February 17th is National Café au Lait Day, a French term for coffee with steamed milk (photo #1).
Brewed French roast or Italian roast coffee is mixed in a 1:1 ratio with steamed milk (frankly, at home we often just heat the milk in the microwave—a “rustic” version).
Café au lait is different from a latte, which is made with espresso and steamed milk.
In cafés, the milk is steamed with the steaming arm of an espresso machine. For less than $50, you can buy a device that both steams and froths milk.
In France, café au lait is served in cups, but also in bowls (photo #2)
The recipe for café au lait is below.
The drinks are the same, but the terms are used to indicate the way coffee is served.
Steamed milk is more widely used to make coffee and espresso drinks, because the milk is easily steamed with the steam wand on an espresso machine.
The steam makes the milk very hot and slightly aerated. These very small air bubbles create a finer and more delicate foam called microfoam.
That’s the same foam that’s used to make latte art.
Frothed milk is more highly aerated, giving it more volume and significant amounts of foam. Aeration—the adding of air bubbles—is what makes the froth (foam).
Simply pour half a cup of extra-strong coffee and finish filling the cup with steamed milk.
If you have a frother: Foam isn’t traditionally found atop a café au ait, but no one will report you if you use it.
Ingredients For 2 Cups
1. HEAT the milk in a saucepan over medium-low heat, whisking until the milk is steaming and slightly foamy.
2. FILL two large coffee cups halfway with the coffee. Divide the milk between them and stir.
If you don’t have a steaming wand, you can froth the milk instead.
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