Dessert Comes First

An obsession with dessert and other unabashed opinions of a food writer

Magnum White King
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Fa-La-La-La Lattes

posted by in Recipes

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 latte
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.

Pumpkin Spice Latte

Yield: 1 generous serving

  • 2 teaspoons canned pumpkin or homemade pumpkin puree
  • 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • vanilla syrup to taste (try ½ tablespoon at first) or ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract + 1 teaspoon white sugar (I like using vanilla sugar too)
  • 2 shots espresso or strong brewed coffee
  • 4 ounces hot milk (I use whole milk but you could use half and half, skim, or even lite milk)

1. In a large mug, one that you love, combine pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla syrup (or vanilla extract and sugar).

2. Add the hot espresso or brewed coffee, and using a teaspoon, stir well. The pumpkin will dissolve but the spices will swim around and stick to the edges of the mug. That’s okay.

3. Froth milk using an Aerolatte, milk frother, or if you’re terribly lucky, the steam wand of an espresso machine. Use the back of a spoon to hold back the foam as you pour the milk into the hot espresso. Stir to incorporate the flavors. Top with foamed milk and garnish with a cinnamon stick if you’re so inclined.

Chestnut (aka Marron) Latte

Yield: 1 generous serving

  • 2 teaspoons chestnut cream (See Note below)
  • vanilla syrup to taste (try ½ teaspoon at first) or ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 shots espresso or strong brewed coffee
  • 4 ounces hot milk (I use whole milk but you could use half and half, skim, or even lite milk)

1. In a large mug, one that you love, combine chestnut cream and vanilla syrup or vanilla extract.

2. Add the hot espresso or brewed coffee, and using a teaspoon, stir well. The chestnut cream will dissolve beautifully, sending up a roasted nut aroma that will soothe you.

3. Froth milk using an Aerolatte, milk frother, or if you’re terribly lucky, the steam wand of an espresso machine. Use the back of a spoon to hold back the foam as you pour in the milk into the hot espresso. Stir to incorporate the flavors. Top with foamed milk and drink while nibbling a homemade ginger cookie. (See photo).

~~

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.

7 Responses to “Fa-La-La-La Lattes”

  • beautifully written lori! your deep love for coffee shines through this write up :)

    thanks for sharing the recipes!

    [Reply]

  • I want to smell all of those! Mmmm!

    [Reply]

  • Hi Lori! I’m Raymond, an espresso junkie. I’m bringing in a very affordable brand of espresso machine that does excellent espresso. I’d be honored if you could do a review of it. Would you be so good as to indulge me with this favor? Thanks!

    [Reply]

  • Hey Lori, you had me at pumpkin spice latte. True, pumpkin, cinammon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla are not so traditional tastes in the tropics but the nuanced and deep flavors bring back a flood of warm fuzzy memories. See you soon! :-)

    [Reply]

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