I don’t need an expert to tell me that I eat too much dairy. I live with a 93 year old mom who puts sour cream on everything. So when I decided to prepare for my interview with Mark Bittman on his new diet book VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health…For Good (well that’s a mouthful), I knew dairy would be my waterloo. I was especially anxious about my morning coffee and cereal. I’m fine with eating muesli instead of more processed cereal, but I’m used to making it with Strauss whole milk. And what do I put in my morning coffee? Yep, there’s more Strauss whole milk. So I dutifully went to the supermarket and bought one of each of the “milks”, thinking the whole time of Louis Black’s screed on soy milk (“there’s no soy tittie is there? It should be soy juice!”).
I came home, lined up a bunch of glasses and proceeded to pour an inch of each: soy, rice, almond, hemp, yuck. First of all I don’t want presweetened anything. I don’t use sugar in coffee or on cereal. And vanilla – must it be everywhere? But the characteristic I like the least in all of these “milks” was the texture. It was like bad 1% milk, which I don’t understand at all. If you’re going to have something fakey, substitutey why go for the lowest satisfaction profile? Why not try to emulate whole milk? Which is what the new wave of almond milk delivery companies do at $16 a quart. There has to be another way.
So I started fiddling around in the kitchen. First I started with almond milk. I made it two ways. First up was the most commonly found method online which went something like this: 2 cups almonds, 4 cups water. Soak, blend strain out all the good part using a sieve. Still yuck. It was too thin and too much a waste of expensive and delicious almond solids. Then I migrated to the Italian method: 2 cups almonds, 2 cups water, soak, blend, strain through muslin dishtowel, squeezing out every last bit of goodness from the almonds. That was definitely better, delicious in fact (much like the high end delivery options) but expensive and still missing a kind of luxuriousness I was looking for.
Then in my prep for Mr. Bittman I read his sidebar on “Milk Without Dairy” and saw the word oat. Hmmm. Oat milk. Oats have that viscous texture when mixed with liquid, if I could tame that down maybe it would work. Then I read “take 1 cup of dried unsweetened coconut, rolled oats, or nuts” and I thought why do I have to choose? What would happen if I mixed them all together? So I did; I mixed almonds, oats and unsweetened dried coconut in equal proportions. I followed Mark’s instructions to use boiling water in a 2:1 ratio. So I put the dried stuff in the blender followed by boiling water. (Careful to put a cloth on the lid and hold it down well and start the blender slowly so I wouldn’t burn myself.) I zapped it all then let it steep for 15 minutes. Then I strained it and refrigerated it. Two hours later when it was good and cold I took a sip. Wow. Could it be? It was actually too thick. I added another 2 cups of cold filtered water and shook the bottle. Incredible. Slightly sweet, complex flavor and a luxurious mouth feel. In coffee it’s extraordinary. And mixed with the raw oats of muesli it’s really rich. With the morning dairy thing licked now I can muscle my way through the rest of my VB6 eating day with no problems at all.
Yummy Not Milk
*Be smart when you make this. Take special care when blending very hot liquid. Make sure the lid on your blender is attached well, cover the lid with an absorbent kitchen towel and keep your hand pressed down on the lid while blending. Start at a low speed and gradually increase it.
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup dried unsweetened coconut
3 cups boiling water
Place almonds, oats and coconut in the blender. Add hot water. Cover well, using an absorbent dish towel to help hold down the blender lid. Start at the lowest speed and gradually increase it to high if your blender has the capacity. If not, decrease the amount of hot water to 2 cups to start. Blend at top speed for 20-30 seconds. Then let the mixture steep for 15 minutes. Strain the “milk” through a fine sieve placed over a bowl. Press down on whatever solids are left with a rubber spatula. Pour the “milk” into a glass ball jar, cover and refrigerate until cold. Once cold check the texture. If the “milk” it too thick for you then add water in 1/2 cup increments until it reaches the desired texture. The milk stays well refrigerated for up to 4 days. After that the almond has the tendency to separate out into “curds”.