Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Iced Coffee Obsession
There is a little Vietnamese place that I love to go to in Greenville called Pho Noodleville. Granted, the service is always, always terrible. Not just bad - terrible. And the chairs are super uncomfortable. But there are rarely many people there (possibly a bad sign) and if you have a lot of time and patience, I think the food is worth it. It is sometimes hard to find good vegetarian food in the south, and they have enough options that I have not yet tried everything. My favorite are the tofu dishes which are well seasoned and filling, and are served with rice that I hope is intentionally greenish.
My actual secret, however, is that I really go there for the coffee. The most recent waiter we've had makes fun of me for ordering it because it isn't served with dinner in "his country" (aka Vietnam), and I often have to get it to go because it really does take that long to brew or he forgets until we are ready to pay. The jury is still out on that one. But I realized that they were simply using coffee from Cafe du Monde in New Orleans, which is technically coffee with chicory. They brew it in individual servings, into a cup that already has condensed milk in it. Once it is brewed and stirred together, it is served over ice. Words can't begin to explain how good it is.
This idea of iced coffee is not unique to the Vietnamese, of course. A trip to Saigon Market, also in Greenville, gave me an opportunity to buy a bottle of coffee concentrate from Cofe Thai, which is what they use at Thaicoon Ricefire and Sushi Bar, the Thai restaurant closest to the campus where I work.
When we were in Jamaica, we bought some of the famous Blue Mountain Coffee. The place where we bought it sold it black or with condensed milk (surprise surprise!). So even hot, this combination of coffee with condensed milk was nothing new.
I have mentioned Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz before, but when I saw his recipe for Vietnamese Iced Coffee Ice Cream, I felt like I had stumbled across a kindred spirit. I adapted the recipe to make Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee instead, and added chocolate chips. It used a different technique, and much of the dairy in the recipe is actually condensed milk, true to the original.
In all of my iced coffee experiments, I came across the recipe for cold-brewed iced coffee, in the New York Times, blogged about and photographed beautifully by Smitten Kitchen. Since I had all these coffees floating around, of course I had to try it!
The mixture ahead of time does not look very encouraging. But you simply stir together ground coffee with water, let it sit on the counter covered for twelve hours (or more, as I discovered), and then strain it a few times. Voila - your own coffee concentrate. For true iced coffee, you would add ice and water to the cool concentrate, but I prefer to use milk, meaning soymilk, and 1-2 splenda packets. I feel like I have saved so much money that would normally go to Starbucks or local coffee shops by making my own iced coffee! I realize it isn't an iced latte, and this is not espresso, but if you have coffee that is high quality like the Jamaican Blue, or interesting enough in flavor like the coffee with chicory, you just can't go wrong.
Wish I Were Baking that the reason this works is caffeine is water soluble, and the bitter taste in coffee is from the oils, which require heat. Cold brewing coffee should always make for a mellow, flavorful taste. And I really thought it did! Enough where I went a little outside the baking realm to wax poetic, all about iced coffee.
Now that we are headed into summer, if you give it a try, let me know what you think! Thanks to the NY Times and Smitten Kitchen for doing it first, and to David Lebovitz for his inspiring ice creams.
Categories: Coffee, Ice Cream
at 10:55 PM