Honey Chestnut Café au Lait
March 16, 2021
As soon as the holiday season ends, I find myself chasing the flavor of my favorite chestnut praline latte. The sweet nuttiness just pairs so wonderfully with frothy steamed milk and strong coffee. I knew there had to be a way to capture a similar concept at home, all year long. This recipe isn’t a copycat, but the use of chestnuts was inspired by my favorite latte. Instead, I decided to combine them with a honey syrup and add to a classic café au lait.
This post contains affiliate links, which means I will earn a commission if you click through and buy something, at no additional cost to you! Learn More.
My home coffee bar includes a single-serve coffee maker, an espresso machine, and a French press. In your average week, I use them all to make different kinds of fun coffee drinks each morning. But you don’t need all that fancy equipment to make something delicious that tastes like it came from your favorite cafe.
You can brew your coffee in a simple drip maker or using a pour-over system. You can froth your milk with a frothing wand or even just by shaking it vigorously and then warming in the microwave. My advice: start by using what you have, and then invest in the tools that make it easier to make your favorites.
What You Need to Get Started
You can easily find all of the ingredients for this honey and chestnut café au lait at your grocery store. You can also order online using Amazon Fresh for grocery delivery.
- Pantry: Honey, Roasted chestnuts, Your favorite coffee
- Fridge: Milk
- Required Equipment: Saucepan, Mesh strainer, Mason jar
- Optional Equipment: Espresso machine, Milk frother
Let’s Make a Honey Chestnut Café au Lait
The only part of this coffee that is remotely time intensive is the syrup, and even that is so easy to make. Once you have made up a batch, you can store the leftover syrup in a sealed mason jar in the fridge for three weeks. So feel free to make it in advance, or the same morning you’ll be enjoying the coffee. You will get enough syrup for plenty of drinks.
To get started, combine the honey and water in a small saucepan, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the honey into the water. The honey will provide plenty of sweetness, plus its own unique flavor, while the water helps keep the syrup thinner than straight honey, so it stirs more easily into your coffee.
Bring the mixture to a boil, and then turn off the heat and add in the chopped chestnuts. I used store-bought roasted and peeled chestnuts for this. One time, I tried roasting my own and it was an experience I don’t need again. However, feel free to try this recipe with fresh chestnuts when they are available.
Let the syrup sit and infuse for at least half an hour. This will give you a nice subtle nuttiness. If you are a major chestnut lover, allow it to sit for even longer, and feel free to give it a taste until it’s perfect for you. When it’s ready, pour the syrup through a fine-mesh strainer into a jar.
Whether you are using the syrup immediately or another day, you will need to steam the milk just before you want to enjoy this café au lait. Steamed milk doesn’t store well, and the aeration will begin to collapse if it’s made too far in advance. I like to steam mine just before serving.
There are a few different ways you can do this. I used the attached wand on my espresso machine, which will warm the milk and froth it at the same time by steaming. If you don’t have an espresso machine with a built-in milk steamer, don’t worry. There’s other ways.
First, you can heat the milk in a microwave safe mug until it is warm to the touch but not too hot to handle, and then froth using a standalone milk frother. If you don’t have a frothing wand either, you can simply add the milk to a mason jar. Seal it tightly, and shake vigorously until it’s frothy. Then uncover the jar and microwave until it’s warm.
To make the café au lait, combine the freshly brewed coffee with a few spoons of syrup in your favorite oversized mug. I used a French press to make my coffee, because I love how I can have better control over the strength. However, this will be just as delicious if you use a single-serve, drip, or pour-over coffee maker.
Stir to mix in the syrup, and then slowly pour the frothed milk on top of the coffee, while continuing to stir it gently to combine. You will probably still end up with a little bit of foamy milk, so scoop that out and add it on top.
If you are looking for a fun twist as the weather is getting warmer, try an iced version. Simply use iced or cold brew coffee over ice and stir in the syrup. Instead of steaming, use a milk frother (or the shaking method) to whip up cold milk, and pour it into the coffee, with any extra cold foam on top.
You can make coffee-shop style beverages at home! Try this rich, sweet, and nutty drink: a honey chestnut café au lait.
How to Serve a Café au Lait
The first time you make this syrup, you do need to have the time to let it infuse. But after that, putting together this café au lait is super quick and easy. That means it’s perfect for a weekday morning breakfast, alongside some espresso chocolate chip muffins.
If you’d rather enjoy it for a leisurely sit-down brunch, that works too. Can’t you just imagine a nice warm mug of this rich, foamy, and nutty coffee alongside a blueberry French toast bake or a pan of gooey cocoa-cinnamon rolls? Decadent.
And don’t forget about coffee with dessert. The sweet honey syrup in this makes it perfect to serve with a slice of honey pavlova with chai-poached plums. Or for a small bite-sized treat, try peanut butter chocolate cookie cups.
Use Up Leftover Ingredients
- Use extra honey to make the caramel topping for a pear and apple crisp.
- Leftover coffee is perfect for making rich and creamy coffee ice cream.
Other Hot Beverages to Try
- Coffee lovers will enjoy the fun twist of a candy corn latte macchiato.
- Go for something sweet with a traditionally made cinnamon and ancho hot chocolate.
- You won’t be able to resist the smooth and rich chai white hot chocolate.
- For an extra kick, try a boozy peanut butter cup hot chocolate.
Honey Chestnut Café au Lait
- ⅓ Cup Water
- ⅓ Cup Honey
- 6 Roasted Chestnuts roughly chopped
- 4 oz Freshly Brewed Coffee
- 6 oz Milk of Choice
- In a small saucepan, combine the honey and water and bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring to dissolve the honey. Once it comes to a boil, turn off the heat and add the chestnuts. Let sit for at least 30 minutes (longer for a stronger chestnut flavor) and then pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a jar.
- In a 16-oz mug, combine the freshly brewed coffee with 3 tsp of the syrup. Steam the milk with an espresso machine (see note), and slowly pour on top of the coffee, stirring gently to combine. Scoop out any foam that remains and add it on top.
- Serve the café au lait immediately, since it does not store well once combined. Store leftover syrup in a sealed mason jar in the fridge for 3 weeks.
- How to steam milk: If you don't have an espresso machine with a built-in milk steamer, try one of these methods instead:
- Heat the milk in a microwave safe mug for 45 seconds until warm, and then froth using a standalone milk frother.
- Add the milk to a mason jar. Seal tightly, and shake vigorously for one minute. Then uncover and microwave for 45 seconds.
- Make an iced version: Pour iced or cold brew coffee over ice, and stir in the syrup. Use a milk frother to whip up the cold milk, and mix in. Add any cold foam on top.