Usually my weekday mornings are pretty hairy; you don’t want to cross my path unless you want to get run over. It’s a miracle I can get into work on time (okay, within 10 minutes, maximum – hey, I’m competing with NYC commuter traffic!), given my propensity for waking up late and having to run around wildly to get showered and ready quickly. I really hate rushing around, really I do, but I just can’t seem to get myself in gear any earlier to ease my pain. And, of course, since I’m kind of a night owl I just cannot get to bed at a decent time. How can I wake up at 6am if I don’t fall asleep until 1 or 1:30am?!
Unfortunately, this just means I very rarely have time for breakfast. I used to, when I lived close to work for a year; I would savor my warm Grape-Nuts with skim milk and vanilla extract (sometimes with a very small dash of half-and-half to add richness … try it – it’s like eating vanilla ice cream melted warm into your cereal) or an ounce of nuts, all washed down with strong French roast coffee, black please. Usually I stuck to cashews, almonds, or pecans, but one time I got walnuts, probably from a container of mixed nuts. I never used to like walnuts, thinking them the poorer and bitter cousin of the swanky pecan, but one morning I made a fantastic discovery that changed my attitude toward that craggy nut forever.
Try this: chew a walnut in your mouth a few times, but don’t swallow yet. Take a sip of black coffee and chew some more, mixing the nut’s oils with the acidic java. It sounds a bit repulsive, but it makes the most phenomenal party in your mouth. There’s something about the coffee – the heat, maybe – that deepens the flavor of the walnut; it’s like it almost toasts the nut. Well, when I discovered this amazing taste sensation, a dozen recipes flew through my head. All of a sudden I was dying to try a coffee-walnut tart or pie (a remake of the clichéd pecan pie), toasted walnuts in a coffee glaze, and coffee-scented walnut granola. The list grew and grew in my head, but somehow it’s taken me two and half years to finally put one of these recipes to the test.
I developed this particular recipe as a result of having leftover wonton wrappers and a grumbling stomach at around 9pm. I know, I know: that’s too late to eat something, but I was on a mission. I wasn’t going to let the clock or an aversion to overly sweetened novelty treats dampen my fun. Granted, I was hoping to whip up some fresh pasta dough for these ravioli to make them real ravioli, rather than a sort of confectionary Asian dumpling, but time wasn’t on my side. The time had come to put the walnut and coffee on a blind date, and I had to make do with what I had. Here’s the recipe I threw together:
- 10 wonton wrappers, approximately
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 Tbsp light corn syrup (optional)
- 3 Tbsp light brown sugar
- 1 tsp instant espresso powder
- 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter
Toast the walnuts in a nonstick pan over medium heat for a few minutes, until they are fragrant. Melt the butter in the pan, then add the corn syrup if using and brown sugar. Stir to dissolve, then add in the espresso powder and mix to combine well. Let the mixture bubble in the pan for a minute, then remove from the heat. Spoon one teaspoon of the filling onto each wonton wrapper, off-center. Wet two adjacent edges of the wrapper and fold into a triangle, then pull the two corners together and pinch. This forms the traditional ravioli shape.
Melt the 1/2 tablespoon butter over medium-low to medium heat, then add the dumplings. Cover and cook until the bottoms of the dumplings brown a little, then add two tablespoons of water and let steam, covered, until all the water has evaporated. Serve plain with the melted butter from the pan.
All in all, these turned out delicious for a sort of forced attempt. The flavor was great – it well-replicated my original encounter with walnuts and coffee, which is what I was really going for. My only complaint was with the texture of the dumpling wrapper – it came out a bit tough. Maybe they could be steamed or boiled to soften them a bit. However, I’d probably try for a proper pasta dough, which would definitely be softer. Maybe I could sweeten up the dough a bit as well. And finally, although these dumplings didn’t need anything with them except that little bit of melted butter, it is tempting to try a bit of coffee-infused melted sugary-butter drizzled on top – deadly, but good….