Friday, February 18, 2011

Siphon Coffee Brewing and Hazelnut Cinnamon Biscotti

Apparently when I was a kid, I thought that coffee was the last socially acceptable addiction, but thanks to a recent obsession (see also: dub music), now I get why.

One of the joys of living near the west coast hot spots is that the guys (it's always guys) who are into coffee take it to a flat-out ridiculous level of obsession. I went to Stumptown Annex in Portland last week, and while checking out their bean selection, I casually told the counter guy that I was just getting into coffee and was interested in knowing more about the broad flavor trends between the big global coffee-producers (Central America, Southeast Asia, Africa). Lord love him, but he was totally incapable of dumbing it down for me. He said that making those kind of generalizations would be like asking what "wine from Europe" was like.

So I'll be the first to admit that I don't really know anything about coffee: up until a few months ago, I didn't really drink much coffee at all. All that changed with the first cup of coffee I made with my siphon brewer (which I found, new in the box, at the Boise flea market for $10).

I'll admit, even if I didn't I love the process -- like my friend Trey says, it's coffee theater -- and appreciate the fact that it's a great justification for indulging my love for scientific glassware, brewing coffee this way would be a waste of time if it didn't make super good coffee. My little Hario didn't disappoint.

I could never explain the process as well as the impressively-produced little video below, but the point is that the water in the brewing chamber never reaches the boiling point, so most of the bitter compounds stay in the coffee. The result is a bright, floral flavor with lots of salty, caramel-y body. I just tried an Ethiopian varietal from Stumptown that actually tasted like raspberries. Another varietal from Kenya is described as having "notes of kiwi, cocoa, pineapple and raw sugar in a cup redolent of dried flowers."

Is it all psychosomatic? Why would it be for coffee and not for wine or scotch? Admittedly, all these flavors are really subtle (it is black coffee, after all) but the fact that I can taste even one or two of them is pretty exciting. And, my brewer and hand grinder are both from Japan. The New York Times would be proud. Next, I wanted to bake something to complement my labor of love, and guess what? Biscotti go really well with coffee!

This recipe from Baked is basically perfect. Warm cinnamon, creamy hazelnuts, semisweet chocolate, and black coffee? I made another recipe alongside these (white chocolate and dried cranberries with semolina flour), but they were so sad next to the world's best biscotti that I couldn't muster up the heart to take any good pictures of them. My best advice when making these is to use plenty of parchment paper. A paper sling makes transferring the dense dough much easier.

Hazelnut Cinnamon Biscotti
  • 1 1/3 c sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 1/4 c AP flour
  • 1 1/2 c blanched hazelnuts, toasted
  • 1 3/4 c (10 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 egg white
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
  3. Beat the eggs and sugar in an electric mixture until the color is uniform and the mixture thick. Add the vanilla and beat for 5 seconds. Add the flour in two batches and beat until just combined. Scrape down the bowl, add the hazelnuts and chocolate chips, and beat until just combined.
  4. Turn the dough out onto parchment paper. Use a dough scraper to form into a log about 16" long, 3 1/2" wide, and 3/4" thick. Smooth the top with an offset spatula. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until firm but not browned. Cool for 10 minutes.
  5. Lower the oven to 325 degrees F. While the log cools, whisk together the egg white and 2 Tsp of water and apply the egg wash to the top of the dough with a pastry brush.
  6. Cut the log into 3/4" slices with a serrated knife. Lay the biscotti on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, cut side down, and bake for 25 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

1 comment:

Yaniv said...

This brings me back to some of the best cups of coffee I've ever had. While most of them were cappuccinos in Italy and France, LA surprisingly has some very dedicated baristas that take their coffee very seriously. There are a few places there that offer siphoned coffee but those orders will usually run you 10-15 large. If you're ever in Silverlake, check out Lamill Coffee. It's one of the loveliest coffee shops I've ever had the pleasure of visiting.