Café liégeois used to be universally known as café viennois. But after the Germans invaded Belgium, attacking the city of Liège and engaging in a battle which marked the beginning of World War I, many French restaurants began serving the dessert under a new name, in token of their sympathy for the stricken Liège. The new name of the rechristened dessert has stuck–without completely replacing the original one. Hungarian menus, for example, still offer the dessert as a ‘Bécsi kávé’ (Viennese coffee).
Café liégeois has no single original version. All forms of it contain coffee, ice cream and whipped cream. But sometimes the ice cream will be vanilla, sometimes chocolate, other times coffee-flavored. There may be additional chocolate involved or there may not. A Café liégeois makes no strict demands on how it is put together. The version described here is made with homemade coffee ice cream, strong espresso, whipped cream, and dark chocolate sauce.
Note about quantities: The recipes for the Homemade Coffee Ice Cream and Dark Chocolate Sauce will make more than required for this number. The photographed dessert is served in 1 and 1/2 cup size glasses, but the amounts of any of the ingredients may be diminished or increased to fit whatever size glass you like and the size of the dessert you want to serve.
Note about timing: The coffee that is part of a Café liégeois must be made in advance, sweetened a little, and chilled. The desserts are put together right before serving them. The dark chocolate sauce and homemade ice cream may be made days in advance.
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I. Making a Café liégeois:
- Homemade Coffee Ice Cream (The recipe is given below in Part II.)
- 3/4 – 1 cup freshly brewed Espresso Coffee or any Dark Roast Coffee, sweetened with about 2 teaspoons of Sugar (or to suit your taste) and chilled. Decaffeinated is fine and may be preferable if the dessert is served in the evening.
- Dark Chocolate Sauce: The recipe is from a previous diplomatickitchen post, but is repeated in this post in Part III for convenient reference. The original dk post, with photos illustrating steps and the finished sauce, is here.
- about 2 cups of Heavy Cream, whipped and lightly sweetened
- an Ice Cream Scoop
- a rimmed Baking Pan lined with Parchment Paper
- a Mixer for whipping the cream
- 6 Dessert Glasses: the Café liégeois in the photos is made in a glass that holds 1 and 1/2 cups
1. For 6 desserts, place 12 scoops of ice cream on a baking pan lined with parchment and set the pan in the freezer. By forming the ice cream into balls several hours in advance, putting the desserts together is quicker and the ice cream is not liable to melt before it is served:
- a Tablespoon of Coffee
- a Scoop of Ice Cream
- a large Spoonful of Chocolate Sauce
- a second Tablespoon of Coffee
- a second Scoop of Ice Cream
- a second large Spoonful of Chocolate Sauce
- and last of all, a large Spoonful of Whipped Cream
II. Making Homemade Coffee Ice Cream (for 2 quarts)
- 3/4 cup whole Dark Roast Coffee Beans, coarsely cracked (regular or decaffeinated): The beans may be coarsely cracked by placing them in a coffee grinder and quickly turning the machine on and off several times. Alternatively, the beans may be placed in a plastic bag and crushed with a mallet or hammer.
- 1 and 1/2 cups of Milk
- 1 cup of granulated White Sugar
- 2 and 1/2 cups of Heavy Cream
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of Vanilla Extract
- 1/2 teaspoon of finely ground Dark Roast Coffee (regular or decaffeinated)
- a dash of Salt
- a Coffee Grinder is useful for cracking the beans, but alternatively the beans may crushed in a plastic bag with a mallet or hammer.
- a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed Saucepan
- a Strainer lined with 1 or 2 thicknesses of Cheesecloth
- a large Bowl
- an Ice Cream Maker
1. Put the milk, the sugar and the cracked coffee beans in the saucepan and heat them together over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pot from the burner and let the coffee beans steep in the sweet milk for 1 hour.
2. Place the strainer lined with cheesecloth over the bowl and pour the coffee-flavored milk through the strainer to remove the coffee beans. Bring up the edges of the cheesecloth and squeeze as much of the remaining liquid out of the beans into the bowl as possible. Discard the beans and cheesecloth:
3. To the bowl of coffee milk, add the heavy cream, the vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon of finely ground coffee, and a dash of salt. Cover the bowl and chill the mixture in the refrigerator until it is cold. Make the ice cream in an ice cream maker, according to the directions for your machine.
4. A suggestion for storing: Homemade ice cream stores well in a glass container, with a sheet of plastic wrap or parchment paper pressed close to its surface to help prevent the formation of ice crystals.
III. Dark Chocolate Sauce Redux (Step and finished photos are here in a previous diplomatickitchen post.)
- 13 ounces of Dark Chocolate, chopped in pieces
- 1/2 cup of Milk
- 1/2 cup of Heavy Cream
- 6 Tablespoons of Butter, cut in pieces and frozen
- 1 teaspoon of Vanilla
1. Add the chocolate, milk and cream to a heavy saucepan and melt the chocolate over low heat, stirring.
2. Add the frozen butter, a few pieces at a time.
3. Add the vanilla and set the sauce aside until you are ready to put the desserts together. Reheat it briefly before using it and thin it with a little more milk if you prefer a slightly thinner sauce with ice cream. Any leftover sauce keeps well refrigerated for many weeks.
Note: Café liégeois is the Dessert in the Lunch Menu: Fish and Chicks: a Long, Leisurely Autumn Lunch. The Dark Chocolate Sauce recipe is adapted from one in The Dione Lucas Book of French Cooking (1973).