Q+A with Giant Coffee's Erin Kurklen
We are so grateful for our friendly and always fragrant neighbors, Giant Coffee! Aside from serving up delicious Four Barrel Coffee and organic teas, Giant slings some pretty killer pastries; all made from scratch from the best-of-the-best ingredients. We sat down with Erin Kurklen, Giant Coffee's manager. You have probably seen Erin delivering fresh flowers and ingredients to the shop, ringing orders or emerging from the kitchen with beautiful pastries. On this morning we chatted over a freshly baked Rosemary Orange Shortbread Cookie and a perfectly poured cappuccino. Read on for her baking techniques as well as two shortbread recipes!
Erin has been with Giant Coffee for almost 4 years! She started out as a barista before proving her self-taught baking skills, something Erin is passionate about. From there she climbed to where she is now, and wears lots of hats! Her inspiration for getting out of a baking rut? Learning from others. Erin appreciates the techniques she learns from fellow bakers at Giant.
When asked what makes Giant Coffee stand out, Erin notes that they only use the best of ingredients. This means a strong emphasis on organic products including REAL butter, Straus Barista milk, Four Barrel Coffee, and Pork Shop bacon, to name a few.
What is your signature baked good?
"Shortbread. Anything with lots of butter, those are my favorite. Butter is a home run. It's hard to mess up, and real, organic ingredients make a few simple ingredients really good."
"Cappuccino. Simple, with our organic whole milk."
The day we got together, Erin had prepared a fresh batch of Rosemary Orange Shortbread Cookies. The shortbread recipe is from Giant's "Big Green Book" AKA the "Bible" of recipes. These are the shop's staples that they pull from daily, but also throw creative spins on, such as with the Rosemary Orange cookies. Erin noted that she enjoys experimenting with herbs and spices in cookies, specifically seasonal flavors. Citrus is in season here in Arizona, and rosemary is an abundant herb. Together, they make for a subtly-sweet flavor reminiscent of Christmas pine. The shortbread is crumbly and dense, a perfect treat to enjoy with a cup of coffee!
Each day a new recipe is baked up at Giant Coffee, such as this seasonal cookie.
As for Erin's technique? She likes to keep things simple: quality ingredients, consistency, and a little imperfection. The appeal of the mouthwatering treats in Giant's bake case come in part from their rustic, homemade appearance. Fun fact: all those glorious pastries are half off during happy hour (3-7pm), every day!
As for other seasonal specialties to look out for? Pies!
"Leah has her Pumpkin Pie which we have been serving (and regularly disappearing by early afternoon), and I have a Spiced Bourban Pecan Pie recipe that I am going to test out."
- Depending on what Giant has on hand, you can call in special orders with a 48-hour notice.
- Giant's wholesome ingredient policy extends to their gluten free and vegan offerings as well. They aim to prepare 1 gluten free and/or vegan item a day.
- Beyond pastries: Some of our favorite snacks from Giant Coffee include the homemade granola, sliced organic apples + crunchy peanut butter, and homemade hummus with organic veggies! Also on the menu are hard boiled eggs, parfaits, baked eggs and toast, bagels, and awesome breakfast burritos.
- Four Barrel coffee beans are available for purchase, and you can have them fresh ground on the spot.
- Giant Coffee is open 7am-7pm daily. When the weather is just right, the entire storefront opens up to let the breeze in. Instant al fresco lounging :)
Orange Rosemary Shortbread
- 2 C Flour
- 1 C (2 sticks) salted butter, room temperature (important!)
- 2/3 C Sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- Zest of 1 orange
- 1 tablespoon rosemary, finely chopped (about 1 large sprig)
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy (5 mins). Add zest and rosemary and mix to combine.
- On slow speed, mix in flour and salt until just combined and dough comes together.
- Portion into about 8 large cookies (scoops works great for this!) - flatten balls to 1/2" thick and place 3" apart on parchment lined sheet pans.
- Bake for about 12-14 minutes, or until lightly golden brown at the edges. Allow to cool 10 minutes on sheet tray, then cool completely on wire rack.
Butter Pecan Shortbread
(omit orange + rosemary)
- Add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract to creamed butter and sugar.
- After incorporating flour, stir in 1 1/2 cups chopped, toasted pecans.
- Roll cookie dough balls in raw sugar, flatten and bake for 13-15 minutes (should yield a few more cookies with added pecans)