There is a word of the year challenge on Facebook. It challenges you to ask yourself, "What do I need more of in my life?" With COVID still in the headlines, I think we could all benefit from making our word Connect.
Or maybe it would be better to say Reconnect. It has been proven that human interaction and connecting with others makes us happier. I think we could all use more happiness in these trying times.
Used to be neighbors and family stopped by for a visit--never empty handed either. They would bring cake (or pastries in my Italian husband's household), and the host would extend the hospitality by putting on a pot of coffee; and everyone would sit, eat, and chat. It was at these visits, where coffee cake got its name--a sweet cake intended to be enjoyed with coffee. Now we actually have to schedule such meetings, but they are making a comeback! These scheduled meetings are called Neighbor Coffee Hours where neighbors get to know each other, discuss local happenings, and plan community events.
So let's connect with coffee and cake!
Until recently, almost all coffee cups were part of a two-piece set that included a cup and a saucer. The saucer was a clean place to rest a spoon after adding sugar and/or cream. It was also a safer way to transport your cup. Using both hands, the saucer would help stabilize your cup and catch any possible hot drips or sloshes.
Also, people used to drink from the saucer. The coffee was served extremely hot. The saucers allowed the liquid to cool faster, and it was considered more polite to drink from the saucer rather than slurping the hot beverage.
Another interesting fact is the saucer was used to explain a key element in forming the American government. Thomas Jefferson asked the delegates of the Constitutional Convention why they had created two houses of Congress. "Why did you pour that tea into your saucer?" asked George Washington. "To cool it," said Jefferson. "Even so," responded Washington, "we pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it."
Lavender-infused coffee is becoming a specialty drink at many coffee houses today, and it's easy to make at home. The basic recipe is to add 1 teaspoon of culinary lavender to 4 tablespoons of coarse ground coffee, then brew according to manufacturer's instructions for your coffee maker.
Or you can make a lavender syrup for your coffee by simmering 1 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon culinary lavender. Stir until sugars are dissolved. Remove from heat and steep for 20 minutes. Strain out lavender. Store in a glass bottle to pour in your coffee, tea, or lemonade.
Using the lavender syrup, you can even make your own Lavender Latte at home.
Grab your favorite coffee mug and assemble your latte in this order:
1 teaspoon lavender coffee syrup (more or less to your taste)
Heat 1/4 cup half and half in the microwave for 45 seconds or until hot. Froth the half and half with a milk frother or even an immersion blender for another 45-60 seconds. Pour your half and half into the coffee holding the froth back with a spoon. Then top your latte with the foam.
A couple of other interesting facts: coffee is a rich source of antioxidants; an expresso has less caffeine; and a cappuccino has milk for a richer, more filling drink.
Coffee is a huge part of national cultures across the world. With America being so diverse, there is a wide range of coffee traditions throughout the country. Our German immigrants are given credit for starting the trend of serving cake with coffee, and that is the reason many coffee cakes have some type of streusel associated with them.
My husband's favorite is New York Crumb Cake. (Of course, he's from New York!) Here is one of the best recipes we have found, and it's easy to add lavender to the recipe for any of our events at the farm.
The Smells Like Home website has beautiful photos and drool-worthy recipes for a variety of coffee cakes. This is their recipe:
For the Crumb Topping:
1/3 cup sugar (may use lavender sugar)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and still warm
1 3/4 cups cake flour
Whisk sugars, cinnamon, salt, and butter in medium bowl to combine. Add flour and stir with rubber spatula until mixture resembles thick dough. Set aside to cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.
For the Cake:
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1/2 cup sugar (may use lavender sugar)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup liquid buttermilk
Powdered sugar for dusting
Heat oven to 325° F. Spray 8" square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment paper allowing an overhang over the edges.
In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt on low speed to combine. With mixer running at low speed, add butter one piece at a time; continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no visible butter chunks remaining, 1 to 2 minutes. Add egg, yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping once if necessary.
Transfer batter to baking pan. Break apart crumb topping into large pea-sized pieces and spread in even layer over batter, beginning with edges and then working toward center.
Bake until crumbs are golden brown, and toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on wire rack at least 30 minutes. Remove cake from pan by lifting parchment overhang. Dust with powdered sugar.
Crumb cake is best when fresh and will only last about two days. Store in an air-tight container at room temp. We never have to worry about this since it seems to disappear quickly in our house.
Besides the classic cinnamon and streusel coffee cake, fruit added is always good too. Apple, peach, and blueberry are common fruit additions.
In the summer, we offer an herbal tea workshop. We grow our own herbs and use them to create a variety of dried tea blends. Of course, we also serve tea sandwiches, scones, and a little something sweet during our workshop.
Sounds to me like we need to offer a coffee party during the cooler months: hot coffee, warm cakes, and a few coffee-themed favors. Would you like to come?
Another childhood memory--On Sundays after church we would stop at a small store in town and pick up sweet rolls or coffee cake to take home. Perhaps we could offer a Bakery Box for new generations to make memories on Sunday mornings.