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alice's italian coffee primer
(return to food)

Italian coffee rituals are often baffling to the uninitiated. Espresso coffee is very small and very strong. It is usually consumed in one or two gulps while standing at the bar. Italians will spend three hours eating a meal and then refuse the restaurant's coffee (which is always served at the end of the meal after dessert) because they want to drink it in a particular bar. So everyone gets up, sometimes gets in the car and drives to the bar; parks, gets out goes in, stands at the bar and spends four seconds drinking the coffee!

Espresso coffee is the only kind of coffee consumed in Italy. It is not served with lemon slices. This coffee is very strong and tastes something like a rubber boot unless you put sugar in it. You really have to use sugar; two spoons of sugar. Don't worry, you will love it in about a week.

Listed here are various kinds of coffee found in bars; recipes for coffee drinks you can make at home; and coffee flavored desserts.

First, let's examine the various kinds of coffee and then, of course, your homework will be to try each kind at least once. These combinations are served in bars:
see also...

The Coffee Book

Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World

Coffee Basics

CAFFE' RISTRETTO: This is stronger, shorter coffee - it fills about half the cup.

CAFFE' LUNGO: This is weaker, longer coffee - served in the same tiny cup. My late husband, who was senstive to hot food, always ordered a regular coffee and then reached behind the bar, extending his cup with one hand and turning on the cold water with the other; thus making himself a cooler caffe' lungo which is not on the menu.

CAFFE' LATTE : Espresso combined with a liberal amount of foamy steamed milk, usually served in a tall glass mug.

CAFFE' MACCHIATO: Espresso with a little milk served in the small cup.

CAFFE' CORRETTO: Espresso with a shot of your favorite liquer.

CAFFE' FREDDO: is only available in the summertime. Sugar is added to hot coffee and then it is put in the refrigerator. It is served with a dash of vanilla extract.

GRANITA AL CAFFE': is cold, espresso coffee-flavored crushed ice.

CAPPUCCINO: Espresso served in a mid-size cup and made by the espresso machine forcing frothy milk into the cup on top of the coffee. Cappuccino is consumed only in the morning in Italy. It would be a faux pas to order it any other time of the day.

At home, Italians drink coffee in the morning and at night after dinner. Morning coffee is usually made in a "mocha" which is a stainless steel coffee maker put on the stove. It heats water in the bottom chamber and the steam goes through the coffee grounds and ends up as coffee on the top. Morning coffee is usually consumed with lots of hot milk in a very large cup to which crumbs of yesterday's bread are often added in which case it would be eaten with a spoon. Normal espresso is served at night.

Here are some recipes you can make at home.

Espresso Italiano
6 c Coffee Use dark roast Italian espresso coffee.
1 d Nutmeg -- freshly grated
1 Twist Lemon Peel
1/2 ts Anise Seed
1/2 ts Anisette Liqueur

Into each of 6 demitasse cups filled with coffee, pour mixture and serve at once.

Serves 6.

Caffe' Imperiale
1 demi-tasse cup of strong coffee
4 egg yolks
4 teaspons of sugar
1 demi-tasse cup of milk
3 tiny glasses of brandy

Stir the egg yolks with the sugar and brandy, add the milk and the one cup of hot coffee. Serve in warm glasses.

Serves 4

Caffe' all'Arancia
2 demi-tasse cups of boiling hot coffe
1 teaspoon of finely chopped orange zest
4 tiny glassses of Cognac
a few small blobs of whipped cream

Mix the coffee with the sugar, orange zest and Cognac. Pour into demi-tasse cups and garnish with the whipped cream and a slice of orange peel.

Serves 4

Caffe' Tropicale
250 gr. of mango sherbert
4 teaspoons of Cointrau
100 ml. of cold espresso coffee
100 ml. of pineapple juice

Put all the ingredients in an osterizer and then pour into 4 small previously-chilled glasses. Serve with two short straws in each glass.

Serves 4

Caffe' Profumatissimo
4 demi-tasse cups of espresso coffee
1 teaspoon of sugar
some mint leaves
some cloves

Prepare very concentrated, strong coffee; put sugr in it and put it in the refrigerator to become cold. Pour it into a carafe with ice cubes, mint leaves and cloves. Serve in glasses.

Serves 4


Brazilian Pudding
60 gr. of butter
30 gr. of flour
60 gr. of sugar
250 gr. of fresh cream
1/2 glass of milk
2 cups of strong espresso coffee
2 teaspoons of coffee liquer
4 small pudding bowls

In a saucepan, melt the butterwith the sugar and let it caramelize slightly. Remove it from the burner and add the boiling hot coffee and the liquer.

In another pan, heat the flour and milk and then add it to the first saucepan of ingredients, stirring well. Slowly add the fresh cream. Put the pan back on the burner on low heat and continue stirring for 3 or 4 minutes.

Pour the contents into 4 pudding bowls and put in the refrigerator for two hours.

Serves 4

Gelato Moka
125 gr. of baking chocolate
4 eggs
60 gr. of strong coffe
250 ml. of whipping cream
1 teaspoon of coffee liquer
100 gr. of sugar
shaved chocolate for garnishing

Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie. When it has melted, remove it from the burner and add the egg yolks and the coffee. Whip the cream in a bowl. When it is stiff, add the coffee liquer. beat the egg whites until stiff and gradually add the sugar. Stir the cream into the chocolate mixture and then fold in the egg whites. Spoon the mixture into a serving bowl which will freeze and put it in the freezer for at least 5 hours. When ready to serve, shave the chocolate and garnish the top and sides with it. Serve it immediately out of the freezer.

Serves 4

Piramide di Meringhe al Caffe'- Coffee Meringe Pyramids
4 egg whites
60 gr. of instant espresso coffee in powder form
450 gr. of sugar
500 ml. of heavy whipping cream already whipped
200 gr. of red grapes cut in half, seeds removed
200 gr. of white grapes, cut in half, seeds removed
100 gr. of sliced almonds
sprinkles of coffee flavored chocolate
pastry bag with a star opening
waxed paper
cookie sheet

Whip the cream until it is nice and stiff. Mix the coffee and sugar and whip it into the egg whites. Put this into a pastry bag with a star opening and form little meringes and put this on a cookie sheet covered with waxed paper.

Bake in a 120 C oven for 2 hours until the meringes are dry and crispy. To serve, cover the meringes with whipped cream in a pyramid shape, add grapes and almond slices with the chocolate sprinkles on top.


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