I always thought non-dairy milks came from only one place: the grocery store. As a lactose intolerant, soymilk-in-my-coffee kind of girl, I was resigned to accepting thickeners and artificial ingredients in my dairy substitutes. So I was surprised and delighted when a friend tipped me off to the fact that I could make almond milk easily at home from raw almonds and water, with no tools required beyond a blender or food processor. I was already putting my Cuisinart to good use making homemade peanut butter, and I felt ready for the next challenge.
I was not disappointed. Homemade almond milk has a light and delicate flavor it is essentially a blank slate that one can augment with all sorts of pleasing additions. In this recipe, I use cinnamon, vanilla, maple syrup and nutmeg, but you could easily use agave, honey or dates to sweeten it, along with any spices you fancy.
Besides creating delicious almond milk, this recipe delivers a bonus byproduct: ground-up almonds that you can put to good use as a flour substitute in cookie recipes or as a protein-rich addition to smoothies. Store this fringe benefit in your fridge for up to 4 days, or freeze it to keep longer.
Some recipes will tell you to remove the skin from each almond for aesthetic reasons before processing, but this step is time-consuming and unnecessary. After the milk is strained, very little of the almond skin remains in the final product. I do recommend, though, that you let your soaked and ground-up almonds steep in boiling water for 10 minutes, like a tea, before you strain out the solids. Hot water coaxes out the nuts flavor better than cold water, resulting in a superior flavor and a richer texture.
And dont think almond milk is only pleasing to the dairy-averse. My milk-loving husband enjoys some whenever I make a fresh batch.
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PUT the almonds in a large bowl and add enough water to cover them by 2 inches. Soak the almonds at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours. (The almonds will look visibly plumped after soaking.)
BRING a kettle of water to a boil. Drain the almonds and transfer them to a blender or food processor. Add 1 cup of room-temperature water to the almonds and process for 1 to 2 minutes. The mixture should have the consistency of a thick paste. Transfer the paste to a medium bowl and add 2 cups of the boiling water. Let steep for about 10 minutes.
WORKING in batches, ladle the almond mixture into a medium- to fine-mesh metal strainer set over a large bowl. Press the ground almonds with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. (Reserve the ground almonds for another use.)
ADD the maple syrup and vanilla, plus a pinch each of salt, cinnamon and nutmeg, to the almond milk; whisk to combine thoroughly. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve at room temperature or chilled. (Store almond milk in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a few days, stirring before use.) Yield: About 4 cups