Coffee and baked goods are an iconic duo and have been served together for centuries. Not only do coffee's bitter notes work to balance the sweetness of the treats, but the caffeine may actually decrease our sensitivity to sweet flavors, according to a 2017 study published in the Institute of Food Technologists' Journal of Food Science. As such, incorporating coffee directly into our baked goods can provide depth to desserts that may otherwise be a bit too sweet. But how can we use coffee in baking without turning our creations an unflattering shade of brown?
Brewed coffee or instant coffee grounds tend to affect the final color of batters and doughs. While this may not be an issue for recipes that include chocolate, for example, the color change might not be suitable for every recipe. To incorporate coffee flavor into baked goods without altering the hue, King Arthur's Research & Development Specialist Melanie Wanders told Food & Wine we should rely on infusions.
"Steeping whole beans in cold milk or cream (as opposed to crushing the beans and heating the mixture) is a great way to add subtle coffee flavor without changing the color of the final product," Wanders explains. The creation, often called "milk brew" (like cold brew, but with milk) can be used to give dough and batters moisture or be transformed into creamy desserts like ice cream.
Infusing Is The Way To Go
Much like cold brew, steeping coffee beans in milk extracts the oils, acids and sugars from the beans, which provide flavor, body, and aroma. Using crushed or whole coffee beans (as opposed to ground coffee) means that less of the beans' surface area is exposed to the liquid, creating a more gradual extraction that won't be overly bitter. While soaking whole beans in cold milk can still alter the milk's color a bit, using beans with a lighter roast can minimize this aesthetic change.
Milk isn't the only thing you can infuse with coffee flavor. Soaking coffee beans in a sugar-and-water mixture can produce a bright, coffee-flavored simple syrup that you can include in your next bake. Because simple syrup requires hot water for the sugar to dissolve, however, adding coffee to the mixture while it's still hot could expedite the extraction process, turning the simple syrup coffee-colored. As such, you could opt for a cold infusion method, first allowing the simple syrup to cool before tossing in some whole or ground coffee beans. Since the simple syrup will only become more flavorful the longer it sits, cold infusions can be left alone for 12 to 36 hours.
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