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Cooking with almonds

My obsession with almonds isn’t what you think.  I’m doing this for a few reasons.  First, there’s way too much soy in my diet and I need to cut back on it but am finding that difficult with being a vegetarian and eating tofu.  Second, if even a single 2 pound batch of almonds produces as much milk as my first attempt suggests, doing the other experiments will be a perfect way to ensure nothing goes to waste nor goes bad.

So here’s where I’m going to keep notes on my findings and tips I’ve gathered along the way.

Blanching Almonds:

  1. Boil water
  2. Place strainer over bowl
  3. Put almonds in strainer
  4. Pour small amount of water over almonds slowly
  5. Peel skin off of wet almonds
  6. Mix bowl often to allow steam to loosen skins
  7. Repeat steps 4 & 6 as necessary

Experiment #1: Almond Milk Tips

  • Don’t add any water than what’s necessary to create the milk.  Excess water doesn’t allow for the other processes to work.
  • Use ONLY cold water when mixing to prolong shelf life.
  • Don’t add vanilla extract, the alcohol flavor is noticeable.
  • Blanch the almonds first to allow for the other processes and to keep it from being bitter.
  • Almonds without their shells can be stored for up to 1 month if kept airtight in a cool dark dry place, or up to a maximum of 12 months in the refrigerator if kept air tight.  Almonds can be frozen for 2-3 years depending on temperature.
  • Soak, strain and freeze almonds for future use.  Using soaked/frozen nuts provides a much creamier and more nutritious milk than using dried nuts without first soaking.

Almond Milk Recipe:

  1. Blanch almonds
  2. Soak in a large bowl for 8 to 24 hours in fridge (will expand greatly so leave lots of room)
  3. Drain almonds. [Freeze what you aren’t going to use at the time or thaw nuts previously soaked and frozen.]
  4. Add 4 parts water to 1 part almonds in a food processor and allow to blend for a few minutes.
  5. Pour mixture into nut bag and strain
  6. Add flavoring (honey, vanilla bean, chai spices, etc)
  7. Refrigerate for 4 to 5 days

Chocolate nut milk: To the recipe for vanilla almond milk, add 2 tbsp raw cacao nibs or unsweetened cocoa powder

Cinnamon milk: To the recipe for vanilla almond milk, add 1 tsp cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg

Chai milk: To the recipe for vanilla almond milk, add 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon garam masala, and 1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Sugar-free vanilla milk: In place of the dates, add stevia to taste

Experiment #2: Almond Milk Curd

  • High acidic liquids, such as lemon juice and vinegar, is what curds the milk.
  • Bring to a slight boil first, remove from heat and slowly add acid.
  • Try fresh lemon juice.
  • Try orange to test flavor.

Curd Instructions:

  1. Using almond milk from above, warm milk to a rolling boil, stirring so it doesn’t stick
  2. Remove from heat and slowly mix in acidic liquid (will curd within seconds)
  3. Allow to cool and solidify (roughly 20 minutes)

Experiment #3: Almond Tofu

  • Unsuccessful.  Making it like a traditional soybean tofu proved not so easy and not exactly what I was looking for.

Experiment #4: Almond Yogurt

  • Haven’t tried yet.
  • Suggested: Don’t add anything to the yogurt (such as fruit) until after the yogurt has been made.

Experiment #5: Almond Milk Cheese

  • Haven’t tried yet.

General hints and tips:

  • To avoid lumps, mix the starch with an equal amount of cold liquid until it forms a paste, then whisk it into the liquid you’re trying to thicken.  Once the thickener is added, cook it briefly to remove the starchy flavor.  Don’t overcook–liquids thickened with some starches will thin again if cooked too long or at too high a temperature.
  • Cornstarch, arrowroot, and tapioca are the most popular starch thickeners
  • Starch thickeners give food a transparent, glistening sheen, which looks nice in a pie filling, but a bit artificial in a gravy or sauce.  If you want high gloss, choose tapioca or arrowroot.  If you want low gloss, choose cornstarch
  • Cornstarch is the best choice for thickening dairy-based sauces.  Arrowroot becomes slimy when mixed with milk products.
  • Choose arrowroot if you’re thickening an acidic liquid.  Cornstarch loses potency when mixed with acids.
  • Sauces made with cornstarch turn spongy when they’re frozen.  If you plan to freeze a dish, use tapioca starch or arrowroot as a thickener.
  • Starch thickeners don’t add much flavor to a dish, although they can impart a starchy flavor if they’re undercooked.  If you worried that your thickener will mask delicate flavors in your dish, choose arrowroot.  It’s the most neutral tasting of the starch thickeners.
  • Tapioca starch thickens quickly, and at a relatively low temperature.  It’s a good choice if you want to correct a sauce just before serving it.
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