Confession: I know next to nothing about the subject of this week's post. This is something of a departure from my usual formula wherein I am the expert who benevolently passes on my hard-earned knowledge to all of you. Today, however, I'm pretty much clueless.
You see, I'm making coffee. I am, I should let you know at the outset, a world-class expert at drinking coffee; I consume several a day, like an athlete in training, dozens sometimes, and when pressed, can brew a decent espresso. I know also that coffee, an African native, grows on shrubby trees, is sun-dried at some point, after which it is roasted, ground, and brewed, and that is the extent of my knowledge about coffee.
Therefore I had a lot to learn when my wife presented me with these:
Coffee berries from a tree outside her office in North Sydney.
You see, I hold the belief that if you like to eat or drink something, you should have an idea of how to make it yourself. I find, in general, you are less likely to be wasteful if you are aware of how much effort goes into producing the things you consume (See for example my BLT project). I'm not saying that we should raise our own livestock and make our own wine, but understanding the processes behind these things doesn't hurt.
So, I did a bit of reading and set about turning raw beans into a cup of coffee, which, it turns out, takes a bloody long time.
First the beans need to be removed from their red skins. Most of the berries contained two beans, a few three. A gentle squeeze popped the wet little beans out. These are then soaked in water for a few days so that they can naturally ferment, which removes the slimy membrane around each bean.
Next, the beans are air-dried for a few weeks. During this time a husk that encases each bean pops open, revealing the shriveled, greyish coffee bean underneath. When the beans are dry, this husk is removed and a thin papery layer around the bean is rubbed away. The dried, cleaned beans are then stored in an airtight container for a few more weeks so that the moisture content remaining in the bean evens out.
At this point the beans are ready to roast, which I did in my oven. I would have loved to build a drum roaster for this step, but once my large bowl of coffee berries was peeled, fermented, dried, husked, rubbed, and stored, I'm left with little more than a generous handful of beans. Not worth the effort of a drum-roaster. Oven roasting at 200ºC took about a quarter of an hour.
Coffee making is a surprisingly long and complicated process. I have to be honest, I wouldn't drink half the amount of coffee I do now if I had to process the beans myself. If I were to be completely honest I'd also have to admit that the coffee I produced is less than amazing. The beans contain almost no coffee oil (where a great deal of the flavor is in coffee beans), are quite bitter, and have a very high acid content. Still, I have actually had worse in cafes, so, it's not a total failure.
Anyway, two months later, I'm finally drinking a cup of coffee. Let's celebrate by making some kick-ass cardamon-scented doughnuts.
Why cardamon? I love the slightly exotic flavor. There is just enough of a hint of it here to tease. It really elevates these doughnuts from "tasty" to "magical".
15 cardamon pods, cracked open and lightly toasted
½ packet yeast
½ packet yeast
4 egg yolks
25g butter, room temperature
granulated sugar for dipping
Begin by making a the sponge. Bring the 90 ml of milk and cardamon pods to a simmer. Remove from heat, cool to room temperature, and strain, discarding solids. Mix the yeast into the warm (not hot) milk and stand 10 minutes. Stir in the flour to form a sticky dough. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave in a warm place until doubled 1 to 1 ½ hours.
Gently warm the 30 ml milk and stir in the yeast. Stand 10 minutes. In a large bowl mix the salt, flour, and sugar. Combine the sponge, flour mixture, yeast, and egg yolks to form a dough. Knead on a floured board until smooth. Add the butter a bit at a time, working in each addition before adding the next. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and refrigerate over night.
The next morning, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Roll it out on a floured board to 1 cm thickness. Cut into doughnuts using a doughnut cutter or (as I did) use a simple ring cutter and a metal piping bag tip to cut the “hole.” Transfer to trays lined with waxed paper, cover lightly with oiled cling film, and allow to rise until nearly doubled, about half an hour.
Heat 6 cm of vegetable oil in a pot (or a deep fryer) to 160ºC. Slip a few doughnuts into the hot oil and cook for one minute on the first side, flip, cook for one minute, flip again, and cook for 30 seconds more. Remove from the oil with slotted spoons and immediately dip one side into the granulated sugar and place on paper towels to dry. Make sure to cook the 'holes'