Coffee actually started out as a food, not a drink. A thousand years ago in Africa, the birthplace of coffee, locals would mash the ripe “cherries” from wild coffee trees to create a dried traveling food packed with protein and nutrients; sort of an early version of the breakfast bar.
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While it is the outer “cherry” fruit of the coffee bean that has protein, it’s the inner roasted coffee bean that has the flavor. “All great chefs value the quality of their ingredients and the same applies to coffee,” says Lynda Calimano, editor in chief of the popular monthly Coffee and Tea Newsletter. “So when using them in recipes, we at the Coffee and Tea Newsletter, can’t emphasize enough the importance of organic Fair Trade, shade-grown coffee, seasonally harvested if you want the best flavor and to retain the nutritional elements.”
When asked why, she added, “Because organic coffee is grown without pesticides and harvested in season, which maintains quality, nutrients and protects your health and the environment. Fair Trade, which guarantees a fair wage and other benefits, makes farmers happy and happy farmers produce great harvests.”
I’ll drink — and eat — to that!
Italian Mocha Cake (Torta Nera)
From “Dolci: Italy’s Sweets” by Francine Segan (Stewart, Tabori & Chang)
Prep time: 5 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes
Yield: 8 servings
This flourless cake has a crisp, macaroon-like top layer and a dense, incredibly moist center. As the cake cools, it collapses just a little, creating a pretty webbing on the delicious crust.
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
7 ounces dark chocolate, 70% cacao or higher
1 ounce freshly brewed espresso or 1 teaspoon granulated instant espresso
1 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons potato or cornstarch
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform cake pan.
2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a small bowl, either in the microwave or over a saucepan of gently boiling water. Stir in the espresso.
3. In a large bowl beat the sugar and egg yolks with an electric hand-held mixer until creamy and pale yellow. Add the chocolate-butter mixture and beat until creamy. Add the potato or cornstarch and mix until well combined.
4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. Slowly, using a spatula, fold the egg whites, a little at a time, into the chocolate mixture until combined.
5. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for about 30 minutes, until just set in the center.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Main photo: Coffee and chocolate are an especially delicious combination found in hundreds of classic Italian desserts such as Italian Torta Nera, a dense coffee chocolate cake that is a specialty of the Emilia-Romagna region. Credit: Copyright “Dolci: Italy’s Sweets” by Francine Segan (Stewart, Tabori & Chang)