Tuesday 24 April 2018

Rachel Allen: Espresso Yourself

Coffee is not just an essential of everyday life but, explains Rachel Allen, its rich flavour makes it ideal for cooking the perfect pick-me-up.

Rachel Allen
Rachel Allen
Coffee cake

Rachel Allen, Photography by Tony Gavin

Coffee's transformative power is well known in our house. My husband, Isaac, becomes a new man after he's had his morning cup or two. I drink coffee, too, but not every morning. Often, just that gorgeous, unmistakably roasted aroma is enough to get me going.

Yet coffee's caffeine content is not the only reason why it is the world's most consumed drink. That unforgettable flavour is as addictive as any morning boost, and is an essential part of some of my favourite desserts.

When cooking with coffee, I use different kinds, depending on the recipe. The tiramisu recipe, opposite, uses strong black coffee; espresso works particularly well. Real coffee is ideal for this recipe -- not only for the rich coffee flavour, but so that it is soaked up, along with the brandy, by the sweet boudoir biscuits for that perfect tiramisu texture.

Tiramisu means 'pick me up'. It's said to be called this for two reasons: either because it has all that alcohol and caffeine, or because tiramisu is so good that people, on eating it, are said to swoon and need picking up! Uncompromisingly indulgent with mascarpone cheese and cream, this tiramisu can be made up to 24 hours in advance, making it a perfect choice for entertaining.

The coffee and mascarpone cake recipe uses Irel coffee essence; a strange substance that mysteriously also contains chicory.

The story goes that it was originally developed to be used as an instant coffee for the army. Now it's mostly used in baking, where it's often better to use than brewed coffee as it adds so little liquid to the mixture.

Coffee cake is a real classic and this recipe opposite is a versatile, elegant one that I think most people should have in their repertoire. It can be made as a dessert and, of course, is lovely eaten with a cup of coffee.

The hazelnut-and-coffee meringue recipe makes use of instant coffee, which is especially useful here as the meringue shouldn't have any liquid added.

These meringues are perfect on their own with tea, or, if you like, you could serve them with whipped cream, or even dip them in melted chocolate and allow them to set before serving.


Serves 6.

You will need:

1 egg yolk, see my Tip, above

1 tablespoon caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

250g (9oz) tub mascarpone cheese

200ml (7fl oz) cream

200ml (7fl oz) strong black coffee -- espresso is ideal

2 tablespoons brandy

10-12 boudoir biscuits, each broken into three pieces

1-2 tablespoons cocoa powder in a sieve for dusting

Place the egg yolk, the caster sugar and the vanilla extract in a bowl and whisk to a creamy consistency.

Add the mascarpone cheese and the cream, and continue to whisk until you have a smooth, creamy mixture.

In a shallow dish, mix together the strong black coffee and the brandy. Line up six glasses for serving. Dip two or three pieces of the boudoir biscuits in the coffee and brandy -- you want the biscuits to absorb the liquid, but not so much that they fall apart. Put two or three soaked bits of boudoir biscuit in the bottom of each serving glass.

Next, add a tablespoon of the mascarpone cheese and cream mixture to each glass to cover the boudoir biscuit pieces. Follow with another layer of three pieces of boudoir biscuit that you have dipped in the coffee and brandy mixture. Finish off by topping each of the six serving glasses with another layer of the mascarpone cheese and cream mixture. Dust each glass with cocoa powder and place in the fridge to chill for an hour, but they can sit for up to 24 hours.

Dust with a little more cocoa powder to serve. Take them out of the fridge at least 10 minutes before serving, so they are not too chilled.

Coffee cake


Coffee mascarpone cake

Serves 8-12.

For the cake, you will need:

Butter for greasing

Flour for dusting

175g (6oz) butter, softened

175g (6oz) caster sugar

3 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons Irel coffee essence

175g (6oz) self-raising flour

For the filling and icing, you will need:

250g (9oz) mascarpone cheese

3 tablespoons icing sugar, sifted

1 tablespoon Irel coffee essence

Cocoa powder, for dusting (optional)

You will need 2 x 18cm (7in) diameter cake tins. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4, then butter the sides of the cake tins, dusting them lightly with flour, then lining the base of each tin with a disc of baking parchment.

Cream the butter until soft in a large bowl or in an electric food mixer. Add the caster sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Gradually add the beaten eggs and the Irel coffee essence to the creamed butter and sugar mixture, beating all the time. Sift in the self-raising flour and fold it in gently to the cake mix. Divide the batter between the two prepared tins, making a slight hollow in the centre, so they will rise with a flattish top.

Put the tins in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until well-risen, golden brown and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow the cakes to sit in the tins for 10 minutes.

Loosen around the edges of each cake using a small, sharp knife, then carefully remove the cakes from the tins and leave them on a wire rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the icing. Place the mascarpone cheese in a bowl, and mix in the icing sugar, along with the Irel coffee essence.

Place one of the cakes upside down on a plate, then spread half the icing over it. Put the other cake, right side up, on top of the filling, then spread the rest of the icing on top and dust with the cocoa powder, if you're using it.

Hazelnut and coffee meringues
Makes 8 meringues.

You will need:

4 egg whites

Pinch of salt

250g (9oz) caster sugar

1 tablespoon instant coffee

50g (1oz) toasted, chopped hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 140°C, 275°F, Gas 1. Line two baking trays with parchment paper. Put the egg whites and the pinch of salt in a large, spotlessly clean bowl and, using an electric whisk or a food mixer with a whisk attachment, whisk until soft peaks form.

Gradually add the caster sugar, one tablespoon at a time, whisking between each addition, until it has all been added and the meringue is satiny and forms stiff peaks.

Using a large spatula or metal spoon, fold in the instant coffee and the toasted chopped hazelnuts.

Spoon the meringue mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm nozzle and pipe a series of small rosettes, each approximately 7cm (2¾in) wide, on to the prepared baking sheets. Alternatively, you can use a tablespoon to make rough (rustic!) 'blob' shapes.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Test a meringue by lifting it and gently pressing the base -- it should be crisp, but give way with a bit of pressure.

The meringues will crisp up more when they are cooling.

For best results, turn off the heat and allow them to cool in the oven with the door slightly ajar.


Rachel Recommends

Pat Whelan is one of our finest butchers, and he's absolutely right that it's about time we had a cookbook dedicated to one of our country's finest foods. Thankfully, he and Katy McGuinness have written the wonderfully extensive The Irish Beef Book. It is full of delicious recipes and innovative ideas about cooking with beef that draw on Pat's decades of butchery experience.

'The Irish Beef Book' is published by Gill & Macmillan, RRP €22.99


Rachel's Tip

Don't throw away egg whites. When you're separating yolks from whites, keep the whites for meringues. The whites will keep in the fridge for weeks -- they'll also keep in the freezer. If you forget how many whites you have in a container, don't worry: one egg white weighs roughly 28 grams or one ounce.

  • Rachel's clothes, Brown Thomas
  • Jewellery, Loulerie
  • Make-up by Roisin Derrane for Lancome, using the Lancome Spring 2014 Colour Collection
  • Hair by Jennifer Lil Buckley, Brown Sugar

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