Friday, August 31, 2012

Almond Milk, the Vitamix Way


If you remember my earlier post about the tortured decision-making that led to our purchase of yet another expensive item of kitchen equipment—in this case, the Vitamix blender—then you might recall that making almond milk had some small part (see post: http://eatingreadingwriting.blogspot.com/2012/06/mixed-berry-vanilla-smoothie-and.html).  I conveniently referenced the fact that someone mentioned Vitamix as an essential tool in making almond milk.  Never mind that I had no thought of making almond milk before I read this item in a foodie magazine designed to make you spend money… The salient fact was that IF one were ever to consider making almond milk, a Vitamix appeared necessary.

So, we got the Vitamix.  Berry smoothie, asparagus soup, cantaloupe soup—everything!—just blended better.  Naturally, I next sought an almond milk recipe.  There are plenty of almond milk recipes out there, with each just a tiny bit different—perhaps to justify the existence of yet another recipe.  In fact, it’s quite likely that someone else has posted a recipe that is identical to the one I eventually developed.  (There can only be so many variations of using almonds and water…)  Let me say at the outset then that I am cataloguing my experience of making almond milk rather than offering up a super-original recipe.  Also let me give credit to one source I did use to get me started: http://vegetarian.about.com/od/rawfoodsrecipes/r/almondmilk.htm

If you’ve tried the About.com recipe above, you’ll notice it uses dates for sweetener and vanilla for flavoring.  I use agave nectar and cinnamon instead since I have a fondness for horchata with its cinnamon-y sweetness.

Ingredients:
1 cup raw almonds (whole, unblanched)
At least 5-6 cups of water for soaking
4 cups fresh cold water
Agave nectar to taste (at least 1 Tbs)
Ground cinnamon to taste (a dash or two at least)
Ice cubes

Special Equipment:
Vitamix (or other powerful blender)
Fine-mesh sieve
Cheesecloth


Step 1:
Soak a cup of raw almonds in 5-6 cups of water for 1-2 days.  You might want to drain, rinse, and refill water halfway through if you get concerned with seeing sediment develop in the bottom of your bowl.  At the end of the soaking period, your almonds should be much more plump.  In the picture below, the almonds on the right were soaked for almost 2 days.  Drain and discard the soaking water and rinse the almonds.


Step 2:
If you have a large enough blender to make your milk in one batch, pour in 4 cups of cold fresh filtered water into the blender.  Then pour in the rinsed almonds.  Squeeze in agave nectar and sprinkle ground cinnamon to taste.  (If you are unsure, you might want to start with ½ T of the nectar and just a dash of cinnamon to begin with and then increase the amounts later.)  Grind at high speed (or 10 on “Variable” speed if you have a Vitamix) until you see only very tiny flecks of almond skin.  Taste for seasoning and correct if you need to and then blend again.

Most likely, you will have to blend in 2 batches.  If so, just blend 2 cups of water with half of the almonds with each batch.  Don’t worry about getting the proportion exactly right since they will all be combined later anyway.


Step 3:
Place a fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl, and then line the sieve with cheesecloth.  Pour the blended liquid over the cheesecloth-covered sieve.  (See picture above.)  You may need to use a spoon occasionally to dislodge the ground almonds settling too solidly on the bottom of the sieve.  (Some recipes say that you can skip the cheesecloth, but my experience tells me that you want to skip the cheesecloth only if you have a hankering for a chalky taste in your almond milk.)

Step 4:
Pour into a glass with ice cubes, and enjoy! 


Refrigerate the unused portion for later, but do stir each time you pour yourself some more almond milk.  Consider saving the almond grounds, letting the mixture dry, and using it as substitute for “almond flour” or “almond meal” in recipes that call for those.  You can use them in biscuits, scones, and pie toppings! 


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