Now Try This: #4 (a) Frank’s Famous Chopped Espresso
A friend and I have been experimenting with coffee beans in molded chocolate. We’ve tried dark chocolate and dark milk chocolate shells; bite-sized molds and slightly larger molds ; one bean and two. So far, they’ve not been flavored with anything else, just the coffee bean. And these are not confections coated with a hard sugar shell on the outside like some of the chocolate covered coffee beans or M&M’s. Nothing seemed to satisfy his desire for really intense coffee flavor; I’ll admit, the chocolate having been roasted from the bean in my workshop is pretty powerful and so may have dominated the coffee inside.
We came up with a solution; maybe two, that seems to solve the desire for really powerful espresso flavors in molded chocolate. Now this is off subject for Mr. WineCandy. For me it‘s supposed to be all about spirituous jellies and ganaches inside molded from-the-bean confections. But, these coffee experiments have come out quite well and I thought I ought to share the unusual solutions.
The objective here is not just to get a strong espresso flavor inside the chocolate for my friend, Keith (who has travelled the world, retired now, British Navy ; he has lots of experience savoring strong flavored foods) but also to get the “crunch” which is such an important part of the coffee bean /chocolate encounter. We don’t want to do away with the bean, nor do we want to make it soggy or chewy inside the shell.
Here’s what I did to make the desired flavors and mouth feel. As you might have guessed; to get more coffee flavor, chop the beans into large pieces to more completely fill the shell. As you might not have known, cover the chopped coffee beans immediately after roasting them. And just as important to the flavor intensity, and what you really want; preserve the unique flavor of those unique coffee beans by not over-roasting them. You may have thought you wanted dark roasted beans to get the most intense espresso flavors, not so. These are oils in the coffee beans that we are dealing with, which carry the flavors. We don’t want to burn off these flavor oils by over-roasting the beans.
Roasting coffee beans; easy. A small quantity, like half cup, can be roasted in 5 minutes in a hot-air popcorn popper. Presto Pop-Lite hot-air popper is the brand most often found at WalMart or the kitchen stores etc. For like, $20-$25. You can buy green coffee beans on-line, cheap; Sweet Maria’s or Coffee Storehouse or other sites have them. Or you could probably buy a half pound of green beans from your neighborhood coffee shop if they roast their own on site. The reason we wanted to roast our own coffee beans is that we wanted to get them sealed in the chocolate shells while flavors were still fresh. After about a day of “resting” the fresh coffee flavor of the beans will have “out-gassed” and will have been lost to the atmosphere.
The important thing here is not to over-roast the beans. Here’s how to roast just right. While roasting, coffee beans will first lose water content and you will hear a popping sound. Once dried out, the beans then heat up until the coffee oils begin to burn off and you hear a higher pitched snapping sound like RiceKrispies in milk. You want to stop the roast just when this crisping sound starts. Another way to tell when to turn off the heat is to look at the beans which will have been dark brown and dry on the surface then changing to a wet, actually oily surface and turning even darker when the crispy-snapping sound starts. Any given bean you use will lose its varietal flavor when roasted beyond this point. We used Colombian Huila Oporapa (from Coffee Storehouse) in our experiment and its intense flavor notes came through quite well , very strong and very espresso flavored at this roast stage. Not necessary , nor advisable to roast the beans real dark. Now, they’ll have to cool.
These coffee beans are about 450 degrees F. at the end of roast. I usually just pour them into a cool dish. We want to chop them up as soon as they cool enough to run through a “mini-chopper” and then real quick, put the chopped coffee beans in our chocolate molded shells and cover with the final layer of chocolate to seal in the flavors. We don’t want to use our coffee mill to grind the beans fine, this would cause us to lose the desirable “crunch” of the beans. I’ve got one of these little mini-choppers for small quantities of onion or parsley. It works great for chopping espresso.
For this experiment we used Mexican Tabasco district, 66 % dark chocolate. If the chocolate shells have been made and chilled before we start the coffee bean roast; that would be best. I think you’ll find this espresso technique works very well for small scale confections. For larger quantities, a person might be able to buy hot, freshly roasted coffee beans from the coffee shop.
Another method came to mind after doing the chopped espresso, this for times when you don’t want “crunch” . I call it “infused creamed espresso”. Stay tuned.
PS : Some people have tried the above chopped espresso and found it to be just too much coffee. It’s easy enough to reduce the quantity of coffee in each bite to satisfy them.
PPS: You could just as well use decaffeinated coffee beans if so desired. (Did you know that? It is the green coffee beans that are decaffeinated; the decaffeination process is not done to roasted beans.) You can order these from the above suppliers just as well.