by Jolene Lamb, coordinator, LLCC Culinary Institute
This week I want to introduce you to a pair of amazing women entrepreneurs bringing approachable, quality coffee to the small central Illinois town of Taylorville. Ashley and Niki, self-proclaimed coffee geeks, are the duo operating The Coffee Can, a unique drive through coffee stop housed in a funky retro Airstream.
Everything about this place just pops; the gleam of the silver trailer, the colorful peace sign window made of stained glass, the welcoming vibe from Ashley and Niki, and their terrific selection of coffee drinks. It’s no wonder they are creating such a buzz in our small community, pun intended. Since opening in late August, they have had a nonstop line of cars which usually includes mine. Last week they invited me in for a cup of coffee and shared with me their vision, ideas and insights to what a great coffee experience should be.
The owner Ashley studied as an art major at ISU and has always loved working with her hands and people. After taking some time to raise her young daughter she contemplated what to do when she returned to the workforce. She knew it had to be hands-on and bring people joy. She saw a need in the community for a drive-through coffee shop. She considered the investment and overhead needed to transform her vision into a brick and mortar location and ultimately decided a food truck was the way to go. Food trucks are popular; however, due to central Illinois winters they can only operate a limited time during the year. So, the question became, how does one create a drive-through food truck experience? Ashley immediately thought of using an Airstream trailer. And her chosen name, The Coffee Can was a perfect match. Within days of her revelation, she had acquired an empty shell of a camper. And after weeks of planning the layout, she enlisted the help of family to put the puzzle pieces together and fit a fully functioning coffee shop in a trailer.
Niki has a background in retail and grocery. She took a position as a barista not knowing if she would like the change, but soon realized she loved to make coffee. She enjoys learning everything about the coffee industry from knowing where coffee beans are grown to how they are roasted. She tells me coffee has terroir. People often hear that word when describing wine. Terroir encompasses everything around where coffee is grown. It’s not just the soil and climate. It’s the whole environment, including the people and the local knowledge. The specific characteristics of soil composition, temperature, rain, micro and macro climate all affect how the brewed coffee will ultimately taste. But, since every terroir is different, this means that it brings out characteristics in different ways. In other words, terroir is what makes a Colombian coffee different from a Brazilian, Ethiopian or Indonesian coffee. For instance, even if you plant the same variety of coffee in Costa Rica and in Panama, they will taste differently. The higher growing altitude of the Panamanian coffee is in a cooler climate which can cause the coffee to be more acidic and sweeter.
Ashley and Niki set out to source coffee beans roasted locally in Illinois. They were able to make a connection with the Chicago roaster, Intelligentsia. According to their website, Intelligentsia is a specialty coffee company started in 1995 with an emphasis on sourcing exquisite coffee, paying a fair price for that coffee, roasting it with purpose and precision, and connecting with community, business ideals both Ashley and Niki support. They too value quality and fair sourcing and believe in connecting with and supporting their community. They strive to have a “coffee relationship” with their customers. They enjoy when people ask questions and want to know more about where their coffee comes from. I learned about Nitro coffee, which is draft coffee that basically pours like a beer. Yum. They are full of knowledge and passion, and I have no doubt they are on their way to becoming a favorite local coffee stop. If you want to know more, check out their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/The_Coffee_Can.
If you can’t make it out for some coffee, you can bake one my favorite coffee-infused desserts. Enjoy!
Chocolate Cake with Caramel-Coffee Mousse
Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine
Yield: 12 slices
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup plus unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1 envelope unflavored gelatin (about 2 teaspoons)
Caramel (see above)
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 pound bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar with the water and lemon juice and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Using a wet pastry brush, wipe down the side of the saucepan. Simmer the syrup undisturbed until it begins to brown around the edges, 4 to 5 minutes. Swirl the pan, then simmer until the caramel turns a medium-dark amber, about 3 minutes longer. Remove from the heat. Carefully add 1/2 cup of the cream in a steady stream. Stir with a long-handled wooden spoon to combine, then add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of cream. Stir in the vanilla. Transfer the caramel to a bowl and refrigerate until very cold.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottoms only of three 9-inch round cake pans and line them with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk the cocoa and espresso with the boiling water until a paste forms. Whisk in the milk until smooth; let cool.
Sift together the cake flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg and egg yolk and beat until creamy. Add the dry ingredients; beat until smooth.
Divide the batter evenly among the 3 pans (the layers will be shallow) and smooth the tops. Bake the cakes for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the tops spring back when lightly pressed. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edges. Turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
In a small microwave-safe bowl, dissolve the instant coffee in 3 tablespoons of cold water. Sprinkle on the gelatin and let stand until softened, about 5 minutes. Using an electric mixer, beat the caramel with the sour cream just until soft peaks form. Working quickly, microwave the coffee-gelatin mixture at 10-second intervals just until the gelatin is completely dissolved and hot to the touch. Quickly whisk the hot gelatin into the caramel.
Line a 9-inch round springform pan with plastic wrap, leaving at least 4-inches of overhang all around. Place 1 of the cake layers, flat side down, in the bottom of the springform pan. Spoon half of the caramel mousse over the cake in the pan and top with another cake layer. Press lightly. Add the remaining caramel mousse and top with the final cake layer, flat side up. Fold the overhanging plastic wrap over the cake and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
In a medium saucepan, heat the cream just until small bubbles appear around the edges. Remove from the heat. Add the chocolate and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. Let the glaze cool until thick but pourable.
Unwrap the top of the cake and invert the cake onto a large serving plate. Pour about 3/4 cup of the chocolate glaze over the cake and spread it all around, filling in any gaps. Refrigerate for about 5 minutes, until set. Pour the remaining chocolate glaze on the cake and spread it all around; do not spread once the glaze is smooth.
Refrigerate the cake for about 15 minutes to set the glaze. When ready to serve, cut the cake into wedges. The cake can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.
Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management, Baking/Pastry, and Value Added Local Food, and non-credit cooking and food classes through our Community Learning Culinary Institute. For more information, visit our website at www.llcc.edu.