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[Photograph: jonathan mcintosh on Flickr]

Would you like some coffee with your dessert? How about coffee as dessert? Here's a sweet little jolt next time both you and your sweet tooth need a little kick: Espresso con panna, or espresso with whipped cream.

If a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, just imagine how easily that already delicious little shot will slide down the ol' gullet with a dollop of silky whipped cream on top. Available in most specialty coffee shops (well, any place that has whipped cream available for hot chocolate or mochas) and also common on restaurant menus, a shot of strong coffee marked with a splat of decadent cream is one of my favorite go-to solution to the 4 pm "I just need a little something sweet" craving.

All you "serious" coffee people out there, don't scoff: This tiny treat is a perfect marriage of ingredients. The cream's sweetness plays nicely off the coffee's natural bitterness; the one-to-one ratio creates a balanced flavor, neither component overwhelming the other (especially if the cream is, at most, very lightly sweetened); and the sexy transition from the cold topping to the hot elixir underneath is a sensory delight.

But if you're hankering for a con panna, make sure you get the real deal: This is not a Reddi-wip situation, people. A beautiful, densely aromatic head of crema deserves some hand-whipped, unadulterated heavy cream—not some aerated chemical concoction that squirts out of a can.

You can make your own by mixing one cup of very cold heavy whipping cream, one-half to one tablespoon of powdered sugar, and a dash or two of vanilla extract—using either an electric mixer, a whisk and some elbow grease, or a chilled mason jar and some vigorously shaking—until the slurry starts to form neat, stiff peaks. It will keep in the fridge for a few days (though let's face it—you'll be drinking con pannas like they're going out of style, so it might not be around that long).

And, of course, you'd always better make sure the coffee's good.

About the author: Erin Meister trains baristas and inspires coffee-driven people for Counter Culture Coffee. She's a confident barista and an audacious eater, but she remains a Nervous Cook.

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