Musical pairing – Autumn Leaves by Eva Cassidy
Hello, my name is Debra and I am a hardcore coffee snob.
Here at Smith Bites, we drink a lot of coffee and I don’t know if it’s because I’m a Seattle girl or because I have an Italian heritage or if it’s because I’ve been to Italy and experienced the real deal. In fact, I love the taste of coffee more than the hit of caffeine that comes as an added perk. And the crazy thing is that I never liked coffee until I was in my . . . (cough, cough). Too strong to drink straight (I swear some of that stuff will set yuh free, know what I mean?) and too bitter, even with heaps of cream and sugar. Then on the other end of the spectrum, I’d had the equivalent of hot water with a splash of coffee thrown in for good measure . . . sigh . . . I just didn’t get what all the hoopla was about.
That is until a friend set me on the yellow brick road to coffee heaven with a Starbuck’s Carmel Macchiato; like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz twirling about in a field of poppies, I was hooked and have never looked back.
In case you haven’t noticed, the calendar says that Fall has arrived even though some of us are still experiencing 90-degree temps. And where coffee is concerned, that also means that Pumpkin Spiced Lattes are back – WOO! I don’t know about you, but buying even one of these a day can break the bank. So I played around with the ratios and came up with my own recipe for a Pumpkin Spiced Latte that I make at home. Dare I say I think mine is better than a store-bought one?
I’ve seen a couple of recipes that have you add canned pumpkin to milk, whisk and heat – BLECH!!! There’s just something really unsettling to find leftover pumpkin at the bottom of my mug . . .
So here’s my take on a DIY Pumpkin Spice Latte: Your milk of choice – skim, whole OR soy milk; strong brewed coffee, espresso, or french press coffee, simple syrup, pumpkin pie spice and a couple of different ways to achieve frothed milk.
For the recipe below, we make our own Vanilla Simple Syrup. And it really is simple. Just heat equal parts sugar and water (for example, 1 Cup sugar to 1 C water), the seeds and pod from one or two vanilla beans (depending upon how much syrup you’re making) until the sugar dissolves. Let everything hang out together and cool completely, then store in the refrigerator. SMITH BITES NOTE: I leave the pod and the seeds in the syrup while in the refrigerator – just makes the syrup that much better over time – but feel free to strain yours if you prefer. In the picture above, you see multiple vanilla beans because I’ve just added leftover pods from other recipes calling for scraped vanilla – those pods keep imparting their vanilla-bean-goodness for many batches of syrup. And you can always rinse, dry completely and then add those same vanilla pods to regular granulated sugar for a month or so; then you’ll have vanilla sugar.
METHOD: We put about 1/2 cup of coffee grounds in a french press with about 3 cups of boiling water from the tea kettle (makes more than one serving). Stir a few times to combine and let brew for about 4 minutes. See all that beautiful crema in the picture below? That stuff is pure gold – smooth, creamy and just plain fabulous!
While your coffee is brewing, put the milk, simple syrup and pumpkin pie spice in a milk frother – the one we purchased was about $20, looks like a small french press and does a fantastic job. Heat in the microwave for a minute or two, then froth. (You may also use a battery powered milk frother which costs about $15 – we used one of these for about 5 years before it finally bit the dust.)
Put about 1/4 cup of brewed coffee in each mug, and top with the frothed milk mixture. If you want to guild the lily, you can certainly add whipped cream to the top and sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on top and you’ll have yourself a Pumpkin Spiced Latte just like the big boys – but yours will cost less than a buck. Play around with the ratios until you find what works for you.
Is this method a genuine Italian method for making a latte? No. Are my Italian ancestors rolling in their graves? Yes. But then again, my Italian ancestors wouldn’t dream of having a Pumpkin Spice Latte. And I’m too cheap to pay $4 for something I can make at home that, in my humble opinion, tastes better. So give it a go and let me know what you think!