It has been a dulce de leche kind of year. We’re only one month into 2012, but there have been more dulce de leche recipes around these here parts than may be necessary. You saw the first appearance with the January Ethnic Exploration that featured alfajores. When you have a couple of cups of dulce de leche in your fridge, you have to use them up. Brownies came to mind almost immediately. They would be a perfect sweet for a friend’s movie night, and dulce de leche is the perfect partner with rich, fudgey chocolate. How does Starbucks fit in? It’s in the mix of course. Literally.
Last summer, we attended a Starbucks Reserve Tasting Event featuring two new varieties of coffee–Kenya Tana River and Sumatra Tapanuli. By now, you have probably seen a few of the Starbucks Reserve flavors popping up in your favorite corner store. The flavors are limited releases that are only available in certain stores, and they span a range of unique and provocative flavor profiles and are usually single origin coffees. On that warm evening in August, we spent a couple of hours with Yuli, a local Starbucks Coffee Master and store leader, Marianne from Starbucks’ corporate office in Seattle and Nicole Weston from Brewed Daily. We sipped iced and hot coffees brewed with the Clover, which is only available in certain stores. This was our first time watching such a detailed preparation process for coffee brewing. The internal chamber is temperature and time controlled during brewing, then the liquid is filtered and deposited straight into your cup. The Clover is for the serious coffee company that wants to ensure each cup is perfection.
We sipped both coffees black, which is arguably the only way to truly pick up the flavors of coffee. The additions of sweeteners and dairy, although tasty, dilute the natural flavor in the brewed beans. It’s best to have the coffee black. We tried our coffees iced and hot in order to taste the differences. Starbucks sources its beans from three main regions, and we were trying two coffees from two very different areas. The Kenya Tana River is a mild bean with notes of cherries and berries and the acidity of black tea. We paired it with orange cranberry scones. The Sumatra Tapanuli is a darker blend with heavy notes of cocoa and fig. We paired that one with maple scones and peanut butter chocolate cupcakes. It was a sweet ending to the afternoon.
A couple of months later, I had a trip to the Pacific Northwest on the calendar. Amir was unable to attend, so he missed the opportunity to tour the Starbucks corporate office. Two friends and I were escorted through the building and given a much better understanding of the corporation’s social and philosophical outlook. Motivational internal marketing featuring employees, impressive interior design and images of Starbucks stores around the world grabbed our attention. Towards the end of the tour, we took part in another tasting of three different flavors and learned about how coffee beans are selected, harvested, processed and packaged, then finally shipped to your neighborhood store. Whenever you have the chance to learn more about the back end of a company’s procedures, you definitely have a new understanding of how they work and what they strive to produce for the consumer.
Just after the New Year, Starbucks offered to send us a sample of a new Reserve coffee–Organic Ethiopia Sidamo. It was officially available in stores on January 10th, and hopefully your store was lucky enough to carry it. The bag is stamped with Starbucks’ new QR code. The codes allow you to trace and track your coffee’s production line starting all the way from the farmer’s plantation. This particular coffee’s beans were grown by a longtime farming family in volcanic soil right next to other food crops that have flavored the coffee cherries (the pods that hold the beans). The soil and climate of this region of Ethiopia, along with the coffee’s wash process, have left it with the flavors of spiced gingerbread and graham crackers. The acidity level is light and slightly sweet. Starbucks suggests pairing it with stone fruits and chocolate. Now, you understand where brownies pop into the picture.
With tons of dulce de leche leftover from an earlier cookie adventure, there was no reason to let it go to waste. A handful of the coffee beans were ground to a fine powder and brewed. Unfortunately, there was no Clover machine to produce that ‘perfect’ pot, but this was pretty right on. The aroma is intense. It reminded me of the way I used to wake up on Sunday mornings when my parents made coffee with their breakfast. It’s very earthy and intoxicating, which felt like just the right notes to add to a batch of homemade brownies. Imagine that smell resting just under your nose as you take a bite. With sweet dulce de leche seeping out of each bite, it would be one of the best brownies around.
Of course, a cup of coffee alongside your evening dessert is an appropriate way to enjoy the pair. As we’ve seen before, Starbucks wants to be sure that you find ways to combine food and drink in every way. (Maybe you remember that coffee-infused maple bacon?) If you’re a coffee lover, or you have a coffee loving person in your life, here’s your chance to win a sample of Starbucks Reserve Organic Ethiopia Sidamo coffee. Here’s how:
Leave a comment on this post with your favorite coffee pairing, whether it be during breakfast, lunch or dinner.
For additional entries:
2. Like us on Facebook and post a message on our page about the new Starbucks Reserve Organic Ethiopia Sidamo coffee.
Leave a comment on our blog for each of your entry methods. All entries must be submitted by Wednesday, Februay 8th at 11:59 pm pst. Be sure to include your contact information. Entrants must reside in the contiguous United States.
For more information on Starbucks Reserve Organic Ethiopia Sidamo, check out this video. Learn more about how those beans move from the farm to the stores, and inevitably, into your cup.
Dulce de Leche Brownies – Makes 16 (Adapted from Joy of Cooking)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed, plus extra for greasing the baking dish
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons bittersweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons brewed coffee*
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 eggs, slightly whisked
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 cup dulce de leche**
1. Grease the bottom and sides of an 8″ x 8″ cake pan with butter. Then line the pan with parchment paper to create two handles on opposite sides of the pan. Grease the parchment paper with a little more butter. Set aside.
2. Place the butter and both types of chocolate chips into a medium, heat-resistant bowl over a pot of simmering water. Make sure the simmering water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Allow the butter and chocolate to melt, stirring occasionally to combine. Remove the bowl from heat and set aside to cool slightly for 3-5 minutes.
3. In a small bowl, mix the coffee, sugar, salt, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Plop about 1/8 cup of the melted chocolate into the egg mixture and whisk quickly to combine. Then, scrape the egg mixture into the bowl with the melted chocolate and butter. Whisk to combine.
4. Fold the flour into the chocolate until just combined. Transfer the brownie batter to the lined baking pan. Drop pools of dulce de leche in the four corners and the middle of the batter. Using an knife, drag the tip through the batter, creating swirling patterns on the top. Slide the pan into an oven preheated to 350 degrees and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool for 5-10 minutes before carefully lifting the brownies out of the pan with the parchment paper handles. Eat warm or allow to cool completely.
*You could leave the coffee out of this recipe, although there will be one layer of flavor missing. It will not result in an undesirable brownie though! You could also swap 1-2 teaspoons of finely ground beans for the 2 tablespoons of brewed coffee.
**Feel free to use jarred dulce de leche or caramel, but it is pretty easy to make dulce de leche as well. We have a recipe here in our last post on Alfajores (Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookies).
Click HERE for the printable recipe.
Disclaimer: We received a free sample but no compensation for this post. All opinions are our own.