The blending and pairing of flavors is an art form and skill requiring multiple experiments to get it right. Not only that, pairing desserts with the rich flavors found in coffee will require numerous trials, and there will be plenty of errors. So, how do you pair coffee with desserts?
The pairing of coffee with desserts requires you to understand the following things:
1. Flavors found in coffee
2. Complementary flavors found in desserts
3. Providing the correct quantity of each element
4. Bringing both the dessert and the coffee together harmoniously
The human taste buds can perceive only four basic tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. In the case of coffee and dessert, you will focus mainly on the bitter and sweet taste elements.
If you’re interested in learning more about how you can pair your favorite cup of coffee and a delicious pastry, then be sure to keep reading.
A Guide On How You Can Pair Coffee With Desserts
The human mind is peculiar; there isn’t a straightforward answer to pairing coffee and desserts. So you will find in some cases that some things work for one person, but others do not for another person.
The imperfection of it all requires you to improvise, adapt, and overcome. A good chef will learn how to taste (thankfully, it’s a skill anyone can learn), make decisions on what you need to change, and make the necessary adjustments.
It’s one of the reasons why it’s such a trial and error method; only with consistent practice will you get it right.
It would be in your best interest to have some flexibility; have some room for error. There are numerous pairings in this article, and so you’ll have a lot to try. Some may work for you, and others may not. Regardless, the possibilities are endless.
How Do You Pair Coffee With Dessert?
Starting, it would be a good idea to get your taste buds ready. The primary tastes you’ll be working with are bitter and sweet. It would be best to start from the most effortless pairings to the hardest pairings. That way, you can build on your experience.
Please note that the pairing is also a learning experience. As you slowly make your way into more complicated flavor territory, you will have prior information from the most basic flavor pairings. So you can make assumptions on whether or not the pairings will suck.
One thing you can have in mind is that the best pairings are the least common pairings. So, if you have something in my mind, it might sound absurd, but try it out anyway and make sure you share your findings, whether they’re delicious or downright deplorable.
Firstly, it’s time to lay out the groundwork and define the flavors we’ll be working with during the pairing process.
What Does Your Mouth Perceive In Terms Of Flavor?
The flavor is a mix of things, but if you could narrow it down, it would be a mix of the following elements:
- Taste (the perception of the taste buds)
- The feel of the mouth (the perception from the rest of your mouth)
- Aroma (the perception from your nose)
- Perception from other senses (the perception from your heart, mind, and spirit)
The human tongue is capable of perceiving each flavor separately. Moreover, each flavor has the capability of affecting the other flavor. In the case of coffee and dessert, the bitter flavors can suppress the sweet flavors.
Not only that, but flavors have ways of affecting your appetite. Did you know that sweet flavors can satiate your appetite? Let’s take a look at both of these flavors in depth.
Your taste buds require a large quantity of a substance for it to register as sweet. Sweetness is an all-rounded flavor because of its ability to work alongside the rest of the flavors. Not only that, but sweetness brings out the flavors from other elements or ingredients such as fruits and mint.
The human palette is the most sensitive to bitter flavors. Even in the most minor or minuscule amounts, your taste buds will quickly pick up on it. One of the primary purposes of bitter flavors is to balance sweet flavors. The best thing about bitter flavors is the richness they bring to a dish.
Some chefs refer to the bitter flavor as a cleansing taste. It allows you to take bite after bite until the entire meal, dessert, or drink is complete.
The Different Flavors Found In Coffee
Coffee beans come in different brews that give different tastes and flavors. The brewing method changes the entire basis of the coffee bean. You are turning it from one similar coffee bean to different tasting cups of coffee.
Not only that, the different types of roasts also change the flavor of the coffee bean. There are four main types of roasts:
- Light roasts – the coffee beans have a light brown color, indicating no oil on the surface. They are also pretty acidic in nature and can taste like toasted grain. Out of the roasts, they have the highest caffeine levels.
- Medium roasts – they come in a medium brown color. They offer consumers a balanced taste, fragrance, and acidity. They have a tad less caffeine than light roasts.
- Medium Dark roasts – these coffee beans have a dark brown oil indicating that they have oil on the surface. Not only that, but they are a tad bit heavier.
- Dark roasts – these coffee beans are a much darker brown, probably leaning towards black. They have a sharp and burnt taste; however, they offer the least amount of caffeine.
When it comes it brewing coffee, there are three popular coffee types that coffee enthusiasts stand by:
- Latte aka cafe latte
- A latte macchiato (means stained milk)
Other ingredients such as milk and milk foam are added during the brewing process to give the coffee a unique taste.
If you’re interested in learning how these types of coffee pair with desserts, be sure to keep reading for more information.
Is Coffee Served With Dessert?
Coffee, like tea, was made to be enjoyed with a complimentary dessert. How Hollywood depicted cigarettes and coffee as a form of breakfast is a mystery.
If you’ve been to Italy, the coffee culture there is pretty unique. At the end of a meal, Italians will have a shot of espresso, and sometimes they’ll pair it with something sweet.
It’s part and parcel of their culture, and if you have the opportunity to visit Italy, don’t skip out on the espresso at the end. It’s excellent for digestion, and it brings together the entire meal.
If you end up in a café, you may find coffee and dessert options separately or merged. However, these cafes are pretty rare, and mainly Asian-based cafes (like Korean cafes) offer their coffee with desserts alongside them.
Nevertheless, they do exist, and with the help of Google, you can find these cafes in your local area.
So, coffee with dessert alongside them isn’t a foreign concept. It takes inspiration from British tea parties, except they replace the tea with coffee. Some amazing desserts pair well with coffee, and they will change how you take your morning cup of coffee.
Not only that, but they could be an alternative to adding sugar to your coffee. Coffee sugar or simply white sugar is a common additive to coffee; however, it’s not the most healthy.
Health experts advise using natural sweeteners, but the average coffee lover is stubborn to get off the sugar train.
If you choose to incorporate desserts (maybe even healthy desserts) into your cup of coffee, it could eliminate the sugar contents of your coffee. Here is another reason why you can pair coffee with desserts and its benefit to your overall health.
Here Are Some Coffee And Dessert Pairings You Should Try
Now that we have laid down the foundation, it’s time to showcase the show stopper of this article. The coffee and dessert pairings in this article are genuine and tested. Not only that, you have the power and ability to change them as you see fit according to your preference.
Be sure not to constrain yourself to the values and pairings. You can add, remove, or maybe innovate these pairings if you have any local recipes and ingredients you’d like to try. Let’s get started!
Espresso is a dark roasted coffee popularized by Italian culture, its bitter taste, and tiny cup. It has a very strong flavor, and its scent showcases the strong flavor as well.
Experts recommend pairing espresso with bitter and dark chocolate-based desserts. You could try dark chocolate brownies or a flourless chocolate cake.
You want a dessert with rich and bold flavors. It would be in your best interest to have something that incorporates mainly dark chocolate. A slice of dark chocolate cake might also be an excellent dessert to have with your espresso.
The only downside to the espresso is the sizing. The quantity of the coffee is small in comparison to the dessert. A dark chocolate brownie is small enough to complement the coffee as you eat it, and you’ll keep biting into it till it’s all gone. It’s the effect of strong bitter flavors.
You can also use fruits. Experts recommend the following fruits to go alongside your cup of espresso:
- Black currants
- Granny smith apples
Try the fruits one at a time to find out which fruit suits your fancy.
Similar to espresso, a cappuccino uses a dark roast to cut through the milk used during its preparation. However, cappuccino is different because of the milk ingredient added to it. Nevertheless, experts recommend pairing cappuccino with an ice cream dessert.
Not only that, but you can try pairing your cappuccino with thin yet crispy chocolate chip cookies. It might be a long shot, but if you like mint ice cream, you can try your cappuccino with a mint ice cream dessert as long as the mint isn’t too overwhelming.
It would be best if you got the perfect balance of all these ingredients. However, mint is an excellent blend for solid and rich flavors like cappuccino.
A latte is vastly different from a cappuccino because it requires more milk to make than a cappuccino. Many people think that a latte and cappuccino are the same things because they use the same ingredients. However, they are two vastly different types of coffee.
Experts recommend something on the sweeter side because it tends to be a lot less bitter than an espresso or a cappuccino. If you want something softer in taste, what better dessert to achieve that than with a fruit tart or a milk-based chocolate dessert.
Small traditional cookies would also go well with a latte.
4. Cafe au Lait
A cafe au lait turns the tables a bit. Previously, the bitterness of the coffee was an issue because it could overwhelm the taste buds and render the desserts pretty much useless. But with a cafe au lait, the dessert can turn the tables around and overpower the coffee.
Interestingly enough, it would be in your best interest to pair a cafe au lait with a coffee-based dessert. Why? Well, now you can bring out the rich coffee flavors with both the cafe au lait and the dessert. Furthermore, you still get to keep the sweet factor of the pairing.
A tiramisu is where your answer lies. Cafe au lait is pretty lightweight because espresso is not part of its key ingredients, unlike the other coffee types. So a tiramisu will have the elements that make this pairing phenomenal.
Cortado is a type of coffee similar to a cappuccino, except you make it with less milk than a standard cappuccino. Since it’s similar to espresso, you will use a darker roast to achieve this coffee beverage.
When pairing a cortado, you want something on the more chocolate side of things. Experts recommend a flourless chocolate cake or a rich dark chocolate chip cookie. Focus on having a dessert that has intensely more chocolate than usual when pairing with a cortado.
Mocha is a type of coffee drink sometimes known as the caffè mocha or the mochaccino. It’s a variant of the cafe latte, also simply known as a latte. The exciting thing about Mocha is that chocolate is one of its ingredients, making the coffee a little sweet from the cup to your hand.
It would be in your best interest if you knew that espresso is one of the other main ingredients in a Mocha. So there is some bitterness coming to play in your coffee cup.
Experts recommend pairing Mocha with coffee-based desserts. For example, chocolate chip meringues would go great with a mochaccino. Or you could also opt for a mocha-based dessert.
Mocha with a dessert is like stacking one piece of chocolate on top of the other. If it gets too sweet, your palette will retract, and your chocolate tower will fall.
7. Black Coffee
Last and certainly not least is black coffee. Black coffee is the valedictorian of the group because you can pair the majority of desserts with black coffee.
A quick disclaimer, though, there are two ingredients that you must not pair with black coffee whatsoever. Never pair black coffee with desserts that contain salt or cheese. It may be hard to hear this, but cream cheesecakes do not pair well with black coffee.
It would be in your best interest to keep with the more chocolate and rich flavors. Avoid the salty and savory tastes altogether. They will do more harm than good, but if you’re not convinced, you can try it out for yourself. Once bitten, twice shy, they say.
One good, honorable mention is the Americano. Americano is also known as Caffè Americano, and it only contains espresso and hot water, which dilutes to Americano.
You can pair it best with heavier and more rich desserts. A vanilla buttercream cupcake would go well with your cup of Americano.