Monthly Archives: December 2011

Coffee – a double post

After my last self-pitying post, I decided to try and drag myself back into action, beginning with baking (of course). I turned to Dr E for inspiration (as ever) and her request for ‘coffee cake, with icing’ came back pretty quickly. I’ve never really made a coffee cake I’ve been very happy with, so I knew this meant trying a new recipe. A quick scour brought me to the Hummingbird Cake Days book – a leaving present from my last job, and one that has only had a few outings so far.  At first, I was torn. Expresso Cupcake, or Mocha Cupcake? The addition of chocolate is usually only a good thing, but I wasn’t sure it was coffee-ey enough, so I improvised, with what I will now call my Cappuccino cupcake. I used the full coffee cake batter with a coffee and chocolate frosting. I’ve heard some criticisms of the Hummingbird recipes, and they are definitely more of the wet , milk-based type than the sponges I’m used to. (I’m sure they wouldn’t thank me for posting recipes though.) But actually this recipe worked fine with soya and heating the milk first and dissolving instant coffee granules (the recipe called for instant expresso powder but where do I find that on a Sunday night?) into it was an excellent way of thoroughly combining a lot of coffee flavour without any curdling or splitting. The results were light fluffy cupcakes, perhaps a bit unevenly risen – did I overmix? Use too much baking powder? Was the oven a bit too hot? Or was it just the wetness of the mix? Nevertheless, the flavour was great, and Dr E proclaimed them ‘the coffeeeyist cake I have ever had’. They lasted pretty well too, better than a sponge-type cupcake.




The frosting also used a lot of milk, with coffee melted in, rather than the straightforward buttercream, and I added a couple of dessertspoons of hot chocolate powder along with the icing sugar. At first, I thought it was a bit of a failure – dairy free frostings are hard to get right and this seemed to have split/curdled slightly, but I found it set perfectly overnight, helped by its disguise of dark chocolate shavings.




In other coffee news, I finally managed to pay a trip to 27 Duke Street, Bold St Coffee’s December pop-up coffee shop and a pretty serious coffee-drinking enterprise. It was quiet, making it ideal for sitting down with a delicious cup and the paper. It feels old-fashioned in slightly shabby cool way, dominated by the bar in the middle of the store and complete with chalk boards rammed with info about the beans, sacking-lined walls and polystyrene cup fairy lights. The coffee purism can be intimidating, but it’s worth it. As a black-no-sugar coffee drinker, I couldn’t help smiling at the ‘no sugar’ rule. Last week’s coffee was from El Salvador and was absolutely packed with big, fruity and, to my mind, caraway flavour. I also had a totally delicious goats cheese and tomato sandwich on focaccia.






It was a perfect spot for sheltering from the rain after visiting Notes Towards a Supreme Fiction, the Ceri Hand Gallery’s exhibition at CUC. These are two Liverpool cultural institutions soon to be departing and I hadn’t visited either yet (I’m not suggesting a causal link, mind) and thought I really should. CUC is housed in an enormous converted warehouse and a totally beautiful space – I really hope it manages to find a new life after January. The exhibition was in the Attic Gallery, a vast, atmospheric space with great views out to the city. Ceri Hand have managed to bring together lots of nice pieces from loads of massive name artists, and it’s nice to see some smaller, less well known pieces, and lots of etchings, drawings and prints. I particularly enjoyed the Hockneys, as they seemed to reflect on the process of making art as well as the end product, and had never heard of Paula Rego before but the two pieces there by her were stunning and I will definitely look her out more. I can’t afford to buy any of it, of course, but if you do have a spare few grand and want to own some art, it’s definitely worth a visit  (closes tomorrow!)…


What’s happened to foodie Erin?

It’s not that I have lost my appetite – far from it – I am eating in huge quantities. What’s changed is what I eat and how I think about it. I used to spend hours thinking about different ideas, ingredients, combinations, ways of doing things, planning future meals and treats, as well as reading about food, where it comes from and how. I’ve lost the spark, the joy.

I want to eat quick, easy and filling – comfort food. Mainly bread. I fantasise about bread and toast and crumpets and potato cakes, ideally warm and oozing with butter, perhaps with eggs. I’m carb-loading like an athlete, except I barely leave my bed, let alone the house. Complex flavours are out – the most I crave is sweet and salt. Sweet, plain biscuits, like hangover food. I eat Pringles by the tube (luckily Asda has them for £1 at the moment). At best, handfuls of dried fruits and nuts. And if there’s nothing else, I eat sugar with a teaspoon straight from the packet. My teeth ache.

 I suspect this is partly about hibernation eating – my body wants more insulation from the cold, although aesthetically, I’d rather not. I’ve always eaten for comfort. That’s fairly normal. It’s just where has the rest of the food love – even the food self-respect – gone?

We’re having the same few simple meals in a cycle. Going through the motions. Pasta, stir fry, chips. The other night some friends came round for dinner, and everything went wrong, despite using tried and tested recipes. I even burned the rice. When a boy came round, instead of trying to impress him, I let him cook for me. In a way, that’s good, but I feel perhaps it’s gone too far. In the mornings, porridge seems like too much effort. I can’t even be bothered to bake! Not even a Christmas cake yet – I have a bowlful of sherry-soaked fruits sitting sadly in the kitchen who haven’t made it yet.

It’s partly to do with motivation, of course, partly financial, and I suppose I still don’t have the kind of community and food-loving peers I had in London. I’ve also learned important lessons about being too much of a control freak with the food.  It’s probably best not to become too much of a snob. I hope it’s a phase that will pass and perhaps in the meantime I’ll have more time for ‘more important’ things. It was one of the sources of joy in my life, though, at a time when I feel they are needed.

I look forward to getting that back, and any ideas, recipes, suggestions, challenges you have for me would be very welcome!