The holidays are all about indulging and pandering to pleasure. Mine are pumpkin and chestnut.
The flavors that captivate me at this time of year are pumpkin, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg – heady stuff that isn’t common with the crowd. Having a surfeit of pumpkin after persevering with it to make my own puree, and inspired by some drinks I see online, I make my own pumpkin spice latte.
If you’re familiar with pumpkin pie (and the ensuing fears that seemingly arise from that), it might be difficult, gross even, to imagine pumpkin in a cup. But a pumpkin spice latte tastes a lot like chai tea, and you like chai, don’t you?
The two key ingredients in this particular latte are two teaspoons of pumpkin puree and a smidgen of pumpkin pie spice. The latter is a combination of the four spices mentioned above plus allspice; jars of pumpkin spice are easily found in supermarkets. Vanilla syrup is a nice addition to this beverage to round out the spice as well as to add sweetness but I don’t have it so vanilla extract it is and some sugar. Two shots of espresso should follow, ideally, but I don’t have an espresso machine so what I make is a rustic espresso using my Bialetti stovetop espresso maker. It suffices, the steamy heat dissolving the pumpkin and spice into an aromatic mass as I stir and stir it ‘round, cooing it into submission.
The subtle whirrr of my Aerolatte, my substitute for an espresso machine steam wand, conjures a container of froth, transforming hot milk – a well of white – into bubbles that are loose and velvety. I pour the frothed milk into the waiting cup, raven liquid meeting a white-hot embrace. Their union produces an offspring that’s light brown: latte brown.
- upon sitting, the pumpkin spice latte settles into three distinct sections
Sipping the searing liquid gingerly, my mouth is awash in what initially tastes like milk and coffee, a regular latte – until the various spices start to announce themselves: cinnamon sings, ginger bites, cloves cling as they linger, while nutmeg and allspice strike sensual disparities on the tongue. At the very end, there’s a spicy finish in the throat assuaged by the silk of milk. Surprisingly, the pumpkin is not the pole star here, but the knowledge of it, its existence the driving force of this beverage.
Chestnut is another holiday flavor I want to translate into a hot beverage. I wonder if I can replicate that remarkable marron latte that I had in Tokyo last October. The memory of it bestirs me still.
I pick up a can of sweetened chestnut cream at the supermarket. 500 grams will make a load of lattes but I’m thinking that I can use the rest to make a chestnut torte; options, always options. Through trial and error, I discover that the chestnut cream must be used judiciously, lest I go into sugar shock. (A rarity yes, but a possibility nevertheless). Vanilla extract of course, my faux espresso, and frothed milk.
Unlike its pumpkin spice predecessor, this is one luxurious latte, lush and lovely. There’s a memory of chestnut in taste and texture that glides upon the espresso’s edges, skims on the bubbles of milk and mellowness of vanilla.
- A chestnut latte becomes transcendent when paired with a homemade ginger cookie
True, I might be considered an anomaly in my choice of latte flavors; these aren’t beverages found at the local Starbucks, after all. But they are my lattes, and as I prepare them in the quiet of my kitchen, transposing imagination and desire into fluid reality through heat and steam, I breathe in wonder at the subtle changes in smell and the magic that progresses.
The holidays after all, are all about indulging and pandering to pleasure. Mine are pumpkin and chestnut.
Note on ingredients:
*Crème de Marron (approximately P219.50)
500 gram can available at Rustan’s Fresh
*I get my vanilla from The Vanilla Bean Company. For my lattes, I recommend using the Bourbon variety, not the Tahitian.