Almonds: The New Buffalo
Maybe it’s a Midwest thing, or maybe it’s watching a lot of westerns growing up (Which is probably also a Midwest thing), but using “every part of the buffalo” is an appealing concept to me.
I’m sure there are …. Parts…. Of a buffalo I’d never want to see, let alone use for clothing, food, or anything else, but the idea is still nice.
Obviously, a lot has changed since there were buffalo roaming around the flint hills, and now we get our food and clothing from Wal-Mart, so we need to find other ways to be resourceful.
Looking for the new Buffalo, look no further than the Almond!
That’s right! Almonds, folks
You might think of them in trail mix or scones, maybe on a cake. My wife eats bowls of salted almonds like it’s going out of style.
Was it ever in style?
Anyway, There is a lot more to these suckers than meets the eye, and I’m going to tell you how you can use 2 cups of almonds to make:
A delicious coffee/ cocktail flavoring
A dairy free milk alternative
Flour for gluten free pastries!
Here is everything you’ll need in order to do this:
- 2 cups of whole almonds
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- Access to running water
- A blender
- Some kind of strainer or filter
- A working oven and stovetop
- A container with a lid
- A sense of adventure
First, let’s talk about Blanched (On the left) vs unblanched (On the Right).
Blanched almonds are almonds that have had the skin removed. They cost more, and are sometimes hard to find. The almond skins contribute a lot of flavor, but they also add a significant amount of bitterness.
In my opinion, this is a taste preference thing. Most people are going to prefer the blanched variety, but the unblanched kind are still going to be great.
Ok, so once you get your almonds, again, about 2 cups, begin by soaking them in water.
Find a container with a lid (Large mason jar works great), and add your almonds and water. You’ll need enough water that all your almonds are covered.
This process gets the almonds soft and porous so that fat molecules and flavor can be extracted from them.
After 4-8 hours, drain the water. You can use a colander or fine mesh strainer to catch your almonds. You will want to rinse them once they are in the colander, if you do not rinse them, your almond milk will have a gritty, dirt flavor.
Next step is chopping them coarsely.
There are basically three approaches you can take here:
Chop by hand - this is going to be the most time consuming, and frustrating approach, but it is going to yield very precise results. Almost all your almond pieces will be roughly the same size, which will be good for your next step.
Crush with Rolling pin - basically put your almonds in a ziplock bag and roll your rolling pin over the bag. You’ll want to lay a towel over the bag so that it won’t rip open. This will give you pretty consistent size, and little to no mess.
Chop in a Food processor - This one is what I use. Put your almonds in your food processor and pulse a few times. This should do the trick very quickly and with little to no mess as well. It is not the most consistent method, but in my experience, the benefit outweighs the drawbacks.
Once you have your almonds chopped, you’ll start making your almond syrup or with the addition of a few ingredients, Orgeat (pronounced or-zsha). Orgeat is a staple in tiki cocktails, like the Mai Thai. There are a lot of great recipes for cocktails with Orgeat online, here are a few:
It also has ample uses in coffee.
Ok, so to start, you’ll make simple syrup. If you haven’t done this before, don’t worry. It’s not as hard as it sounds.
What we’re going to do is take 1.5 cups of sugar and 1.5 cups of water and mix them together in a sauce pan over low heat until the sugar dissolves. See? Easy (or simple).
Once you’ve got the sugar dissolved, add in your chopped almonds and raise the heat to medium. You’ll want to stir occasionally, but for the most part, this is super easy.
Simmer the almonds in the syrup for at least 10 minutes, and do not let it boil. (If you do, don’t freak out. You just won’t have as rich Orgeat, but it will still be tasty).
After ~10 minutes, remove from heat and let cool for at least 30 minutes. Transfer the almonds and the syrup to a container with a lid (That large mason jar you used earlier will work fine) and store in the fridge for at least 8-12 hours. They need constant supervision and attention so make sure you check on them every half hour.
Just kidding. You are free to do other things now. Go watch some netflix or call your parents.
The next morning (Or whenever you get to it), strain the almonds out of the syrup. A fine mesh strainer works great for this. You will want to keep the syrup, so do this over another container, like a large bowl (Note, a large measuring cup with a pour spout is ideal).
Once you’ve got the almond and syrup separate, You’ll have two more projects!
Starting with the syrup, if you simply want almond syrup, you are done! All you need to do is bottle it (I like using swing top bottles like these).
If you want to make Orgeat, There are a few more steps:
Add 1 tsp of Orange Flower water - This stuff isn’t exactly available at the grocery store, so you’ll have to get it online, probably, unless there is a mediterranean grocery store in your neighborhood, or you get lucky at a health food store (If you live in the little apple, you'll need to go online). It does have other uses, so getting a bottle for under $10 may seem worth it to you if you are into this kind of stuff. If not, there really isn’t a solid substitute. The best luck I’ve had is by peeling an entire orange and soaking the peel in the syrup for a few hours, or overnight.
Add 1 oz brandy - This adds flavor as well as functions as a preservative.
Then bottle it and store in the fridge. It should keep up to a month and then will start losing its flavor.
Now it’s time to milk the Almonds!
If you’ve ever milked a cow, this is exactly like that. Just kidding.
Basically what you are going to do is puree the almonds in water, and then strain the solids out.
Sounds simple, but there are actually a few important things to consider. For example:
Sweetness - because these almonds were used to make almond syrup, they are coated in sugar. If you want unsweetened almond milk, you are going to want to rinse the almonds thoroughly and then probably soak them in fresh water for another couple hours. If you don’t mind a little sweetness, then you are good to go. personally I prefer a little sweetness, and i find the sugar soaked almonds to be just about perfect. I’ve also rinsed them just a little, and liked that result as well.
Milk consistency - Thickness of the milk is going to be determined by fat content, just like regular milk. Now this is where it gets interesting, because you have absolute control over the fat content of your almond milk. When you puree your almonds, you are essentially transferring fat, among other things, into the water. The more water you use, the lower the fat content. The less water you use, the higher the fat content. At Arrow, we want to try to get it to be about the same as 2% milk, so we use a 2:1 water to almond ratio. So for your 2 cups of almonds, you’ll use 4 cups (1 quart) of water. If you prefer a thicker milk, or are using your almond milk in baking i’d recommend using 3 cups of water for a more whole milk feel and 2 cups for a half and half consistency.
Ok, so once you’ve addressed the sweetness and consistency, you can make your milk.
Take your almonds and whatever amount of water you decided and add it into a blender. Blend on high for 30 seconds or more, depending on your blender. You can’t over blend, so don’t worry about that.
Once you’re done, you want to separate the almond pulp from the almond milk. First let me say,
DO NOT THROW AWAY THE PULP!
The absolute best way to do this is using a nut milk bag (I Use Ellie's Best, They do Nuttin' Better).They are cheap, reliable, reusable, and easy to use, plus they are useful in so many ways (Cold brew coffee, iced tea, Liquor infusion, any kind of straining).
If you don’t have one and don’t want to wait, you can use a fine mesh strainer. You will likely still have some sediment if you do, which you can offset by pouring it through the filter again and again, or by lining it with a coffee filter or cheesecloth.
However you choose to do it, you should end up with all your liquid in one place and all your solids in another. Do you have that? Good!
Your almond milk is complete, so store that in whatever bottle/jar you’d like. It generally keeps for about a week, but starts to taste noticeably different after 4 days. One thing you can do to extend the shelf life is boiling the milk to eliminate bacteria. This will change the flavor a bit, in my opinion only if you are drinking the milk straight. In coffee or on cereal it will taste just fine.
Ok! Now for the Almond pulp.
More accurately it is called Almond meal, or if it is fine enough, Almond Flour.
First thing you will want to do with it is dry it. If you let it sit in moisture for too long, it will develop mold, so you may want to do this right away. The easiest way to do this is to spread it all out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and put it in the oven at a low temperature.
I’ve used anywhere from 200-350 and they all work. Obviously hotter is faster, but you run the risk of burning it. Your goal here should be to lightly toast all the pieces evenly. This means you will want to take the tray out and stir the almond meal around frequently.
My most successful attempts have been by baking at 300 degrees and stirring every 10 minutes. I trust you to figure out what works best for you, just be careful not to burn them, which can happen if you leave them in even a few minutes too long.
Once you’ve dried/toasted the almond meal, you have a perfect blank slate for making gluten free pastries. At Arrow, we use it in granola and biscotti, but we’ve seen people make all kinds of stuff with it.
Here are some links to some people who know more than we do about it:
So There you have it, Pioneers!
I Think you’ll find this process to be as fun as its products are delicious.
If you do end up doing this, we would love to see your progress and what you do with your products. Post a photo or link using #thenewbuffalo and tag us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Xanga.