Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Almond milk

Being moderately lactose intolerant, I'm always on the lookout for a better pseudo-milk. Unfortunately, most of the commercially available ones are sweetened, flavored, or both. Check the labels, even of the "Plain" varieties: unless they specifically say "unsweetened," most of them contain cane juice (a.k.a. sugar). Even my local grocery carries only one brand of unsweetened almond milk, and that one's vanilla flavored. No thanks – I like my coffee to taste like coffee. 

So I'm making my own almond milk. It's only about 5 minutes of actual work: just soak, blend, and strain. It's easier than I expected, and involves less cleanup than you'd think, unless you try to take a fancy photo of milk pouring into a glass from way up high without an assistant. Then it gets messy.

Step 1: SOAK
Cover 1 cup of raw almonds with water and soak overnight.
People say anywhere from 8 to 24 hours. Some refrigerate, some go at room temperature.

Step 2: BLEND
Discard the soaking water.

Put the almonds in your blender with 2 to 4 cups of fresh water.
Less water will give you richer milk. I use 3 cups of water per cup of almonds.

Puree until smooth and frothy.
I suspect that you could get even more richness out by blending, letting it sit for an hour or two, then blending again. If you had that kind of patience.

Step 3: STRAIN
Pour the almond milk through a strainer lined with a tea towel. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can.
If you just use a strainer, your milk will be somewhat grainy. This is fine for smoothies, okay for cereal, and not so good for coffee. You can also buy a "nut milk bag" or get creative. I have an extra french press and used that. Kind of tough to force down, but this batch was exceptionally smooth and creamy, and cleanup was a breeze. 

If you must have additional flavor, you can always add some other stuff:
sweeteners (honey, sugar)
flavorings (vanilla, almond extract)
salt (some people throw a pinch in the soaking water)

Don't throw away that almond meal! You can toast it in the oven and use it in baking, or... um... I guess you could make an exfoliating scrub out of it or something. 
I made pancakes with my first batch. They were not especially good, but I'm still working on that recipe. If you don't toast your almond meal first, make sure to a) reduce the amount of liquid called for in your recipe, and b) mix it with the wet ingredients, not the dry ones. (Otherwise all the flour or whatever will just glop up into a big mess.)