Holly Ebel: The secret ingredient? It could be coffee

April 4, 2018 GMT

What would we do without our morning cup of coffee?

It’s probably the first thing we have in the morning, the first of several over the course of the day. We are definitely a nation of coffee drinkers, consuming 400 million cups a day.

Actually we drink more of this caffeine-laced beverage than any other country in the world. There are even those who would rather gain 10 pounds than ever give it up.

Though our favorite way with coffee is to drink it, hot or cold, with cream or without, there are other ways we can enjoy it.

Have you ever thought of using it as an ingredient in something you are cooking or baking? It’s time to give that a try. You’ll be surprised at what it can do from the most simple recipe to the more complicated.

It doesn’t announce its presence like cayenne but instead brings a pleasant subtle note. It might even be the secret ingredient you can fool family and friends with.

Bill Eisenmann, executive chef at the Rochester Golf and Country Club describes it like this: “It can bring a rich flavor to whatever you add it to. I make a rub using coffee grounds and use it on pork butts and pork shoulders. It seems to have a real affinity for pork.

“It also can act as a tenderizer. It’s a great addition to barbecue sauce. When I’ve used it people often wonder what the flavor is. It’s really subtle, not overpowering like you might think it would be. It is also a favorite flavor in desserts, like tiramisu.”

Once you’ve given it a try, chances are you will be adding it to dishes you might not have thought of. Start out using just a splash or two, not cups. Like salt, once you put it in you can’t take it out.

Try adding it to savory meat dishes like stews and chili. A barbecue sauce is also a good way to get acquainted to it as an ingredient, as is a good old-fashioned tomato or marinara sauce. Add some when you are making baked beans.

Chuck wagon cooks out West were known for using leftover coffee in whatever stews, casseroles, chili, beans, even bread, or whatever else they were fixing.

Chocolate cake and coffee are almost a marriage made in heaven. Try brushing the layers of a chocolate cake with a coffee simple syrup before frosting. (That syrup: mix a cup of coffee with a cup of sugar, boil until the sugar is dissolved, then cool.) Just a very light brushing, not a soaking.

You’ll get a more intense flavor when you use espresso powder. Mixed with a little water, it is a great addition to baked goods — but because it is strong, use it sparingly.

Would you try a little in a vinaigrette? Mix a tablespoon or two with butter for topping waffles, pancakes, even toast. Add some to the batter when you are making brownies.

See what I mean? Once you start, you’ll be on a roll. So, next time you have coffee left in the pot, save it. You’ll be surprised at how often you add a little here and there. It truly is “good to the last drop.”