The Beer Lover’s Table: Coffee Kisses And Põhjala Cocobänger Imperial Stout With Coffee And Coconut

If you’re familiar with coffee kisses, then you probably associate them with Mary Berry, or afternoon tea. Large, tawny cookies, sandwiched together by a simple coffee buttercream, coffee kisses feel vaguely matronly and old-fashioned to me, partly because my grandmother was an accomplished baker, and her coffee kisses have since inspired their own family lore. As far as I know, her recipe hasn’t changed since the 1960s. It exists, in her handwriting on a worn piece of paper, faded almost – but not quite – beyond readability.

Coffee kisses may not be avant-garde, but they’re still an excellent (and quick) recipe when you’re craving something sweet, with a bit of jitter. I’ve made a few gentle tweaks to the recipe to help them feel more contemporary. A teaspoon of ground cardamom, which works so well with coffee, makes a worthy addition to the dough, and I’ve also added a bit of cocoa powder and vanilla extract to the buttercream. The recipe yields 16 individual cookies, or eight total sandwich cookies: a reasonable amount, the right size for a casual, semi-spontaneous baking session.

This isn’t the kind of pairing I would normally do at this time of year, but given that I haven’t quite felt able to completely retire my winter coat for the season just yet, an imperial, barrel-aged stout still appeals. Estonia’s Põhjala Brewery is a master of the style and Cocobänger – a 12.5% imperial stout brewed with coconut and Costa Rican coffee – is emblematic of what this brewery does so well.

It’s sweet upfront, tongue-curlingly rich, but with just enough pleasing roastiness and bitterness from the coffee to keep things balanced, despite the significant weight of the alcohol. The coconut suggests itself subtly: it’s gently toasted and fragrant rather than cloying, almost the way new oak might taste in a wine.

Overall, this is a beer of spectacular richness and structure and depth, and the coffee kisses’ sweet crunch adds one more layer to appreciate.

Coffee Kisses
Makes 8 large sandwich cookies

For the cookies:
170g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
100g sugar
100g (7 tablespoons) unsalted butter, chilled
1 medium egg
2 teaspoons instant coffee (dissolved in 1 teaspoon hot water)

For the icing:
55g unsalted butter, softened
85g icing sugar, plus additional for dusting
2-3 teaspoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant espresso (dissolved in 1 teaspoon hot water)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 170° Celsius. Add the flour, cardamom, and sugar to a large bowl, and whisk to combine. Finely cube the chilled butter and add to the flour mixture. Using your fingertips or a pastry cutter, work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal.

2. Add the instant coffee granules to a ramekin or small bowl, and dissolve in 1 teaspoon hot water. In a separate bowl, crack the egg and whisk until frothy. Add the coffee concentrate to the egg and whisk to combine. Pour into the dry ingredients and, using a wooden spoon, mix until the dough has just come together.

3. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn the dough out onto a well- floured surface and flour your hands well. Gently roll into roughly walnut-sized balls (the dough will be somewhat sticky) and place roughly 1.5 inches apart on the baking sheet.

4. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the cookies are puffed up, golden, and lightly crackled on top. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes on the tray before transferring to a cooling rack.

5. While the cookies are cooling, make the icing. In a large bowl, add the softened butter, icing sugar and cocoa powder. Beat until smooth. Drizzle in the coffee and the vanilla, and beat until uniform.

6. Once the cookies are completely cooled, dollop a generous amount of frosting on the base of one cookie and, using another cookie, create a sandwich. Repeat with the remaining cookies. Dust with additional icing sugar, if preferred, and serve.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB &B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen.