Almond Milk, Homestyle (and What to do with It)
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There are lots and lots of recipes out there on how to make your own nut milks, and thank goodness for that, but I include one here because it’s a fun thing to try and quite easy. Why make your own? Right off the bat I can think of two great reasons: the taste and the ingredients, as in: you control what goes into it. Making almond milk is a simple and not too time-consuming process and the end result is well worth the energy expended. It tastes nothing like what you get in the carton. It’s velvety, rich, smooth and slightly sweet. You kind of want to drink it all as soon as you’ve made a batch – which is fine – but save some for the Vanilla-Banana smoothie below.To make almond milk: Soak 1 cup of raw almonds (skin on or off) in water overnight. Drain and put almonds in a blender along with 1 cup water. Blend until chunky, stirring if needed. Add an additional cup of water and 1 tsp. of pure maple syrup (if desired). Blend until nearly smooth, stirring as needed. Line a strainer with 3-4 layers of cheesecloth and put strainer over a large bowl. Pour almond mixture into the strainer and let drain, pressing down and stirring with a spoon to extract liquid. After it stops dripping, gently squeeze cheesecloth to get those last precious drops of almond milk into the bowl. (Don’t discard the crushed almond paste. See below on what to do with it.) Either use the almond milk right away, or store in the refrigerator. Some folks add more sweetener or even cinnamon and vanilla extract to their almond milk, but I like mine with just a tiny hint of sweetness and no additional embellishments.
When your almond milk is finished and ready for drinking, consider making this Vanilla-Banana smoothie. I’ve made it using both store-bought almond milk and homemade and there’s a huge difference in flavor and texture between the two. The smoothie with the store-bought almond milk was tasty, but with homemade almond milk, you get the rich creaminess of a milkshake.
2 cups frozen banana slices
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. vanilla paste
2 cups almond milk
1 pinch salt
Place all ingredients in a blender and whizz until smooth.
What about all that stuff that’s left in the cheesecloth? Fancy folks call that “almond meal” and they use it in baked goods. Talk about reuse and recycle. Once you’ve squeezed every last drop out of the cheesecloth, spread the almond meal in an even layer onto a baking sheet and slide into a 200F oven. Bake it until it’s dry and crumbly – a couple of hours. Check on it every now and again and give it a stir. Let it cool on the counter before putting it into an air-tight container (run it through a food processor if it’s lumpy) and stashing it in your refrigerator or freezer until ready to add delicious flavor to pancakes, muffins or bread dough. Just substitute a small portion of flour for almond meal.