Today Melissa shares a Spanish classic– the recipe for café con leche. While it might seem so simple, it has its tricks!
In Spain, café con leche reigns supreme. It’s an essential part of every Spanish breakfast and afternoon merienda. Spaniards often order it after a long and hearty lunch, or even after dinner to fuel a long night out. It’s delicious in its simplicity, and if you don’t watch out, you may just get addicted. But never fear; this classic coffee is easy to make at home, as long as you’ve got a good Spanish café con leche recipe.
What is café con leche?
Literally speaking, it’s coffee (café) with milk (leche). If you’re trying to recreate it at home, you might think you can just brew up a cup of American filtered coffee and add a splash of 2% milk. But you would be mistaken. To have the true café con leche experience, you can’t forget the details.
First of all, the café is really a shot of espresso. Second, the leche is steamed and has its own distinct flavor. Why? In Spain (and throughout Europe), most milk is Ultra High-Temperature Pasteurized, meaning it’s shelf stable and doesn’t need to be refrigerated before opening. If you’re used to “fresh” milk (probably High Temperature Short Time Pasteurized), you might have noticed a slight difference in taste. Whether you love it or hate it, it makes Spanish café con leche unique. You can try to find something similar near you if you want, but whatever kind of milk you use, it’s essential to steam it (or just heat it up)!
How is Spanish café con leche served?
In Spain, café con leche is appropriate for any time of day. As a result, it can accompany a wide variety of foods. You might have it for breakfast with a slice of Spanish tortilla or a sugary pastry. It’s usually offered as an alternative to dessert for a three-course menú del día at lunchtime. Many people have one with a piece of cake or a savory sandwich as an afternoon snack. And finally, you might find yourself sipping on one after a late-night tapas feast before you switch to cocktails.
See also: The Top 12 Spanish Foods to Try
That said, my favorite accompaniment is something simple and not too sweet. For example, a few shortbread cookies or maybe a magdalena (muffin). If you can dunk it into your drink, even better. However, I can’t promise that this last practice is socially acceptable in public… which is even more reason to put my Spanish café con leche recipe to use at home.
See also: Spanish mantecados cookie recipe
Last but not least, there’s the question of sugar. Should you add it? If you order café con leche at any Spanish bar or restaurant, they’ll bring you a sugar packet on the side (if you’re lucky, you might also get a little cookie or sweet). In my opinion, sugar isn’t necessary; despite the strength of the espresso, there’s enough milk in there to cut the bitterness. But it’s up to you—if you’ve got a sweet tooth, grab the sugar bowl (or packet) and go crazy!
My tried and true Spanish café con leche recipe
Grab some strong ground coffee and your milk of choice, and get ready to get caffeinated!
- 1 oz (30 ml) of espresso or extra strong brewed coffee
- 1 oz (30 ml) of whole milk
- Sugar (optional)
- Prepare your coffee. If you have an espresso or Nespresso machine, use it! Otherwise, brew a bit of very strong coffee on the stove or in in a French press coffee maker.
- Steam or heat your milk until it's as hot as possible without bringing it to a boil.
- Pour the milk over the coffee.
- Add sugar to taste, and grab a couple of cookies if you're feeling fancy. Enjoy!