There are dozens of different coffee beverages made with an espresso shot of coffee and milk and when combining the two ingredients you can make a cappuccino, flat white, latte or a macchiato as some examples.
Café Con Leche, which directly translates to “coffee with milk” in English, isn’t as simple as it sounds-a regular Americano coffee with milk that you may throw together every morning with ease.
While it originated from Spain, it is unclear who the inventor was and naturally as colonization occurred in the world, became a common place drink in Latin American countries as well.
Made from equal parts espresso and scalded milk, it is considered to be a breakfast drink because it is much more filling than other coffee drinks.
Café Con Leche is comparable to that of an Italian caffe latte.
When preparing the Café Con Leche, the espresso is prepared in the machine as per usual, but the milk is scaled, instead of being steamed, heated or added in cold from the fridge.
Milk is scalded by heating it just before its boiling point with a fancy gadget called a steam wand.
This technique was originally done to make the milk safe for consumption, before the advent of pasteurization. However, these days, scaled milk is a popular ingredient used in coffee shops and in baking.
Scaled milk has a rich and creamy mouthfeel and also has a heightened sweetness but lacks the foam layer.
It is common to use whole cow’s milk to make Café Con Leche, but plant milk can be used, it is just important to note that it has a lower fat content in comparison to whole cow’s milk so scalding may affect its chemical stability and so the drink’s texture or taste may be altered or different from Café Con Leche prepared with whole cow’s milk.
All espresso-based drinks have the same origin, but what makes Café Con Leche stand out from the rest is the recipe-the espresso to milk ratio is very important as it will give the drink a unique flavor; this could be a richer, milker or more balance flavor, depending on what you are trying to achieve.
As mentioned before, the Café Con Leche culture spread and different countries and communities have their own styles of creating the popular coffee drink.
As an example, Cuban communities in Miami, Florida use a more concentrated coffee espresso which is pared with a higher volume of steamed milk (not scalded milk) as well as a ton of sugar. This is enjoyed as a breakfast staple.
When making Café Con Leche at home, you do not need to have a fancy espresso machine and can be made by using a few home brewing methods such as using a French press, a portable espresso maker or moka pot.
The key thing to remember is that the coffee espresso needs to be highly concentrated. Then to create the scaled milk, you will need to heat the milk in a pan and if you have a thermometer handy, check the temperature.
When the milk reaches 179.6℉ or you can see that it is just about to boil, take it off the heat and stir it to add in some air bubbles to lift the texture and add a creamy texture to the milk.
The coffee and the milk need to be put in a cup in a 1:1 ratio-first coffee, then milk over the coffee.
Café Con Leche can be served in many ways. It can be clarito which means more milk than coffee or oscurito which means more coffee, less milk.
It is common place to add in a pinch of salt to the coffee to enhance the flavors present in the coffee and to emphasize the sweetness of the milk.
Café Con Leche is usually served hot but can be served over ice on a hot summer’s day. Sugar use varies according to the region and personal preference of the drinker.
What is also unique about this coffee beverage is that it can be ordered yo lo preparo which means that you, as the drinker, mix your coffee and milk yourself once it is served to you.
Now that you know the ins and outs of Café Con Leche and its creation, here are some exciting and tasty recipes you can create with the drink.
This recipe from a couple cooks is a twist on the traditional scalded milk recipe mentioned above. Instead of the scalded milk, it uses steamed or frothed milk.
Through their recipe, they give a full breakdown on how to create the drink at home and it is super simple.
They also provide tips and tricks on how to make the drink taste as authentic as possible, even though it is being made at home.
A Mexican take on a Café Con Leche, using evaporated milk, some vanilla and a sprinkle of cinnamon to create this tantalizing morning drink.
The recipe also takes you through how to make the drink if you don’t have any sort of equipment-just some pots on the stove.
The use of evaporated milk instead of just regular milk gives a creaminess like no other and the vanilla and cinnamon will enhance the sweetness levels, naturally, as well as uplifting the spice notes present in the coffee.
Also haling from Mexico, this recipe incorporates whipped or Dalgona-style coffee in the drink. What is great about this recipe is that you can use instant coffee granules.
All you need is equal parts instant coffee, sugar and hot water which are whipped up together to form a coffee mix that has a whipped cream texture.
Then you add heated or warmed milk to a cup and top with the whipped coffee and a dash of cinnamon to finish it off.
This dairy-free, iced and hazelnut infused variation on the regular Café Con Leche, is a drink that will impress and satisfy anyone that you make it for.
It uses Cuban-origin coffee that has been sweetened and incorporates a mix of hazelnut creamer and almond milk instead of whole cow’s milk.
For added flavor, vegan chocolate chips were melted into the coffee before being added to ice and plant milk mixtures.
Looking for the perfect accompaniment to your brownies or other desserts? Well look no further than this Café Con Leche Sauce.
Using condensed milk, rum, heavy cram and dark Cuban coffee to create it, it is a showstopper to have as part of your dessert (or eaten on its own) and is super easy to make.
Another stellar recipe using Café Con Leche, is this flan, which has all the flavor of the Spanish drink in every bite. As a bonus, it also uses instant coffee and is only 200 calories per serving.
If you have a Spanish-themed dinner party coming up or need to whip up a dessert that is simple and can be made ahead of time, this is it for you!
This rich and creamy ice cream is a great dessert to make if you are experimenting with your ice-cream machine.
It uses a cup of brewed espresso and a lot of cream and sugar to achieve the same flavor profile present in a regular Café Con Leche.
Instead of using a Philadelphia style ice cream method, it uses a custard base for stability and to eliminate ice crystals in the finished product.
Another winning dessert using Café Con Leche as an inspiration.
The cream cheese is mixed with coffee liqueur, espresso powder, bittersweet chocolate and a bunch of sugar and eggs which is mixed together and piled on top of a base of crushed chocolate wafer cookies.
This cheesecake is baked and is ready in under an hour. It is definitely a showstopper dessert for any occasion and is super simple to make.
A coffee-flavored take on the traditional three milk cake, it takes a great middle ground between a Mexican tres leches cake and an Italian tiramisu, in terms of flavor and texture.
The key to its uniqueness and coffee punch is the fact that it gets soaked with a creamy coffee and condensed milk liquid. This gets poured into the cake after it is baked and the cake is topped off with a coffee and cream frosting.
The cake can be made and soaked a day before and topped up with some soaking liquid a couple of hours before serving. It is a coffee-kick like no other and is a must-try dessert!
Since taking the world by storm, overnight oats has become a regular at home breakfast staple for a lot of people.
Combined with the Spanish breakfast of choice, you have a winner of a meal.
All you have to do is pour the espresso and milk over oats with the addition of vanilla and cinnamon, and there you have it- breakfast for tomorrow covered.
The Last Sip
There you have it, some recipes for Café Con Leche – from the traditional drink preparation to the inspired desserts.
Hopefully, you have a greater understanding of Café Con Leche and how to make it and incorporate it in your every day life-breakfast or dessert, or both!