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Chocolate, Hold the Coffee Please

My partner hates the taste of coffee. As devoted chocoholics, we often find recipes that call for coffee/espresso, usually in liquid form in some amount. Is there a general rule that we can use to rid our otherwise delicious chocolate delights of this (to one of us) offensive flavor?

The son of an Ocheffer made a beeline for a piece of flourless chocolate cake at a buffet recently and was sorely disappointed to find it flavored with a serious amount of coffee. To his credit (as far as we know), he did not go back through the line for a supplemental piece of lemon cake, apple pie, or one of the other options.

We have never understood the de facto pairing of coffee and chocolate in so many "chocolate" recipes. From our perspective, the addition of both ingredients makes the dessert a mocha-hybrid, and our fussy little palates often find the coffee overwhelming the pure chocolate taste they were waiting for. Many people, however, regard the addition of coffee as a way to augment or strengthen the chocolaty flavor, and see the two flavors as completely complementary rather than distinct and at odds.

But the fact is, many chocolate cakes and confections need some liquid to make the recipe work, and the recipe writer has to choose something. We have found a large assortment of recipes that use coffee or rum or some other alcoholic beverage. In many cases they specify coffee or rum. So the choice of the liquid can be yours, although rum or Grand Marnier or some other spirit may add as much non-chocolate flavor as the coffee would have. In some cases, we have substituted water for coffee, and while it does not add any flavor to the finished cake, it does supply the required amount of liquid without messing up the chocolate flavor. A mixture of water and a little chocolate extract could add the correct amount of liquid without diluting the chocolate flavor of the finished dish.

Recipes that call for instant espresso or some other dry form of coffee are written by those folks for whom chocolate and coffee are inseparable/complementary/joined at the hip/etc. — a perspective your partner (and we) do not share.

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