A little spice can brighten up an otherwise ordinary cup of coffee – and add a little extra seasonal flavor. Pumpkin spice is a combination of cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg that is typically used to season pumpkin pie and other pumpkin desserts (hence the name), but shows up many other kinds of fall dishes. I’ve even used it in chili before! But like many flavors that work well in desserts, pumpkin spice also works well in coffee. You can add a splash of spice to the top of a latte, but to really get some fall flavor, I like to add this combination of spices to my coffee while it is brewing.
The amount of spice should be added to taste. You can sprinkle the spices over the grounds before turning on your coffee pot or you can blend them with your coffee beans in the coffee grinder, if you’re working with whole spices. I use about 1/2 a teaspoon of ground spices when I’m working with already ground coffee, and slightly more when I’m grinding them fresh. Either way, you’ll get a pot of coffee that has a wonderful aroma and a distinctly fall flavor. It is especially good when you’re making coffee for a crowd and want a little something different. I topped my cup with pumpkin spice marshmallows for even more spice – and a very cute look.
The Pumpkin Spice Latte is a hugely popular seasonal offering at Starbucks, and many other coffee shops offer similar drinks during the fall and winter. All of these pumpkin spice drinks tend to be made with a thick pumpkin syrup that has the consistency of caramel sauce. I’ve experimented with coming up with a homemade version of this syrup, but have found that I get the best flavor when I simply add a dash of pumpkin pie spice – a mixture of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg – to my coffee drinks and skip the actual pumpkin. To add back some of the richness lost by omitting the pumpkin syrup, I decided to add chocolate syrup to a drink the other day and created a Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Latte.
The latte starts with a shot or two of espresso that is stirred together with some chocolate syrup and a generous pinch of pumpkin pie spice. You want to use enough spice to get the flavor, but not so much that you’ll have a block of it at the bottom of your cup. I steamed some chocolate milk and poured it on top of the drink (adding chocolate sauce to the hot milk will lose you a few bubbles, but will keep your steam wand clean), then finished the whole thing off with a drizzle of chocolate syrup and a sprinkle of spice.
You can also make this with coffee and milk that has been heated in the microwave if you don’t have an espresso machine. Put the hot milk into a small bowl and beat it with a whisk for a minute or two to foam it up for a more latte-like effect. And, as always, feel free to increase the amount of chocolate to taste or to add some sugar to the espresso for a sweeter finished product.
I was making strawberry syrup for a dessert when I was inspired to try to combine strawberries and coffee. Generally speaking, coffee and strawberries don’t mix much. Even at coffee shops, strawberry drinks are usually coffee-free. That being said, raspberries, oranges and other fruits/fruit syrups are frequently combined with coffee with great results. Encouraged by this line of thinking, I did a little bit of experimenting and realized that strawberries and coffee do go quite well together!
I made my own strawberry syrup for this drink by combining strawberry puree and sugar. I mixed the sweetened syrup with some espresso, topped it with steamed milk and had a very grown-up version of strawberry milk to enjoy! Since I was making a big batch of this for a dessert sauce, I strained mine, but the strawberry seeds are so tiny that they won’t impact the drink if you want to skip that step. I like this drink hot, but if you add an extra tablespoon or two of syrup to your drink, it should make an nice iced version, as well.
When it comes to making coffee drinks, I tend to recommend using good quality cocoa powder or the best chocolate that you can find. This ensures that you get the most flavorful result in your drink. It also tends to excludes certain types of chocolates – such as chocolate chips. In the past, chocolate chips were frequently made with non-chocolate ingredients, including vegetable shortening and additional emulsifiers that helped the chips stay smooth and hold their shape while in the oven. These days, more companies are using real chocolate – which is typically comprised of ingredients like cocoa powder, cocoa butter, sugar, milk and vanilla – to make their chocolate chips and leaving the rest of the stuff out. May 15th is National Chocolate Chip Day and I couldn’t think of a better way to recognize chocolate chips than by putting them in a coffee drink – and serving it with a few homemade chocolate chip cookies!
This Chocolate Chip Mocha is made with chocolate chips. I used Nestle Tollhouse Dark Chocolate Chips with good results. Simply pour very hot coffee over a generous amount of chocolate chips and stir until the chips are melted. Top of the cup with warmed or steamed milk, then finish with a dollop of whipped cream and garnish with additional chocolate chips. I used mini chocolate chips for my garnish because they hold up on top of the whipped cream better than full-sized chips – although you can always stir in any chips that fall through the whipped cream and into your drink!
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