Regular or decaf? Either way, please keep your shirt on | WHIDBEY RECIPES

Margaret Walton wants equality among the barista body-bearing set

I’m almost beside myself with joy over the news that bikini-clad baristas may be coming to a coffee stand near me, and soon.

I hadn’t realized it until

I read the story in Saturday’s Record, but if there’s one thing I’ve been missing, it’s scantily clad women handing me my morning fix. One double shot dark, with a side of boob, please.

Are we to assume from this news that the majority of caffeine seekers hitting the coffee carts are male, or are there more women out there who get a kick out of looking at another female’s flesh than I think there are? And why do we, in this country, so often turn to sex to sell something? All I want is a really well-made jolt of Joe; I don’t give a hoot what the girl in the window has on, or doesn’t have on.

Traveling in European countries over the years, I learned early on that our puritanical American obsession over nakedness or near-nakedness is considered very humorous to people who regularly share spa facilities, saunas, sunny beaches etc., sans clothing.

I once sat on a beach in Greece and watched a tall, very lean young man ride up on a bicycle, remove and carefully fold all his clothing, cover his bald head with a small kerchief and stretch himself out on the sand, as oblivious to everyone else on the beach as they were to him. I was the only person present on that beach wearing a bathing suit. I felt very conspicuous, but I began to understand.

“It’s a provocative business, but not a dirty business,” according to the recruiter hired to find the prospective baristas, a man named Brian who wouldn’t give his last name (one does wonder why). The out-of-state company looking to open the “provocative” stand hopes to have it up and running in a couple of months.

Now, that’s great timing, don’t you think? Just in time for what forecasters say may be our worst winter in decades, we can pull up for a steaming hot mug served by girls in bikinis. Goosebumps may turn out to be their most prominent feature.

“If there are any problems, we’ll stay on the mainland,” says Brian No Name, which sounds to me like a threat. If we islanders are too staid about our coffee servers’ attire, then we don’t deserve to have a new little business in our midst. Well, Brian, as I said, I don’t really care that much what the baristas are wearing, but I do have a suggestion for you (besides taking a flying leap off the nearest dock).

Alongside the bikini-clad barista in that coffee cart, how about adding one tall, strapping, ripped young man with a big smile and a sly wink, wearing tight jeans and naught else, just in the interests of being fair about your “provocation.” It would sure perk up my morning, or about any other time of day, to order a cup of Joe from a guy like that, whether his name is Joe or not.

RECIPES

Baristas or no, there are many ways to add coffee to your life, in your cooking as well as drinking. Coffeecake used to be so named because it was any type of cake traditionally served with coffee; this coffeecake is actually flavored with coffee and the espresso glaze is the perfect final touch, especially if you’re eating it with your mid-morning espresso.

COFFEE ESPRESSO COFFEECAKE

2 cups sifted flour

1 t. baking powder

½ t. baking soda

¼ t. salt

1½ sticks (¾ cup)

unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

2 t. vanilla

1 cup sour cream

2 T. instant espresso powder, dissolved in 1 T. hot water

For the glaze: 2-3 T. strong brewed coffee

1½ t. instant espresso powder

¾ cup confectioners’ sugar

Into a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl with an electric miser, cream the butter. Add the sugar gradually, beating, and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the vanilla.

Add the flour mixture alternately with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and blending the batter after each addition. Transfer about 1/3 of the batter into a small bowl and stir in the espresso mix until well combined. Spoon half of the plain batter into a well buttered 8-inch bundt pan, spreading it evenly, then spoon the coffee batter over it, spreading evenly, and spoon the remaining plain batter on top, spreading evenly. Bake the cake in the middle of a preheated 350-degree oven for 55-60 min., or until golden and a tester comes out clean. Transfer to a rack and let cake cool for ½ hr., then invert it onto the rack to cool completely.

Make the glaze: In a bowl, stir together 2 T. of the brewed coffee and the espresso powder until the powder is dissolved. Add the confectioners’ sugar (sift it first to avoid lumps) and stir until well combined. If necessary to make a pourable glaze, add more of the remaining tablespoon of coffee. Pour the glaze over the cake and let stand for at least 10 min., or until the glaze is set.

Coffee drinking is a cult as well as an art in Vienna, where, on my first visit, I found it hard to get a cup of plain black coffee because I didn’t know how to ask for something the Viennese find so uninteresting. It didn’t take me long, however, to discover this cup of pure Viennese pleasure, a special after-dinner coffee I learned to make at home.

BRANDIED VIENNESE COFFEE

4 oz. quality semisweet chocolate, chopped, plus additional, grated, for garnish

1/4 cup heavy cream

3 cups freshly brewed strong coffee

1/2 cup brandy

Whipped cream, lightly sweetened to taste (don’t make it too sweet or it detracts from the great flavor of the coffee).

In the top of a double boiler, over simmering water, melt the chocolate with the cream, stirring until very smooth.

Add the coffee (heat it first if necessary), then the brandy in a stream, stirring. Stir until well combined. Divide the coffee among four 8-oz. mugs, top each with a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle with grated chocolate. Makes 4.

Here’s another little coffee treat, easy to make and a delicious bite with your after dinner coffee, or your midday cuppa. These also make a great holiday gift for coffee lovers. Warning: it’s hard to stop eating them.

COFFEE TOFFEE

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter

¼ cup water

1 cup sugar

1 t. light corn syrup

1 T. instant espresso powder

1½ t. vanilla

¼ t. salt

In a large glass measuring cup or bowl, combine the butter and water; microwave on high for 2 min., or until butter is melted. Gently stir in the sugar and corn syrup, cover with microwave safe plastic wrap stretched tightly over ¾ of the top of the bowl, and microwave on high for 4 min., stirring after 2 min. to dissolve the sugar. Insert a microwave candy thermometer through the plastic wrap into the candy mixture and microwave on high for 7-10 min. more, or until thermometer registers 300 degrees after sitting out of the microwave for about 10 seconds.

While the mixture is cooking, in a small bowl stir together the espresso, vanilla and salt. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang to help you remove candy. Remove the plastic wrap and thermometer from the sugar mixture and add the espresso mixture. When mixture stops bubbling, stir it with a clean spoon until it is smooth, then pour the mixture into the pan and let it cool for 10 min. Remove the toffee from the pan (use the paper overhang to help) and, working quickly while it’s still soft, cut the toffee into triangles with an oiled pastry wheel or sharp knife. You don’t have to cut all the way through; when the toffee cools it will break along the lines you cut. Allow the toffee to cool completely, then break into triangles, tapping it gently on a hard surface if necessary. Keep the toffee, wrapped individually or separated by sheets of parchment paper, in an airtight container and chilled, for up to 1 week. Makes about ¾ lb.

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