but I did shift some habits within the last year, and paying $4 a cold brew a few times a week stopped being something I looked forward to. Luckily, I’ve got Mike to guide my hand in creating my own at home. The truth of the matter is, it’s a very simple process that hardly takes time or work at all. It can be steeped overnight as you sleep and dream of coffee things, and then pre-prepared and stored in the fridge in batches of 10-20 cups. According to Mike, it should only last a week in the fridge, but that’s not much of a problem at our house. Plus, I consider less than $1/cup a frugal win. The best part? Accessibility of iced-coffee drinks, at all times.

Tools You Need:

There are a few gadgets that you will need in order to make cold-brew at home. These are some of our gadgets that we are not impartial to.

  • Scale – I own this one, because it weighs heavy-enough things for bread-making as well. I also like this because I can toggle between grams and ounces. Mike has this one that he uses for coffee exclusively, which is what we mostly use when measuring coffee bean and water weight. It is especially useful since it has that timer, essential to latte pulls and drip-coffee!
  • Grinder – The grinder plays a huge role in the quality of your brew (or espresso, or latte, or what-have-you). We used to just live with the results of a sub-par grinder, until last Christmas, when our gift to each other was a high quality grinder that has been spewing out delicious pours ever since.
  • French Press – Mike has owned a French press way before a Chemex or an espresso machine, and this may have been his first introduction to coffee. To be honest, prior to the habit shift of making cold-brews at home, all the French press has done the last couple of years is look pretty on a shelf. I am so glad that I can finally make use of this beauty once again.
  • Chemex – You can use any drip-coffee vessel, but we love our Chemex. We like the style with the glass handle, but there are ones with a wooden middle, if aesthetics are more of a concern. We use it for extracting hot coffee brews as well, but the summer time is going to change that.
  • Gooseneck Kettle – Precision is key when making a pour-over cup of coffee. We own the Fellow’s stovetop Stagg Kettle and love its slender gooseneck. It allows us to pour water slowly and with control. Plus there is a thermometer lid which ensures the correct water temperature each time (a must!). I would recommend this brand to anyone who wants to make a good pour-over. If you would like, they have an electric version too!
  • Filter – We used to buy disposable paper filters for our Chemex. Over the holidays, Mike’s sister gifted us a pair of reusable hemp filter, and we have never thrown a filter out since then. Surprisingly, it is such an easy clean up process. You simply wash it like you would a towel and hang to dry.
    A similar one, here.
  • Fresh, whole coffee beans (To make about 10 cups, use 125 grams of coffee beans to 500 mL of water. For about 20 cups, use 250 grams of coffee beans to 1 L of water.
  • Water
  • Serving vessel or container – To store my cold-brew concentrate, I simply use mason jars (surprise, surprise). We DO have refillable howlers and growlers, wherein Mike likes to store already-diluted cold-brew.

The Process:

  1. Weigh the appropriate amount of coffee beans and grind them at a medium-coarse setting. If you are using the same grinder as us, we usually have the setting around 9E.
  2. Set the French press on top of the scale and add the ground coffee. Tare the scale.
  3. Fill the French press with the proper amount of cold water. Use a spoon to stir the coffee, making sure all the grounds are wet.
  4. Put the lid of the French press into place and press the filter down just enough to submerge the coffee below the water. Let the coffee steep at room temperature for about 12 hours. Usually we prepare this part in the evening around dinner time. We then leave it on the counter overnight and it is ready to be prepared the next morning. You can also make this in the morning before you head off to work, and then in the evening, you can continue the steps and let it cool in the fridge overnight. Really, this is very flexible for multiple schedules.
  5. After 12 hours, slowly plunge the filter to the bottom of the French press.
  6. Place the filter in the Chemex. Pour the cold brew concentrate from the French press through the filter, letting the coffee drip through.
  7. Before drinking, you will need to dilute the cold-brew concentrate using the following ratio: 1 part concentrate to 3 parts water, making sure to use a scale for accuracy. For the non-picky, you can always eyeball it, or decide based on your taste preference. For the especially particular, measuring is the way to go. Pour over ice. This can be stored in the fridge for up to 1 week, before it starts to degrade. For me personally, I just store the concentrate and ration it out whenever I am ready to drink. Mikey likes everything pre-prepared for even more accessibility throughout the week. To each their own!