Coffee Love: A New England Art

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Everyone who reads my blogs knows that my passion for coffee is deep and strong.

I just love the complexity of different beans and blends. I love the originality of coffees from all different regions of the world. They are all so unique. Some are rich and smooth and chocolately; others taste of berries or citrus; some are earthy giving off flavors like tobacco, bitter, earthy and verdant. Coffee is like wine in a sense. There are rituals involved in the making of, the preparation of and the aging of. There are connoisseurs who spend years perfecting blends and roasting methods or traveling the world in search of the perfect bean. It is all so fascinating. Coffee may not grow in New England climates, but I believe the soul of coffee is in New England. People in New England know what to do with their coffee, to bring it to the next level. Everywhere you go in New England you can find excellent coffee. Even gas stations serve up Green Mountain Coffee and McDonalds has Newman’s Own Organic Coffee. But the real unique ways of preparing coffee are found in the local coffee shop in those picturesque towns in Vermont or Massachusetts. No matter how small the town is, you can always find a local coffee joint. There are Starbucks to be found of course, but people generally prefer their local coffee place. There is excellent competition between coffee houses which for the consumer means there is great coffee to be had around every corner.

That was one of my major goals of our recent trip to New England. I wanted to go back to all my favorite coffee joints and boy was it ever a treat!
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Recipe: Daring Bakers Challenge: Chai Spice Cinnamon Buns with Maple Glaze

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This Daring Bakers challenge proves that I am still a New Englander at heart. With this Daring Bakers challenge and fall here (I can feel it even if I can’t see it here in Florida), my mind was brought back to those wonderful autumn days in New England. Days filled eating products made with sweet, local, maple goodness, pastries enjoyed with Maple Lattes or very often a warming cup of steaming hot Chai Tea. I have been yearning for the tastes of fall and I guess I am feeling inspired since it is only a few weeks until Roberto and I head to New England to visit family and friends during our most favorite season of the year. So this pastry is an ode to Autumn in New England.

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In this challenge: Cinnamon Buns and or Sticky Buns we were allowed certain modifications, like changing around the spices. I have always enjoyed cinnamon buns over the years, but it is not a treat I often allow myself to indulge. Therefore, I decided since I am being forced to make them for this challenge, I might as well do them up in total Jenn fashion.

I love Cardamom, so I knew that I wanted this to be the focal spice in my cinnamon buns. See anything wrong with that statement: Cardamom as the focal point for Cinnamon buns? So clearly I needed to add cinnamon to the spice mix – it is afterall in the NAME of the pastry! Anyway, this being fall and with me already in the Chai Tea/ New England mindset I thought if I add a bit of ginger then I am really doing all the spices that go into Chai. What goes so well with Chai in my mind? Maple. So a plan came together straight from my New England Soul: adding pure VT maple syrup to my fondant glaze and topping the buns with toasted almond slices. I hope you enjoy these!
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Better Espresso Drinks Than Starbucks, At Home!

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Now doesn’t that look heavenly? That beautiful cloud of frothed milk sitting on top of luscious, deep dark espresso. I mean who doesn’t love espresso coffee drinks?!?! Well then check this out – I made this at home, this morning and I have one every single morning just like this – unless I am having a Greek style coffee frappe, which is a whole other adoring post of its own! I have this great little stovetop espresso machine and it makes better espresso drinks than Starbucks and I can have one whenever I want for FREE.

I really do adore my caffettiera! I have always loved espresso drinks, whether they are lattes, cappuccinos, café au lait, café con leche, Cuban coffee, Turkish coffee, Greek coffee or just plain ‘ol espresso. I always wished I could make them at home, as I don’t have a disposable coffee spending account. So a few months ago Roberto bought me this little beauty, a Bialetti Moka Express, 6 Cup and my life has never been the same! Now I can make my own espresso drinks at home without the expense of a huge espresso machine that is too complicated for my brain in the morning, BEFORE I have had my coffee (seems counter-intuitive to me – give complicated machines to people to make coffee, that they NEED coffee to understand how to work the darn thing!)

This little wonder is so easy to use, that you won’t believe making espresso is so easy and inexpensive! These things are on the stovetops of nearly every person living in Italy as people in Italy are as addicted to coffee as I am and Italy IS the coffee capitol of the world! So if you are like me, and love espresso drinks but don’t have the money to go get one everyday or buy a big expensive machine, all you need is a little stovetop espresso maker and a good milk frother you are GOOD to go, in minutes without complicated pre-coffee technology!

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Now for the frothy goodness. My mom bought each of us a Shin Bistro Milk Frother By Bodum and I use it every morning to top my espresso for the perfect Cafe con Latte. For all you health concious people, you will be happy to know that skim milk (I like using organic milk) froths the best in this particular frother. Again, simple technology, the pump, full of little holes, pushes air into the milk frothing it up to triple its original mass. I just throw it in the microwave for 30 seconds and pour it on top of my espresso and voila! Pure Coffee Perfection!

If you are into entertaining, your guests or even your family and friends will love being treated to a wonderful espresso drink. It really lends an air of sophistication to your parties and will certainly be appreciated! There will never be any doubt after that as to whether or not you are a foodie!

As for the coffee, I usually order it from Lisabeeen. She ships it right after she has roasted it and by the time it gets to your house, your beans are perfect and ready to be ground up and put in your new caffettiera!

Recipe: Greek Frappe (Iced Coffee)

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The Coffee Frappe in Greece is often described as a way of life. The drink is so ubiquitous with the culture that you can almost not think of one without the other. This being the case, there are often as many opinions as people on what is the correct way to make it – sweet, bitter, light, dark, etc. My take on it, not being Greek and therefore not having any real stake in it, other than enjoying it, is that it is up to personal preference. I like mine light sweet and frothy!
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