The creamy taste test

I am on a quest to find the perfect hazelnut latte recipe to make at home. Like many, I really like a good latte from Starbucks, but it’s just too expensive to enjoy regularly. So I developed my own taste test to try out what seems to be the most important variable in the latte: the creamer/milk.

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My three contenders: Silk original creamer, So Delicious original coconut milk creamer, Silk soy milk

I brewed myself a mug of decaf coffee (can’t do caffeine, unfortunately), and poured a bit into three glasses. In turn, I added each creamer to their respective glass.

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When I started making coffee at home in the fall, I began using the So Delicious hazelnut. But when I order my latte from Starbucks, it’s made with soy milk (I don’t know which brand they use). I was prepared for anything to work. What surprised me was that neither of those won the taste test. The Silk original creamer came out on top with the best flavor and mouth feel. It’s smooth and lends itself well to adding in spices and other flavors. Overall, best of the three. Now it’s on to perfecting the rest of the recipe. I bought some Sugar in the Raw, a hazelnut syrup, and a new brew of hazelnut coffee. I will report back!

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New me, new coffee

The last couple of months have brought about a bunch of changes for me. I chopped off a huge bunch of hair (6-7 inches), got new glasses, and started making an effort to learn to drive. Also, as I mentioned in my previous post, I’m a writer, so I’ve been working on a big novel project. While I write, because I’m impervious to clich├ęs and stereotypes, I like to drink coffee.

My previous go to (besides the annual bout of pumpkin spice lattes) was always a decaf mocha frap with soy milk, even on cold rainy days in January. But as I was spending more time in Starbucks to write, which is an expensive habit unless you’re one of those people who just goes in and buys water, I thought I ought to switch it up.

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I noticed one of the boards said you could create your own latte, so I thought I’d give that a go. I ordered a decaf hazelnut latte with soy and added nutmeg, cinnamon, and chocolate powder on my own. It was so good! But I knew I wasn’t going to get too many of these, so I’d have to figure out how to replicate the flavor profile at home.

I started with the coffee. I usually drink Diedrich decaf morning blend at home, with a bit of brown sugar and a hazelnut coconut creamer. I picked up a box of Green Mountain Coffee K-cups in the decaf hazelnut blend, as well as the smallest bottle I could find of hazelnut flavor syrup. The nest time I made coffee, I used the new K-cup, added two tablespoons of the syrup (per instruction of the bottle), my creamer, sugar, and a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg. This mug smelled amazing! But it could not have been a bigger disappointment. The coffee was weak, and it was not nearly as creamy as my Starbucks version. The one good part of it: it was definitely hazelnut flavored, but not as strongly as you’d imagine. It wasn’t overpowering.

One try down, I ventured again. This time I used my usual Diedrich K-cup, soy milk (realizing that this is how I ordered it in the shop, so it was reasonable to assume it would yield a closer flavor and creaminess than my creamer), brown sugar, the hazelnut syrup, and sprinklings of nutmeg and cinnamon. My first thought looking into the mug was how gross it looked. The soy milk blended with the brewed coffee created this weird gray-green-brown color that was highly unappetizing. I have no idea how to foam milk, so I couldn’t hide it that way. So I closed my eyes and took a sip. It was leaps and bounds closer to the coffee shop version.

It’s still not quite the same. I think that may be for a few reasons. First, Starbucks is using a decaf espresso so there’s a deeper, bolder flavor to the coffee to start with. Second, when I add sugar after they make the latte, it’s that Sugar in the Raw packet stuff, not the brown sugar I use at home. I’ve noticed a big difference in the type of sugar used on other occasions (mostly between brown and white), so I know I’ll have to pick up some of that to get things just right. Third, I have no idea how much hazelnut syrup they use to make my latte. I always order a grande size, which I’m guessing calls for about two pumps, but I don’t know what those pumps would measure out to be. It can’t be far off the two tablespoons I’m using because that part of the flavor profile isn’t that different. I’m going to continue to mess around with my formula and see if I can come any closer.

Do any of you have an tips or know of any good recipes for a creamy hazelnut latte? Cheers!

It is (again) officially fall

I unabashedly love pumpkin spice lattes. I don’t care if they are “white girl” drinks. I don’t care if the are overpriced. I don’t care if they are seen as a ridiculous marketing ploy by a giant corporation. I don’t care. They are delicious, and I wait for most of the year for them to come back.

Yes, I could make them myself anytime I wanted. There are a number of recipes online (most of which rely heavily on cream and milk). But there is something special for me about getting them (decaf, with soy milk, and no whip) made by a barista. Maybe it’s the cup with the sleeve and the little hole in the lid. I don’t know.

I say it’s (again) officially fall because I had my first pumpkin spice latte recently. It was, and I am sure will remain to be, the best way to warm up on a cold rainy day. It’s got the spice and the creaminess balanced perfectly. I am also a sucker for anything fall-esque. It is my favorite season (can’t you tell?) and I want to soak up every bit of it. With biscotti.

As a good writer, though, I know I need to acknowledge the opposing arguments. So here’s John Oliver, knocking my favorite part of fall. To each their own.