We have just been given a box of chocolate covered coffee beans and already have a packet in the cupboard from a Christmas hamper. No one in our family likes eating them as they are but I hate to throw them away. Could you help me with ideas for how I could incorporate them in cooking somehow? We love chocolate and coffee — just not as a whole bean. Heidi
Well, thank goodness you like both coffee and chocolate — I have friends who like one but not the other and these beans become problematic as they, like you, don’t want to waste them but likewise can’t bear to eat them.
Personally I’m a fan — but it does depend on the quality of the chocolate and the bitterness of the bean. I have a Nigerian friend based in Wales who is sending me some kola nuts, which are native to the rainforests of Africa and are packed full of caffeine. He said chewing on them helped him get through his college days back home.
James says it’s the same as coffee in some ways as the characteristics can vary depending on the variety with some sweet and others much more bitter. They also range from pale yellow to crimson red, and I must point out that they’re used in the delicious Karma Cola made in New Zealand with kola nuts from Sierra Leone.
However, I digress — even more than usual. Coffee and chocolate … Well, the obvious thing would be to freeze them (so the chocolate is hard) then pulse-blitz them in a food processor to a crumb — it could be coarse or fine — but if too fine it’ll turn into a paste like peanut butter or Nutella.
That might be a good way to use it — spread on pancakes or toast — likely not for the children, though. With these crumbs you could mix them into a churned vanilla ice cream base or commercial base — defrosted just enough so that you can mix the crumbs in — don’t melt completely or you may allow bacteria to grow in the icecream.
Freeze in a terrine mould (lined with double-thickness plastic wrap or baking paper) and then slice or scoop it and serve with baked pears cooked with honey and saffron, or on a warm pistachio shortbread drizzled with creme fraiche or hot custard.
You could also stir the crumbs into a panna cotta mixture (not warm or the chocolate will melt) and set it, then serve with a compote made from frozen summer berries and a little sugar. Grilled dark plums are also great with coffee and chocolate, so try slicing them in half, sprinkling with a little vanilla sugar and a pinch of cinnamon and cook until the sugar caramelises under a grill.
You could also mix the crumbs into vodka or a plain grappa and let the chocolate and coffee infuse into the alcohol. Leave it in a cool spot (not the fridge) and away from direct sunlight — but no need to go into a cupboard.
Depending on your beans, and how much you use, it will take between 5-10 days to get a good head of flavour to it. Give it a gentle shake everyday. You can then strain it off and decant back into a clean bottle or keep the grits in the bottom. This will make a terrific martini and also be delicious mixed with some mango juice and topped with sparkling wine.
Lastly, you could also make a lovely mocha from the crumbs. Warm up some milk (and add a slug of whisky, as it has been a trial so far, let’s face it) and then as it comes to a simmer, gently whisk in enough of the beans to look and taste right. Keep on a very gentle simmer for a few minutes then give a final whisk and strain through a fine sieve into a warm jug.
You could drink the beans and all but it sometimes feels a little strange drinking granules. If you have any of the mocha left, keep it in the fridge and the next day puree with ice cream (vanilla, chocolate or coffee) and have yourself a milkshake to farewell the gift you wished you’d never had!
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you're stumped over something food-related, send your question to email@example.com and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes on our site.