It’s hot out. Finally.
I heard someone say in passing the other day that the summers here in Western Washington don’t technically start until July 5th.
That’s only if we’re lucky.
If it’s a year when we aren’t so fortunate, we’re still wearing our rain coats through July, pulling up our pant legs to look at our pasty-white ankles and turning on the heat while wondering why we have chosen to live up here.
Then August arrives. And we remember why.
Using the word glorious to describe what it’s like here then is to thoroughly undersell the very brief - but glorious - summers we do enjoy.
Clear blue skies. The smell of cedar and cool earth in the woods. The lake sparkling, stretching out nearly eight miles in the sunlight, from Blodel Donovan to Lakewood and beyond.
Right now we’re in the midst of a two-week period where temperatures are heading into the mid-to-high 80's. Yes, we are getting dangerously close to “glorious” here.
When it’s like this, your mood switches. As you meander along the trails snacking on huckleberries and wild cherries, things seem possible. Life isn’t closed off. Light is streaming in!
It’s “real” summer.
This morning, the weather made me think of my brother. Warren lives in always-sunny Southern California.
I remember describing to him what it’s like to live here. That during the shortest, rainiest days it is only by dreaming of the short burst of summer (someday) that we are able to get through the dark months.
“God, it’s like you live in Siberia,” He said.
Whenever we are visiting him in Southern California, we make a point of stopping at our favorite Japanese curry place inside a Little Tokyo mini-mall.
After the rich curry, Warren often orders coffee jelly. It’s slightly bitter, creamy and caffeinated. Even with milk or whipped cream topping it, it’s a refreshing dessert that never feels heavy or decadent.
Coffee jelly might seem a little weird at first, but if you’ve had Boba tea, the milky tapioca drinks that all of Asia and much of the rest of the world have long been wild about, it will fall easily into your comfort zone.
It’s good. Trust me.
There are as many ways to enjoy coffee jelly as there are ways to make a cup of coffee. If you like milk, pour some over the jelly. Want ice cream? That’ll do. Condensed milk Vietnamese style is another route worth exploring.
I like mine fairly unadorned, just whole milk and a generous spoonful of Chantilly cream – a softly whipped cream with small amounts of sugar and vanilla added. If you like more of a flourish, add a dusting of cocoa powder or raw cacao. Cinnamon might be nice.
A couple of additional notes. Initially, I used less liquid, which made the jelly too firm for my liking. But, if you prefer a less wobbly result, decrease the liquid by ¼ cup and your jelly will be more resilient.
And, because there are so few ingredients in this dessert, do use the best you have. In our home, we prefer Tony’s Coffee, a local roaster who produces rich and complex coffees.
We’re also somewhat particular about our dairy. We use non-homogenized, vat-pasturized organic cow's milk and cream. We also consume raw milk from a local producer whose cows are wholly grass-fed.
If your preference is for non-dairy, leaning toward almond or coconut milk, use that.
Choose what you like. That’s the beauty of it.
Happy Summer to all! Hopefully it is here to stay.
Coffee Jelly with Chantilly Cream
For the Coffee Jelly:
2 envelopes powdered gelatin (1/2 oz.)
1 3/4 cups very hot double-strength brewed coffee
½ cup cold double-strength brewed coffee
1 ½ Tablespoons sugar
For the Chantilly Cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
Cold whole milk for assembly of final dessert
Coffee Jelly: Set aside a small glass square- or rectangular-shaped container. A small glass loaf pan will also work. You want your jelly mixture to reach 3/4 to an inch of height when you fill the container. You can spray the container with an aerosol oil (such as coconut) or later just place the pan in some warm water to allow for easier release of the jelly.
In a medium bowl, sprinkle gelatin on top of cold coffee. Allow to stand for 1 minute.
Add sugar to hot coffee. Stir to dissolve. Add hot coffee to gelatin mixture and stir until gelatin is completely dissolved.
Pour coffee mixture into your prepared container. Place flat in refrigerator to allow jelly to set. This will take a minimum of two hours. I like to make mine the night before serving.
Just before serving, place whipping cream and vanilla extract into mixing bowl. Add confectioner’s sugar by sifting in (optional – I don’t always do it). With an electric mixer, whip initially on low to combine ingredients then turn up to medium-high. This goes quickly. You will have soft peaks in 1 ½ minutes.
Assembly: Once jelly is set, cut into bite-size cubes. It’s easy to lift cubes out of the pan with an offset spatula or even a butter knife.
Place cubes in glass. Pour milk over the jelly. Top with one or two spoonfuls of Chantilly cream and any other additions to your liking.