After a wonderful fall break, I thought it was appropriate to wake up my blog the same way I wake up myself – with a cortadito. Landing in Paris was exhilarating, tinged with pink and capped with gold, the city smells like butter. From the first moment, I wanted to go in twenty directions at once. Exhausted but not wanting to lose the day, we went to the closest cafe for a quick lunch before heading out. Ordering in broken French, our waiter responded in broken Spanish. We weren’t getting very far until he hit on exactly what we were looking for – a cortado. Relieved to be understood, I finally felt awake.
A shot of espresso with a splash of hot milk, websites and blogs break down the rules and ratios – 1:1, 2:1-2:3, foam or no foam – but miss the point. The milk just needs to top off the espresso so, light or dark, it’s hard to go wrong. Known as a macchiato in Italy where it’s decorated with foamy leaves and hearts and a café noisette for its slightly nutty notes in Paris, in Miami they’re always diminutive cortaditos.
The cortaditos served at Versailles (the Miami restaurant not the palace) are my favorite. Made with evaporated milk, it’s caramel in a cup and perfect with pastelitos in the afternoon. That’s how I prepared it when I was finally home in Brooklyn. Though I had walnut and pistachio baklava instead of guava pastries, the effect was the same. Stronger than a milky cafe con leche and smoother than a café Cubano, a cortadito is just what you need, when what you need is to catch your breath.
2 ounces freshly-brewed espresso
1-2 ounces steamed evaporated or whole milk
Sugar to taste
If using a stove top espresso maker, fill the lower chamber with cold water.* Insert the funnel and fill with coffee. Pat smooth with back of spoon to level off but do not press down. Replace upper chamber with handle and lid and screw tightly. Place pot over low heat.
When the coffee just starts to percolate, take the first few drops and add it to the measuring cup with a few teaspoons of sugar then beat it to form a creamy paste while the rest of the coffee percolates. Off heat, pour in in the rest of the espresso in a steady stream and mix until well blended with the sugar emulsion. Pour into the individual demitasse cups and add steamed evaporated or whole milk to taste.
*Many espresso makers have a line indicating the proper water level. The water should always come below the safety valve and should not come up through the funnel when it’s replaced on the base.