“Don’t Play With Your Food”

Growing up I was repeatedly instructed, like many others were, “Don’t play with your food.”  Of course, me being me, that made me want to play with my food even more….you might say I was something of a stubborn child.  Now that I’m a stubborn adult I still love playing with my food! Perhaps this is why I loved Alton Brown’s show Good Eats in which he showed the sciency side of food.

Anyway….I don’t know if notes like this show up in your house, but I recently put a sticky note on the kitchen counter that read, “Experiment – Please do not discard!”  The note is next to a plate containing my current food experiment!

I’ve been thinking a lot about smoking (no, not cigarettes or pot) recently and somehow the idea of infusing “coffee smoke” into foods has taken root in my mind.  The hamsters on the wheels in my brain have been working overtime and thoughts about how to execute this idea of coffee smoke have been tumbling around.  My first thought was to use whole coffee beans; but I decided that the oils would probably make them likely to burn and smoke in an unpleasant way.  Then I went to the idea of grinding the coffee; but that didn’t resolve the oil problem.  Finally, I thought about soaking some mild wood chips in brewed coffee, draining them and drying them on paper towels.

So that is what’s been happening in my food lab (a.k.a. kitchen).  And today is the day I executed the plan. Since chicken is relatively mild, I decided to use chicken breast in my first test.  Surely something as mild as chicken would allow me to see if the smoke flavor tastes at all like coffee.

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After work today I got out my stove top smoker, took off the lid, took out the rack and the drip tray and added my re-dried wood chips to the bottom of the smoker.  I also added a little bit of espresso powder to potentially boost the coffee flavor.  I reassembled the smoker, put the chicken breast on the rack and slid the lid into place. Over medium heat, I smoked the chicken for approximately 20 minutes and then allowed it to cool in the smoker.

When I took the lid off, I was greeted by a beautifully smoky brown chicken breast.  The aroma was wonderful and the color was enough to get my mouth watering.  When I sliced into the breast I could tell the meat was wonderfully moist.

But the question was, “does it taste like coffee?”  The answer is, “No.”  It is delicious and smoky and will make a wonderful addition to the chicken quesadillas we’re making for dinner; but it does not taste like coffee.

Now, this doesn’t mean I’m abandoning the idea of using coffee/espresso in my smoking….I still have some ideas up my sleeve that I’ll try!  And it also doesn’t mean I wouldn’t use this method for smoking again.  The results, although not what I expected, were still yummy!

So was this experiment a success or a failure.  Resoundingly I’d say it was a success.  I was able to test my theory and produce a good result, even if it wasn’t the result I expected.  Trial and error – that is how we learn, not just with cooking but with many things in life.  So the next time someone tells you, “Don’t play with your food,” smile politely and promptly ignore them!

Please share some of your food experiments in the comments below – particularly if you’d had experience smoking with coffee!!!




The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way: “a fortunate stroke of serendipity”.

On Wednesday evening I was in my office paging through a book entitled, The Cake Bible (those of you who read my post What’s the Difference: Flour? Part 1 will understand why) when another book on the shelf caught my eye – Four-Star Desserts by Emily Luchetti.  Jeff and I are hosting a dinner party on December 1st; so we’ve been planning the menu and other details.  When I saw Four-Star Desserts, I thought I’d browse through it to see if includes any recipes that would be a welcome addition to the dinner party menu; but what I found was even better than the best dessert for December 1st.

I found a recipe for which I’ve been searching for 5 years or more!  When we still lived in our old house, I made a cake that I really liked and wanted to make it again; but I could not for the life of me remember which cookbook it was from.  And when your cookbook collection numbers over 200, it is difficult to just thumb through them all in search of one recipe.  Every now and again, I am reminded of this cake and I look at a few books hoping to find the recipe – always to no avail and great frustration.  In fact, I’m sure I reach for the same books over and over hoping to be successful in my search. What was that definition of insanity again?

But on Wednesday – when I wasn’t looking for the recipe – it just appeared to me, presented as a gift from the cake gods!  So it must be time to make it again!

This is a great cake to make when you are entertaining people who are watching calories.  Of course, it IS cake; so it isn’t a diet dish.  But it is one of those cakes that you don’t have to say, “just a sliver” when it’s being cut!

The recipe says it can be made several days ahead and stored wrapped in plastic at room temperature, but it was best on the first day.  Fortunately it’s so good I don’t think it will last too long!

Espresso Chocolate Chip Angel Food Cake from Four-Star Desserts by Emily Luchetti

Meal type Dessert


  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 1 1/3 cup cake flour (sifted)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cup egg whites (about 12 large eggs)
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon freshley squeezed lemon joice
  • 3/4 cups chocolate chips (coarsely chopped)


Recipe from the book "Four-Star Desserts" by Emily Luchetti


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Sift together the espresso powder, cake flour, and the salt. Set aside.
3. Put the egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Add the cream of tartar. Increase to high speed and slowly pour in the sugar. Continue whipping until the whites are stiff but still shiny, about 3 minutes.
4. Reduce to low speed and add the vanilla extract and lemon juice. Add the reserved flour mixture. When the flour mixture is almost completely incorporated, remove the bowl from the machine and fold in the chocolate chips. Make sure that the chocolate chips are spread throughout the batter and that the flour is evenly mixed into the egg whites. Do not overmix.
5. Pour the batter into a prepared pan and cut through it a few times with a dull knife to break up any air pockets.
6. Bake until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Invert the cake on a rack and let it cool upside down in the pan.
7. Unmold the cake and slice it with a serrated knife.

Hint: To prevent the chocolate chips from sinking to the bottom of the cake, mix the chocolate chips with 1 Tbsp of the flour before adding them to the batter.

If you make this cake, I hope you look back on finding this post as a serendipitous event!!!  Enjoy!