The last and final day of the coffee series. I really am quite sad about this actually. It turns out that not only do I love to drink coffee but I love to talk to you about it too.

Although we’re not standing face to face, this world is indeed a crazy place and just as Vanessa says, I’ve gone and saved the best for last.

The real coffee purists may have some not-so-nice things to say about this post because for some, adding anything to coffee is almost as bad as the aforementioned song I referenced. But to them I say – just wait until you try my homemade vanilla syrup.

I think anyone would have a hard time arguing against these three additions.

First there is homemade caramel. My version is of course, slightly salty, and has a bit of a balanced tang with the addition of lemon juice and apple cider vinegar. I adore caramel but find its overpowering sweetness abrasive at times. This recipe has depth and character and makes a killer caramel macchiato.


1 cup sugar
2 tbl corn syrup (optional – helps to prevent crystallization in the caramel)
juice from 1/2 a lemon
3/4 cup cream, warmed
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar (optional)
1/4 tsp vanilla

In a medium saucepan add the sugar, corn syrup and lemon juice. On high heat cook until golden amber in color. I take my caramel to the brink of burning because I love the intense, deep flavor of well colored caramel – color = flavor. Turn off the heat and add the remaining ingredients. PLEASE be VERY careful as the mixture will bubble up. If the cream was not warm enough when added to the sugar the caramel may not come together. Don’t loose hope – simply turn the heat back on, low, then heat just until the cream and the caramel have come together.

Are you ready for this? Serious mad mocha goodness right here. Chocolate and heat go together like everything and salt. And for all you non-coffee drinkers who have been so patient through this series I’ve got a special present for you – Chile Ganache Hot Chocolate. Just don’t add espresso and we’re talking about the best mug of hot chocolate that has hit your lips. While we’re on the subject of presents – it is in fact heading quickly toward that season – all of these sauces/syrups make great gifts. The caramel and ganache double as ice cream toppings and the vanilla syrup can be used in cocktails or mixed with soda water for homemade vanilla soda – add a scoop of ice cream to that drink and happiness abounds. Keep in mind the caramel and the ganache need to be refrigerated.

Chile Ganache for yo Mocha

1 cup cream
1/2 dried hot Chile – if you like to really feel the spice add the whole thing
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
8 oz dark chocolate

Heat the cream in a medium sauce pan with the Chile, salt and cinnamon. Bring to a simmer – watch closely as cream bubbles up quickly leaving a horrid mess in its wake. Turn off the heat then stir in the chocolate. Ka-boom.

I add about 2 tablespoons of ganache for an 8oz mocha. If I was just making hot chocolate I would probably add 4 tbl – I like it rich.

Last but most certainly not least, Vanilla Syrup – made in your very own kitchen. Remember the beautiful beans we were talking about a couple of weeks ago? You still have some right? Great.
We’re making a simple syrup with the addition of a vanilla bean. For this batch I went the super cheap route and used a bean that already had the seeds scraped out. Since you now know that I NEVER throw out the rest of the bean I threw that into the pot of simple syrup and you’d be surprised how many little seeds were still clinging onto the bean. Well, not any more – they are all suspended in a vanilla scented syrup that makes my lattes sweet and sophisticated.

Combine 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water and a vanilla bean to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Turn off heat, let cool then transfer to a pourable container.

If you are using a bean that still has seeds you can make a larger batch. One bean with all its seeds will beautifully flavor 3 cups sugar and 3 cups water.

Thanks for listening to me ramble on and on about coffee. Really I could say more – but there is so much other great stuff to get to.

If you missed the previous posts look no further.

Coffee #1

Coffee #2

Coffee #3


24 Responses to “Flavoring coffee”

  1. katie

    I have been reading your blog for about 8 months now and I can not tell you how much I love the way you can describe something so simple and make it sensational and whimsical. Every time I log on, I am taken to a place where flavors explode and my heart sings. That being said, I especially have enjoyed the coffee posts (I too am a coffee lover and managed a local coffee shop for 4 years to get myself through college) so naturally when I saw this, I thought of you.

    I wish I hadn’t been so wussy and waited so long to tell you how much I appreciate your love for food and how your blog makes me smile everyday (at least everyday this month haha). Keep up the good work. You are much appreciated.

  2. wil

    im a coffee purist – i swear by it, but i also think people should add what they lake to make it taste like they like. why force people to drink what they don’t want, right? I LOVE the chile ganach idea, may have to try some!

  3. Bonnie Berry

    Ashley: I LOVE your site. At the ripe old age of 42 I am finally learning to cook. Don’t get me wrong–I have been a life long consumer of excellent food, but never liked to make it myself. Now that I have 2 young boys I have found myself in need of learning. But most food blogs frankly do not engage my visual side, but yours sure does. I love the photographs–they are so rich and dreamy. And good food photography is hard to do well so kudos. I have especially liked the coffee posts as I too am a big coffee nerd. I am jealous that you lived in Italy. I studied Italian in college and lived in France several times where I would shoot over to Italy as often as I could. In France my favorite morning drink was a cafe creme, which is somewhere between a cappucino and a latte. Anyway, I didn’t mean to prattle on. Just wanted to thank you for all that you share.

  4. Talley

    I’d really love to be able to comment here and tell you what a wonderful finish this was to a great series of posts. how nice these pictures are, and how I can’t wait to try your caramel. But i can’t. . . because now I have that cursed Vanessa Williams song stuck on a loop in my head.

  5. Sara

    YES! I mean, i like myself a good coffee, but that fact that you linked a Vanessa Williams video? Amazing. Brings me back to nostalgic days of voice lessons when I was young, she was my idol in all her lovely snowy video dramatic-ness. I digress, thank you for all this great info!

  6. Jayme

    I finally had a moment to sit down and read through all your recent coffee posts and I have to say, I’m not quite sure which I loved more – the pictures or the writing! I have to admit that I already knew most of the info you posted, but I love the way you describe everything. I was once a Starbucks employee a loooong time ago, back when they sent new employees downtown for ‘coffee school’ at the HQ office!

    Anyhoo…I’m dying to know whose beans you use and what roast? And do you use the same beans for all your multitude of different brewing methods, or do you use different beans/roasts for say, espresso vs french press?

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Jayme – We try so many different beans. I love Stumptown and Storyville. I used to be a dark roast drinker but now I love the citrus and brightness of lighter roasts – especially those from Guatemala. In all honesty though we don’t always buy the expensive beans. Currently we have some dark roast Starbucks beans. We go through a lot of coffee.

  7. kamille

    yes on the caramel and coffee. I love Avellino in Bellingham for their caramel latte. And yes to the salt. I made caramel for the very same reason, but will have to try your caramel.

  8. jasmine

    wow, what a fantastic idea! we got a good coffee machine and grinder for Christmas but would love to have these little additions available for when I need an extra special coffee. hmmm I wonder how long the vanilla syrup would last?

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