Before we all became coffee aficionados, it used to be possible to pick up a cup of coffee for 50p in universities, coffee docks, clubs and on public transport. In the 1990s, it was still perfectly acceptable to make a flask of coffee and offer it around on a day out. We didn’t drink coffee as youngsters but on winter walks, my dad always had a second flask containing ‘special coffee’ – a milky coffee sweetened with sugar.
If he had commercialised this special coffee in the ’70s, we just might have become millionaires. In those days, going to a coffee shop was more about tea, fairy cakes, chocolate gateaux and custard slices. My favourite coffee shop is in Clifden, Connemara. Walsh’s Bakery and Coffee shop has been in the bakery business for generations. On the main street of the town, a narrow single storey opens out into a rear seating area overlooking Clifden Bay on the rugged shores of the Wild Atlantic Way.
It’s a bustling bakery and coffee shop where families gaze wide-eyed through glass counters full of celebration cakes, jam doughnuts, mousses, scones and tantalising French fancies. Our summer devotion to Walsh’s is down to their coffee slice: “The best coffee slice in Galway,” a friend once said.
Jam and freshly whipped dairy cream sandwiched between two sheets of flaky puff pastry may not sound heavenly but when fondant coffee icing enters the equation, they are lip-smackingly good. It’s okay to lick your fingers when you are in an old-school coffee shop, where everyone else is also momentarily freed from the societal shackles of coffee enslavement. It’s the type of place you would bring your grandma, who of course, would order a pot of tea.
Making coffee slices is deceptively easy. Once you have prepared the four individual layers, it is just a matter of assembly. The pastry tends to balloon up into pillows unless you weigh it down during baking.
250g-300g ready-to-roll puff pastry
1-2tbsp icing sugar
50g good raspberry jam
For the coffee glaze
1-2 tbsp boiling hot coffee
100g icing sugar, sifted
Preheat oven to 200 Celsius.
If not pre-rolled, roll out puff pastry into a rectangle. Cut pastry into at least eight even strips (about 9cm x 5cm each).
Place the pastry strips on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover the pastry with a second sheet of parchment paper and weigh it down by resting another baking sheet on top (this prevents the pastry puffing up like a pillow). Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes until golden and risen (the top layer of parchment and baking tray can be removed for the last five minutes or so of baking to help give a golden colour to the pastry). Remove from the oven and allow to cool, transfer onto a wire rack after five minutes.
Whisk the cream until it forms soft peaks. Stir in one-two tablespoon of icing sugar to sweeten the cream to your taste.
For the coffee glaze, add the butter into the hot coffee and stir until fully melted (alternatively briefly microwave, until the butter melts). Stir in the sieved icing sugar to create a smooth, thick, liquid glaze, whisk to remove any lumps and add more hot water if the mixture is too stiff. Set aside to cool slightly.
To assemble the coffee slices, spread half the baked pastry strips with a layer of jam. Spread whipped cream evenly over the jam.
Lastly, spread the coffee glaze over the remaining strips and place them over the cream (coffee side facing upwards). Transfer to the refrigerator for the icing to set and until ready to serve.
Variation Try using the same technique to make delightful strawberry mille-feuille, using vanilla cream or custard (also using sliced fresh strawberries instead of the jam). The crisp pastry can be used in all sorts of savoury dishes too.