The bulk of this dessert? Two cups of whipped cream. Whipped cream folded together with a dark coffee jelly. It's utterly splendid, but those two cups of cream take some getting used to. You can console yourself with the fact that this is very low in sugar.
In fact, if you need to avoid sugar entirely and are given to sugar substitutes, this would be a perfect candidate. Just switch out the sugar for your sugar sub of choice.
Regardless, this dessert is a heavenly indulgence - all creamyness, with tiny nuggets of bittersweet coffee jelly that roll over the tongue, and only a wisp of sweetness. It's far more grown-up than those Jell-O pudding cups we all loved when we were six, but you may find yourself grinning in just the same way when you eat it.
Those of you familiar with the books of Laurie Colwin will of course recognize this from her essay on coffee. She offers it there with general instructions and not very specific measurements. We tested it out, added some more precise measurements and tinkered with it slightly. But all the credit for the recipe still goes to the inestimable Colwin.
Don't forget the shaved chocolate.
about four cups, 8 small servings
4 tablespoons good ground coffee
2 cups water
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 envelopes gelatin
2 cups heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons good rum or cognac (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Chocolate shavings and curls, for serving (instructions for making chocolate curls)
Brew the coffee with the water using a French press. (You can substitute espresso or Chemex-brewed coffee if you prefer.) Put in a small bowl or a glass measuring cup. Stir in the sugar and pinch of salt and sprinkle the gelatin over top. Let it soften for a few minutes then whisk vigorously until gelatin is thoroughly dissolved. Refrigerate until it is set - about two hours.
Add the liquor, vanilla and a pinch of the salt to the cream. Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Remove the cream to a separate bowl, and whip the coffee gelatin, quite firm by this point, until it is frothy and creamy. It will look like a thick dark mocha espresso drink, or creamy cafe au lait, but still with tiny flecks of brown coffee jelly. Stir this frothed coffee jelly and the cream together. Spoon into a mold or individual cups and refrigerate again until set - at least an hour. It will still be quite soft and creamy, like a refrigerator version of ice cream.
Serve, as Colwin suggests, with a few chocolate shavings on top.
(This is also good for a filling in cakes; watch for a recipe later this week for a layered cake...)
Originally published January 29, 2008.
(Images: Faith Durand)