It's National Coffee Day - Do you you remember your very first?

Monday September 29th, 2014 is national coffee day and many companies such as Dunkin' Donuts and Krsipy Kreme are giving the good stuff away... for free! Or maybe you want to learn how to brew the perfect cup... or are looking for a few simple and delicious coffee recipes...

There's a Turkish proverb that says that "coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, sweet as love" and I tend to agree... except that I do like milk in mine. What is it about coffee? It's the perfect brew for many of us who look forward to that very first cup as we start our day. Our warm mugs greet us happily as we sleepily and groggily savor the first few sips. It's a beverage. It's a ritual. It's a lifestyle. 

There's a difference between a coffee drinker and a coffee lover. The drinkers seek the beverage for their almost medicinal purposes - to wake up, to become more alert. A coffee drinker often will quickly drink his morning coffee. A coffee lover will sip her coffee slowly, savoring all the flavors, the strong, the dark, the sweet. The morning coffee is almost a rite of passage. 

I remember my first taste of coffee. I remember it well. I was in the South of France where my grandparents lived. It was summertime. And we were taking our petite dejeuner outside by the pool. I almost always had toast and jam, more specifically a toasted baguette avec un peu de confiture. Sometimes I would have a croissant or a brioche with my confiture. Jam always played into the picture and so did my jus d'orange. Usually I had breakfast with my mother. When my father was in France he would join us as well. The adults all had coffee with their breakfasts. Coffee was made in a French press and served with lait chaud and cubes of demerara sugar. One morning I took a cube of sugar and dunked it into some coffee. I don't remember if I had come up with this genius idea on my own or if someone else had suggested I do this as a means of tasting coffee. I can't imagine my mother ever suggesting I suck on a sugar cube. I can't imagine anyone ever have. But somehow I got the idea and the little imperfect light brown cube of sucre was carefully dunked into the warm brown liquid. I can remember how it tasted. I remember that it was divine and that I kept dipping the same cube into the black liquid until there was nothing left of the cube. Coffee is an acquired taste they say. 

When I was older I enjoyed my cafe au lait, as many French children do. Equal parts of warm coffee and warm milk blended perfectly together with plenty of sugar to create perfection. Now, thirty some odd years later, I like my coffee pretty much the same way - it's a little darker and a little less sweet, but it's still perfection. It's how I start my day. It's part medicine, part ritual and without it I am lost. 

Sometimes it serves as the perfect afternoon pick me up, and sometimes a simple, strong shot of espresso is the perfect ending to the end of a day meal. 

 Image via Tumblr

Image via Tumblr

A shot of espresso and a dollop of foam... did you know that coffee, when properly brewed should have a beige foamy layer on top?

 Image via Tumblr

Image via Tumblr

Chilled, served over ice, with milk and chocolate, an iced mocha can be a decadent afternoon treat!

 Image via Tumblr

Image via Tumblr

Coffee Flan is a decadent version of a Spanish treat (recipe below via Epicurious)

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk (1 1/4 cups)
  • 3 3/4 cups whole milk
  • 5 large eggs
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons instant-coffee granules dissolved in 4 teaspoons hot water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt


Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Cook sugar in a dry small heavy saucepan over moderate heat, undisturbed, until it begins to melt. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally with a fork, until sugar melts into a deep golden caramel. Immediately pour into a 9-inch round ceramic or glass baking dish or metal cake pan (2 inches deep) and tilt dish to coat bottom (use caution, dish will be hot). Cool until hardened, 10 to 15 minutes.

Blend remaining ingredients in a blender, in 2 batches if your blender is small, until smooth. Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve over caramel in dish, then transfer dish to a 17- by 11-inch roasting pan lined with a kitchen towel. Cover dish loosely with a piece of foil, then pour enough boiling-hot water into roasting pan to reach 1 inch up side of dish. Bake until custard is set but still wobbly in center when gently shaken and a knife inserted in center comes out clean, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Transfer dish to a rack to cool completely, about 40 minutes. Chill flan, covered, until cold, at least 8 hours.

To unmold flan, run a thin knife around edge of dish to loosen flan. Invert a large platter with a lip over dish. Holding dish and platter securely together, quickly invert and turn out flan onto platter. Caramel will pour out over and around flan.


Rich dark chocolate and coffee truffles are perfect for the holidays and make a wonderful gift. They're also deliciously easy to make. (Adapted from Epicurious)

  • 9 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened)
  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 teaspoons instant espresso powder*
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • parchment paper
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Break chocolate into small pieces and pulse together in a food processor with butter until finely chopped.  In a small saucepan whisk together cream, espresso powder, and salt and bring just to a boil. Pour the hot  mixture over the chocolate mixture and pulse until smooth. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Let mixture stand at cool room temperature until just firm enough to mold. Using a small spoon, melon baller or small ice cream scoop, shape into round, bite sized balls.

When each ball has been formed, roll in cocoa powder to coat. Truffles will keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature or chilled for approximately 2 weeks.


Afogato, an Italian delight, might well be the coffee lover's perfect dessert. Warm coffee poured over cold vanilla ice cream, a perfect ending to any day. The word affogato means drowned and here the vanilla ice cream is drowned in hot espresso. To make this simple dessert you will need 1 pint of good vanilla ice cream and 1 cup of hot espresso. Divide the ice cream and the espresso evenly into 4 servings. Place the ice cream in a glass or cup and just prior to serving add the coffee. It's as simple as as that.

How to brew a perfect cup of coffee

1. Use the freshest beans possible. 
Buy your beans from a local coffee shop. Avoid buying your beans at the grocery store where they've most likely been sitting around for weeks, maybe even months. Fresh beans have the best flavor and stale beans can lose flavor or make your coffee taste bitter.

2. Grind your coffee just prior to using it.
Pre-ground coffee loses freshness and flavor quickly. Also be sure to keep them tightly sealed in an air tight container for optimal freshness.

3. Use cold, fresh, filtered water. 

4. Invest in a good quality coffee maker or espresso machine.
A French press may make the best coffee and is the most economical. Many electric machines can be programmed so that your coffee is brewed and ready for you when you wake. 

5. Drink your coffee as soon as it is brewed.
Coffee that sits around in a hot carafe after it has been brewed will continue to "cook." It doesn't take long for it to turn from a perfectly fresh tasting cup of coffee to one that tastes burnt and bitter. Instead of brewing a full pot, you may want to consider brewing smaller batches.

6. Size matters
The standard measure for brewing coffee 2 level tablespoons per 6-ounce cup or about 2 3/4 tablespoons per 8-ounce cup. Use this formula in any espresso machine or coffee maker.

7. Clean your equipment.
Machines and tubing harbors a great deal of residue and buildup. Clean your machine often with a strong vinegar wash or solution specifically designed for your brewer. Don't forget the water compartments - they too can harbor mold and slime!

For perfectly brewed iced coffee, prepare coffee as you would, following the  2 tablespoon to 6 cup ratio and refrigerate for several hours until perfectly chilled. Make a little extra to make some coffee ice cubes by pouring some of the coffee into ice cube trays. When ready add milk or cream and sweeten to taste.