As someone who loves to eat, enjoys cooking and is always trying to stay healthy, I've been experiencing some angst lately on making my first meal of the day a good one. I used to love yogurt and fruit for breakfast, but then Paris ruined me with their creamy, rich, straight from the farm fromage blanc. When returning to the dairy aisle in the US, not only did the list of ingredients on the yogurt container turn my stomach, but the taste cemented the bad feelings, quite literally. I tried tackling the issue by making my own yogurt so I could control all the ingredients to create a more natural product, but it required a decent amount of work and the taste still wasn't doing it for me.
Then I resorted to buying raw, whole fat yogurt and just using a little of that to blend with some fruit for a morning smoothie. That held me over for a little while, but I had some calorie concerns as well as dairy issues with the cow not being as friendly to your body as most think. Looking for a healthy, low calorie alternative, I set my sights on nut milks. At the grocery store, I didn't like any of the multi-syllabic names on the label that followed the word almond, so off I went to the test kitchen.
Luckily, there's no tiny milking of almonds involved. It's much easier than that, or how I imagine the difficulty of milking an almond to be. You just need to soak the almonds overnight or up to 48 hours. They plump quite a bit after soaking and make for easier blending and digestion.
Throw the almonds in a blender with some water and go to town. Making nut butters works best in a Vita-Mix or other high powered blender as you need some umph to achieve a creamy consistency. I've experimented with adding vanilla extract, vanilla bean, cinnamon, honey and dates. I've liked them all and say play with the combinations until you find the perfect mix. For me, I didn't want it overly sweet since I was going to combine it with fruit, but I've found a little vanilla and honey brings a new dimension of freshness.
My first foray into almond milk making took me nearly 24 hours, granted only about an hour of active prep time, but all that work left me with a scant cup and a half of liquid. That wasn't going to fly, so I increased my almonds and my water to give me much more milk, but it also means that you need to work in batches, unless you have a turbo 20 cup blender, and if so, I want to borrow it.
There is some straining involved if you're working with almonds with their skins on, which most people will since it's difficult, and expensive, to find the already blanched kind. So you'll be left with some almond meal that I've dried in a low temp oven, thrown in a blender and used in place of regular flour. I'm also experimenting using the almond meal in crackers. More to come.
Yes, it's still a bit of a process, but I'm so pleased with the results, taste and the purity of product.
Almond Milk and Flour Recipe
Makes About 6 cups of milk & 2 cups of flour
- 16 ounces of organic, raw almonds
- 6 - 1" fresh vanilla or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1-1/2 tablespoons honey
- 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 6 cups of water, plus some for soaking
- Place the almonds in a large bowl and pour enough filtered water on top to cover by an inch. Soak overnight or up to 48 hours.
- Rinse and drain almonds after soaking. Add almonds and 2 cups of water to a high speed blender and combine. Once mixed, add vanilla, honey and cinnamon and blend, and then add the remaining water, working in batches if necessary. Blend at high speed for 2-3 minutes until fully processed and desired consistency is reached.
- Line a strainer with cheesecloth and place over a large bowl. Pour the milk into the strainer, using a spatula to work the liquid through. Allow to strain for 15 minutes and then pick up the ends of the cheesecloth and form a tight ball surrounding the skins, squeezing any remaining milk into the bowl. Place the almond milk in an air tight container or jar and keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Place the remaining almond meal on a parchment covered baking sheet and into a low oven at 200 until it becomes dry.
- Once dry, throw in a blender to create a fine almond flour to add to your morning smoothie.