Do you get French vibes when you hear "Café au Lait," or is it just me? I automatically feel like I want to grab a croissant and roam the streets of Paris. In France, their signature Café au Lait is basically a hot drink consisting of equal parts of steamed milk and strong hot coffee.
While seemingly sophisticated, this mellow drink is super easy to replicate at home and service with a traditional French breakfast like the one I referenced above. What’s even more, you could actually prep it as an after-brunch coffee with one of your besties alongside some chocolate (or dark chocolate, if you’re on a healthier diet like me.)
So, without further ado, let me introduce you to one of my favorite milk drinks that’ll take you on a flight to Paris right from your couch at home. The Café au Lait recipe it is!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Serving: 1 serving
Calories: 598 calories
Carbs: 47 grams
Fat: 32 grams
Protein: 31 grams
Oh, how I wish all recipes had minor and straightforward ingredients like this one! In a nutshell, all you need is:
- 1 part of strong Sip Herbals Coffee Substitute or hot coffee (French roast)
- 1 part of steamed milk
Could it get easier? Now, let’s get into the actual steps!
Café au Lait Recipe
Prepare the Ingredients
I like to have all my ingredients ready right before I start so that I don’t have to stop midway and interrupt the recipe progress. So, I prepare equal parts of both the strong hot coffee and the steamed milk. Of course, that entails having them both steamed and hot beforehand.
Pour the Equal Amounts Into a Large Mug
Wide or large mugs are on a level of their own when it comes to delivering that feeling of satisfaction! So, in a large cup, I pour the equal parts of the milk and coffee while reserving the foam. Then, I just stir everything together for a couple of seconds.
Here is where I start spooning the reserved foam on the top and serve it hot. Also, call me silly, but I love to use steamed milk to craft some artistic latte art. You know, all the hearts and stuff in the Pinterest photos we see? I can't resist giving that a try every time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Despite that the recipe can seem straightforward, there are actually some elements that you can play around with, and you may even have some questions. For that reason, I’ve provided answers to the frequently asked questions I had myself when I first tried out the recipe. Let’s check them out!
How Can I Make Steamed Milk?
There's a misconception going around nowadays that everyone needs to have an Espresso machine to be able to make steamed milk. Actually, that's far from the truth; you don't need a fancy steam wand or even an Espresso machine. Here's what you can do:
- Pour the milk into a glass jar (I love Mason jars, they do the job perfectly).
- If it’s not a Mason jar, put a lid on the jar and screw it tightly.
- Shake the jar for approximately 45 seconds.
- Don’t stop shaking until you notice that the milk seems to have expanded (almost doubled) in volume.
- Remove the lid or cover and put the jar in a microwave on high heat for 30-45 seconds.
- While the jar is in the microwave, keep a close eye on it because if it gets too hot, the air that went into it will deflate.
- Take the jar out, remove the foam, and keep it aside to be used later.
- Pour the steamed milk into the coffee.
- Spoon the foam on top.
See why old is gold? No magic here!
What's the Difference Between Café Latte and the Café au Lait?
Both the café latte and café au lait are European-origin drinks that are probably the most popular worldwide in today’s era; yet, a lot of people assume that they're the same thing: coffee with milk. While that’s partially true, there’s a difference between them.
Café latte is usually made using an espresso shot or two topped up with steamed milk and finished with a layer of foam on the top of the drink. Generally, the latte has much more milk than a cappuccino would, less foam, and a stronger coffee flavor. In coffee shops, lattes are identified mainly by latte art, which is believed to have originated in Italy.
As for the café au lait, which we’ve extensively explored today, it literally means coffee with milk in French, and it’s created by using brewed coffee and steamed milk (one part of each), while our way includes foam on top, and coffee chains do the same, many people don’t add foam to café au lait. Moreover, some people use French press brewed coffee to create it.
Tip: Don't get tricked into thinking that café au lait is the same as white coffee; they're entirely different! The latter is just brewed coffee with cold milk or powdered whitener.
What Is American Café au Lait?
In Central America, a variant of café au lait is made using milk, coffee, and chicory. The chicory is meant to add a pungent, bitter, yet distinctive flavor to coffee. Moreover, American café au lait is made using scalded milk (heated right below its boiling point).
Since chicory is bitter, this version of cafe au lait is served with sweet, sugar-coated beignets to tone down the flavor a few notches. You're probably wondering why to use chicory from the beginning if it's so bad. The fact is that it's related to the American Civil War. There was a shortage back then, and people had to get creative, so that's where chicory came in.
Interestingly, American café au lait is served in what’s called “cafe au lait bowls,” but since that can lead to the brew cooling down rapidly, most coffee houses resort to using cappuccino cups.
Once you try out this Café au Lait recipe, it’ll become one of your all-time favorite beverages, even above those from coffee shop chains! And I’m pretty sure that your guests will echo the same sentiment when you share this unique drink with them, especially if some flaky croissants or eclairs are involved!
Despite the fact that hundreds or even thousands of beverage variations have come to life over the past few years, this particular beverage doesn’t seem like it’s going to vanish anytime soon, and for the right reasons! For me, it’s enough that it only requires two simple ingredients and can be done in a mere 5 minutes at home. It’s a staple for me now!
P.S: While this recipe is made especially for one serving, you could easily increase the proportions to make a couple of cups as long as you adjust the ratio of coffee to milk.