I worked as a barista in a coffee shop for years during university. I loved the experience. I really got to know my neighbourhood. I made small talk with everyone who came in, and eventually that small talk became real talk. I made friends with neighbours, acquaintances with strangers, and for the first time since moving to Vancouver, I'd regularly bump into people I knew on the streets.
I was a pretty shy, small-town girl at the time, and the coffee counter gave me a voice to speak to strangers in what was still a really big, scary city to me.
And it was an amazing cross-section of new friends and conversation partners I made. From other university students (to whom I'd sling free cappuccinos, shh) to the original hippies who first populated that kitsilano neighbourhood, to the completely different demographic of families who entered the housing market at 2 million dollars a home (!), the few homeless people who lived in the area (to whom I'd sneak a free sandwich every now and then), to the retired folks who would sip a coffee for hours while reading the newspaper and doing crosswords.
It's crazy to think how coffee shop culture has changed in just ten years, but back then, people didn't look at screens in line and at their tables. They made eye contact and conversation. Sigh.
I'm totally going to be a "back in my day" mom. It was a totally menial service job, not one I ever thought I'd feel nostalgia for, but I totally do.
That seemingly irrelevant, rambling trip down memory lane started all because I set out to tell you more about the Breville Barista Express espresso machine I gave away on Facebook before Christmas, and all my coffee-centric life experiences came rushing back. I hadn't had the chance to play with this machine before the giveaway. And for the record, this is not a sponsored post. I just wanted to share my experience on it since 1) I really, really love it, and 2) I offered one up totally blindly in December (which I don't like to do). Also, I am partnering with Breville to give away some extraordinarily cool appliances over the next several months, including another espresso machine. I'm very excited.
I've now used the Barista Express machine every day since the first of January (ok, twice a day) (FINE, three times a day 😬), and I'm still so smitten with it that every single time I make coffee, I have to stand still for the thirty seconds and watch the espresso trickle like warm honey out of the spouts, waiting for the pressure gauge jump, anticipating the appearance of beautiful crema on top.
I actually make better espresso, better foam, better lattes, better everything with this machine than I ever did with the commercial machine I used at the cafe. It has a built-in burr grinder with automatic dosing of freshly-ground beans for one shot or two, a hot water nozzle for americanos (and tea!), a fabulous milk steamer (it makes such beautifully-textured foam for latte art and silky cappuccinos), a water filter - every detail was attended to. If you're in the market for a pro espresso machine, this is an excellent one. My neighbour owns one and loves it, and I talked to the guy who won it on the Foodess giveaway and he loves it, too.
I've got a few Easter treats lined up for you, the first of which is this Easter brownie recipe. It is based on my favourite brownie, the chewy brownies you've seen before. The reason I love this recipe so much is because it makes incredible chewy brownies, and also because it only requires one bowl and about 5 minutes. Melt butter, and stir everything else in. Easy peasy. A little tooooo easy, actually.
- Cook Time
- Prep Time
- 4 oz (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2.5 oz chopped dark chocolate
- a handful, or about 7 oz mini eggs
Preheat oven to 325ºF. Line an 8x8" baking dish with parchment paper, leaving a bit of overhang at the sides.
Melt butter in a large microwave-safe bowl in the microwave on high power for about a minute. Use a fork to stir in cocoa powder until completely blended, then fork-whisk in sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and flour. Stir in chopped chocolate.
Use a spoon to spread the stiff batter into the parchment-lined baking dish, then sprinkle mini eggs evenly over top. Bake for about 30 minutes, until centre is firm but still has a bit of give. Let cool at least 10 minutes in pan before lifting out brownies by the parchment paper.