My friend Kate had a vegan taco night at her house. There are a number of delicious vegan foods – like salsa or guacamole – that I could have made to take that night. Instead, I decided that it was the perfect time for me to make Horchata.
That’s right – horchata is dairy-free. Really. The beverage is basically a rice-almond milk.
To make: Grind rice until finely ground (which I did with my Magic Bullet). Add almonds and a cinnamon stick, and cover with 3.5 cups water. Soak overnight. The next day, pour the mixture into a blender and add sugar and vanilla. I was supposed to add more water, but my blender only holds 6 cups. I blended what I had, strained some of it through a mesh strainer, returned the solids to the blender, and added the rest of my water. I blended again, and strained all of the liquid this time.
The instructions say next to strain the liquid a second time through a double-layer of cheese cloth. Maybe it’s not necessary, I thought – so I strained it through the mesh strainer a second time. The beverage was still very gritty, though – not really how I wanted it. So I strained it a third time through the sieve lined with cheesecloth – which may have been a little too much straining power. It took forever to get any liquid through it, and took me shifting around the cheesecloth to try to get liquid to pass through. I’d never used cheesecloth to strain before – maybe I’ll do better next time!
The horchata was delicious. It was sweet and mild, with a subtle cinnamonyness. I strained it really well, so it was smooth. The beverage was refreshing and addictive. If you haven’t had it before, I really don’t know how to describe it to you.
After all that straining, I kept 2 cups of the rice and almond mixture. Almonds are expensive – I wanted to see if I could do anything with what was left of them! I decided to try making pudding. I added 4 cups of milk to the mixture and cooked it on the stove, stirring frequently, until it began to thicken. After I stopped cooking it, I realized it needed more sugar, so I added about 1/2 cup of powdered sugar to it since it dissolves well. I poured it into containers and refrigerated it overnight. I soon learned, however, that I had not cooked the pudding long enough – the “pudding” was runny and thin. My solution – the ice cream maker!
I think my pudding attempt worked better as horchata ice cream, but ultimately it’s not great – it’s just too gritty. I might attempt using the soaking mixture again, with a few changes. I would only use 1 cup of the soaking mixture, and I would blend it with the milk to try to make it smoother.
Even if my ice cream and pudding attempts were less than successful, horchata was a very refreshing beverage (it’s perfect for summer!), and was not difficult to make. Straining out the rice and almonds was the most difficult part. Definitely give it a try.