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March 2010 Issue
The Perfect Cup
by Ronda L. Halpin
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If you're like me, one of the first steps in your morning ritual includes a bleary march to the kitchen to get coffee going. And, for me, that means putting water on the stove, grinding coffee beans and getting my French press ready to work some magic for me. Whether my coffee accompanies fruit and yogurt during the week or an extravagant brunch on the weekend, it's a standard addition to my morning routine that I sometimes worry I'm a little too addicted to for my own good.

But then I read about studies that suggest that regular coffee consumption has been linked to lower incidence of diabetes, Parkinson's disease, colon cancer, cirrhosis, gallstones, heart disease and asthma. And while many of these studies suggest further study, it seems that for the general population, the benefits of drinking coffee far outweigh the risks.

That said, there are many ways to brew coffee and preferences range as widely as techniques. As I said earlier, I'm a big fan of French press (or plunger or press pot) coffee. Making it is quite simple. You'll need coffee beans, water, a tea kettle, a coffee grinder and a French press.

To make a perfect pot of coffee, measure two level tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water. The higher quality the water you use, the better your coffee will taste. Fill the tea kettle with cold water and bring the water to a boil. When you pull the water off the stove, it will cool slightly and it will be just a bit under 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour the water directly into the French Press over the coffee grounds and stir just slightly.

Put the French Press lid on the pot, but do not depress the plunger yet. Putting the lid on the French Press will ensure that your coffee will retain heat for the appropriate amount of time. Let the coffee rest for 3 to 5 minutes. This time window is long enough to extract all the positive flavors from the coffee without any bitter / negative flavors extracted.

The coffee grounds will swell during the steeping time. After the appropriate amount of steeping, gently press the French Press plunger down. The mesh filter will push the coffee grounds to the bottom and separate the liquid from the coffee grounds. Pour the coffee into your favorite mug, add any desired cream or flavorings, and enjoy!

 

Cranberry-Almond Scones

These scones are fantastic with the perfect cup of coffee.
  • 4 cups plus 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 3/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water or milk, for egg wash
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 4 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix 4 cups of flour, 1/4 cup sugar, the baking powder, salt and orange zest. Add the cold butter and mix at the lowest speed until the butter is the size of peas. Combine the eggs and heavy cream and, with the mixer on low speed, slowly pour into the flour and butter mixture. Mix until just blended. The dough will look lumpy. Combine the dried cranberries and 1/4 cup of flour, add to the dough, and mix on low speed until blended.

Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead it into a ball. Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough 3/4-inch thick. You should see small bits of butter in the dough. Keep moving the dough on the floured board so it doesn't stick. Flour a 3-inch round plain or fluted cutter and cut circles of dough. Place the scones on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Collect the scraps neatly, roll them out, and cut more circles.

Brush the tops of the scones with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are browned and the insides are fully baked. The scones will be firm to the touch. Allow the scones to cool for 15 minutes and then whisk together the confectioners' sugar and orange juice, and drizzle over the scones.

  • Yields: 12-16 scones
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes
 



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