Okay, I know I have a problem, this I’ve never doubted.
Though we can never marry, and he is not always there when I need him, Coffee and I can never be apart for long.
Here, I am busy enough and live far enough away from work that coffee is no longer the first thought in my head when I wake up. Actually, “fuck, I gotta piss” is the first thought, but this isn’t a post about urinary tract infections (see July). I don’t even think of coffee until I have left the flat and am about two blocks into my journey. Regardless of who I am talking to, what is going on around me, what shambles I likely appear, the longing begins and I fantasize about drinking coffee and my ability to concentrate is all but completely shattered until I can have it. This is a Lorelai Gilmore sized coffee addiction.
I can manage without it. There have been two days here where I woke up so late coffee of any sort was out of the question and I hadn’t yet nicked a giant box of Nestle Instant Espresso that is now hidden in my pastry cave for me to dip into and concoct something that uses three packages, half a cup of water, and a tablespoon of whipping cream. The busiest day the resto saw during my stay (90 lunch, 150 dinner) I actually managed without a drop of coffee, but admittedly I had a terrible headache, was cranky as hell, and totally confused for 13 hours. There was a moment around 9pm when I realized at 5pm I had sent out a Passionfruit bavarois instead of that godforsaken strawberry tart. I was so ashamed.
Last week, a friend of the Canadian was in town and he had the day off. I was finished at 3pm for a change, and agreed to meet them in Hyde Park after a quick jaunt to Harrods for fancy cherries to give my Sunday Bakewells a pop.
Oh wait, Olympics were still happening.
I leave the hotel and am immediately sucked into a sea of sweaty sports fans and patriotism (something the English do almost as well as queing).
Eventually I make it to Harrods, pick up the jam and some incredible coffee grind-filled chocolate, am offered tourist directions which I politely decline ( I do have a UK bank card after all, do only tourists and Jennifer Saunders shop at Harrods?), then hop back on the tube one stop to Hyde Park Corner so I can stroll through the park back to Marble Arch. Despite the crowds, it is a beautiful day.
Hyde park and Withnail (my iPhone, I name all my electronics after miserable people) do not get along. Withnail becomes very confused in Hyde Park. Admittedly I have become very lost while relying on his GPS in Hyde Park before, so I can only blame my lack of coffee for why I thought I could make it this time.
GPS directs me
Only, when I get back to Hyde Park Corner Station, it is exit-only and I am now on the incorrect end which means I can’t get back on the tube.
I have no interest in walking back to Knightsbridge because it is a weird place and being there compels me to purchase expensive but cleverly designed bottles of Gin I simply cannot afford.
There is a sign that says Green Park Station 6 minutes, and beside it pointing in a different direction Victoria Station 15 minutes. I go for Green Park because I’ve never been to Victoria and am quite sure it is very much out of my way. At this point, I am trying to get to SoHo because I’ve taken so long they have abandoned the park for a more delicious venue.
I see none.
Um. That sign says Victoria Station 6 minutes.
- I have been walking longer than 9 minutes so these signs are lying
- WHERE THE FUCK DID GREEN PARK GO, QUESTION MARK!
So I am lost in Belgravia. I don’t know what it is, I only know it’s approximate location, but I have at least heard the name before, so I am not especially upset. I do absolutely have to take a piss. Withnail tells me there are lots of buses from Belgravia to SoHo, but keeps where to catch these buses to himself. Tease.
I arrive at Victoria Station. My head feels like it will, without a doubt, explode. My eyes are attempting to secede from my face. I search for the Underground, but they keep it tucked away like a creepy family secret and instead encourage people to buy Burger King from one of three locations or leggings from Accessorize. I am transported back in time by Victoria’s bizarre inner architecture and realize I have in fact been here; I had to drag my giant luggage through this wretched neon-illuminated mishmash of a building when I first arrived. Victoria Station is a symbol of great confusion and stress.
I find a coffee shop. I dig in my change purse. I have almost no money. I stare at the caffeinated options, begging to find something I can afford. The Italians behind the counter look uneasy. I look like a total fucking messface.
Cause I only have ₤1.70.
Sometimes we have to make tough decisions. Life altering decisions. I made one that day. I bought an espresso, a single fucking ounce of black deliciousness for a fucking ₤1.65 cause I couldn’t afford anything else because it MIGHT make my headache fade just a bit.
I bought that over priced espresso. Shaking, I turned down the offer for milk, grabbed the teeny paper cup with a snarl, avoided eye contact and rushed out of the shop. I sat down outside Victoria Station like a tramp and sipped it, in a vain attempt to make it last like a real coffee, but it just became tepid and bitter. I smoked a cigarette. My headache went away. Everything seemed alright. But I was still in fucking Belgravia.
This dessert is an ode to the love of my life. It is also the first real dish I’ve had on a menu, so it is kinda special to me.
It isn’t pretty (hence all the horrible photos I’ve taken of every angle, trying to make it look classy and awesome). I was asked to make a dish that had chocolate, coffee foam, and salted caramel and ended up with this, the closest thing I can make to a mocha/flat white hybrid. While it doesn’t have a bear or batman drawn into the foam, it is very tasty, and as a coffee addict, I find it to be a satisfying alternative.
Chocolate & Coffee “Ganache”
The ganache is in quotes because it isn’t a traditional ganache, which is an emulsion of chocolate and cream. This version uses very little chocolate and a gelling agent called carragean to set it; the result is something that is rich but not intense, with a light sweetness and great flavour.
250g Whipping Cream
90g Dark Chocolate, 64-70%
100g Whipping Cream
75g Whole Milk
3 pkg Nestle Instant Espresso, or 2tbls
0.5g Kappa or Carregean powder
Bring the cream to just below the boil, pour over chocolate and after a minute begin to stir with a spatula from the centre out. Combine the sugar, espresso, and carregean, add to the milk and cream, then pour into the chocolate mix. Give it a whiz with an immersion blender, then return to the pot and cook on med, stirring as you would with an anglaise, until it reaches 90˚, then VERY QUICKLY I AM SO NOT KIDDING ABOUT BEING FAST HERE pour into vessels. If it develops a skin, give it a stir. This stuff sets at 60˚ no joke.
This is how quickly this stuff sets. Totally. Worth it.
Let set up in the fridge. As with Gelatin, this will take about 24 hours to finish setting, but can be served within 2 hours. The texture will be like a crème brulée.
This is my favourite caramel recipe.
120g Glucose (or corn syrup)
1tsp lemon juice
450g Whipping Cream
salt to taste, I use about 7g
Bring the sugar, glucose, and lemon juice to about 188˚ (I’ve noticed this number changes based on humidity, the type of sugar, etc, so go for a deep amber with foam that is just a touch lighter), carefully pour cream into sugar, and keep it on low heat until all the sugar disolves. Then whisk in butter and salt. This ratio of sugar to cream and butter will allow the caramel to be thick when set in the fridge but still a bit fluid.
This foam is to mimic the fine-bubbled foam produced when steaming a whole milk. The sugar gives it a slight sweetness, to marry it with the dessert, and the cream gives it body and helps it hold its shape. It is ready to use straight from the fridge.
225g Whipping Cream
2 sheets gelatin (8g bloomed)
Heat the milk, cream, and sugar just until the sugar dissolves. Bloom gelatin, add to the dairy, and stir over ice bath until it is very cold. Pour into an espuma gun (whipped cream dispenser), fill with one or two chargers (two for a full size, one for a small one), shake vigorously for two minutes, then chill.
This is an adaption of the Icecreamists home recipe. My life will have a little hole in it when this ice cream is no longer in it.
1L Double Cream (or 1600g Milk, 1400g Whipping Cream I would guess)
10g Ice Cream Stabilizer
16 Egg Yolks
800g Milk Chocolate
Heat dairy, glucose, and half the sugar over medium heat. Sift the cocoa, then mix well with stabilizer and sugar, then whisk in batches into yolks. Mixture will be very thick. When milk and cream simmers, pour 1/3 into yolks, whisk well, pour back into pot, and cook slowly to 82˚. Pass through a strainer or Chinois and chill well over an ice bath. Churn. Stuff in your face.