A few months ago I discovered OMilk, a brand of almond milk made right here in Brooklyn without gums, preservatives or stabilizers. I’ve had commercial almond milks and they’re whatever, but OMilk was so good, I quickly developed an addiction to it. I would go out of my way to the few stores that sell it and fill my bag with those milky white bottles of cold creamy joy. Now that I know what a cinch it is to make at home, I can have fresh almond milk without even leaving the house (except to buy almonds).
You don’t have to be a vegan or a health nut to enjoy this milk substitute. It’s fun to make and it leaves you with almond meal which you can turn into almond flour which you can turn into other cool stuff. You’ll feel good about using every part of the almond, innards and all.
With my almond meal, I made some raw peanut butter cookies from a recipe I found on someone's blog but they were kind of falling apart so I rolled them into balls. They looked a little sweaty and unappetizing in that form, so I decided in the end to cover them with chocolate and turn them into candy instead of cookies. That worked out just fine.
I brought them to a baby shower I was invited to yesterday and the guests seemed to like them a lot. I was going to call my candies "baby balls", but decided it would be much less offensive to call them "baby bonbons". So here's how you make almond milk and baby bonbons...
Makes about 3 cups almond milk
2 cups whole blanched (or not blanched) organic almonds
6 cups filtered water
Pitted dates, raw sugar simple syrup or other sweetener, to taste
1. Place almonds in a bowl, cover with 3 cups of the water. Seal with plastic wrap and soak in the fridge for at least 8 hours.
2. Drain and discard the soaking water. At this point, you can rub the skins off the almonds very easily if yours are not blanched, but it's not necessary.
3. Working in batches (because you may risk liquid spilling over if you blend everything at one time), place 1 cup of soaked almonds and 1 1/2 cups of filtered water into a blender or food processor and blend for a minute or two, until the liquid is white and frothy. If you are using dates as a sweetener, blend pieces of them with the milk until you reach your desired sweetness.
4. Pour the liquid into a cheesecloth-lined sieve set over a bowl. Let the almond milk drain into the bowl and squeeze as much excess milk out of the almond pulp into the bowl as possible. Save the almond pulp or almond “meal” because you can make stuff with it later (see below).
5. Continue until all the almonds are blended with the water (and the dates if you are using them) and squeezed through the cheesecloth. If you are using simple syrup (one part sugar and one part water warmed until sugar is melted), stir it into the milk until you reach your desired sweetness.
6. Transfer the milk to a pitcher or bottle (I used a well-washed screw-top wine bottle) and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.
To use the almond meal that will be left over in your cheesecloth, set your oven to its lowest setting. Spread the almond meal out evenly on a parchment lined baking sheet and let it bake until it’s completely dry which may take an hour or more depending on how much meal you're drying. Leaving the oven door slightly open during the baking will speed up the drying process, but don’t do this if you have kids or pets in the house. You can use the dried almond meal for any recipe that calls for almond meal or almond flour. To make almond flour, pulse the almond meal in a food processor or blender until it is a very fine consistency.
I made Sweetest Kitchen’s recipe for Raw Peanut Butter Cookies. Then I melted about 1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips plus 1/2 tablespoon butter in a bowl set over lightly simmering water. I gently rolled the balls in the chocolate and lifted them with a fork, letting excess chocolate run off. I set the finished chocolates on a parchment-lined tray and then chilled them in the freezer for a few minutes to allow the chocolate to set. And here they are...