The first time I ate a Café Liégeois was in Ajaccio, Corsica. It’s a beautiful place full of grand buildings – blink and you might think yourself in Paris. A fitting place to discover a grown up indulgent dessert.
The Café Liégeois is made with just three ingredients: espresso coffee, coffee ice cream, and sweetened whipped cream. The French take on an ice cream sundae. Rather than being a dessert created in the Belgian city of Liége it was renamed during the First World War in homage to the siege of Liége. It was originally called Café Viennois.
As with all simple dishes, great ingredients are a must. Since that day, I have eaten many Café Liégeois and I have come to realise how tricky it is how to get those three ingredients just right. The key is a fabulous coffee ice cream. The taste has to be strong, deep and rounded – nothing wimpy.
If you currently use a cafetière (French Press), you probably enjoy the taste of your coffee, but dislike grounds at the bottom of your cup. Have you come across coffee made in an AeroPress Coffee Maker? Make a coffee using the AeroPress with your usual brand of coffee and you’ll be astonished at the difference in flavour and clarity. Flavours are crisper and clearer and more nuanced and flavourful. At last, I had the means of making a great coffee ice cream.
Now it may be a bit above and beyond to go and buy a coffee maker (around £25) to make great ice cream but if you love coffee and don’t want to spend pounds on a pod system, you know where to go!
Creating the Perfect Coffee Ice Cream
For this ice cream, I am assuming you have an ice cream maker. Mine is an attachment for my Kenwood stand mixer. The bowl is frozen. You then place it inside a mixing bowl and using a special paddle, churn on a low speed to create ice cream within about 25 minutes.
- If you don’t have an AeroPress and have coffee capsules, choose a good, strong rounded coffee and 3 of these instead – you might have to experiment.
- Don’t be tempted to use semi-skimmed or skimmed milk please – whole milk makes much better custard! The addition of milk powder may seems strange, but it does enhance the creaminess.
- Vanilla sugar is so easy to make. Simply add one or two vanilla pods into a pot of caster sugar and let it infuse for at least a day. I’ve experimented and find that 50 grams of sugar is the optimum amount. If you have a sweet tooth, do add more!
- It is well worth using a thermometer to ensure the ice cream mixture doesn’t scramble, then cooling it quickly.
My Coffee Ice Cream Recipe
250 ml of whole milk
250 ml of single cream
20 gr milk powder
50 gr vanilla sugar
3 scoops (45 gr) of ground coffee made with 50 ml water
1 vanilla pod
Ice cream maker, jug, large bowl, ice block (as you might use in a cool box), thermometer, whisk.
Churning time approx 25 minutes – follow the instructions for your machine. Making custard and cooling approx. 1 hour.
- Have a large bowl half filled with cold water ready The bowl you mix the egg yolks and sugar together will be put in this to cool the custard quickly. If you have an ice block add this to the water.
- Make your coffee. Use 3 times the amount you would use for one cup of coffee with 45 ml boiled water. Set aside.
- Heat the cream, milk powder and milk in a pan with the vanilla pod until it almost boils – look out for lots of little bubbles.
- Meanwhile, mix the egg yolks and sugar together.
- Pour a little of the hot milk and cream mixture onto the egg yolks and sugar, mix and put back into the pan.
- Bring it slowly to 85ºC mixing constantly in a figure of eight motion.
- Immediately pour into the mixing bowl and place in the large bowl to cool. Add the coffee.
- Once cooled, churn following your ice cream maker’s instructions.
- Top tip: Form your ice cream into balls when you’ve just made the ice cream, it will be much easier to shape than when it has hardened in the freezer. Shape into balls and place into a suitable container.
- When you are ready to serve, follow the instructions on how to make your dessert.
Making a Café Liégeois
Take one beautiful glass. Had I planned better, I would have acquired some tall sundae glasses. Ideally, one similar to this knickerbocker glory glass on Amazon.
- Create one “shot” of coffee per person using your preferred method. Let it cool completely.
- Whip whipping or double cream add a teaspoon of caster sugar and whip again.
- Place the coffee in the bottom of the glass.
- Pop in two or three balls of coffee ice cream and top with your whipped cream – nicely piped if you can.