Homemade Almond Milk

Homemade Almond Milk

Darling Sister,

I’ve been unable to drink milk since forever, and get by (but barely, complainingly) on store-bought almond or coconut milk which have the correct color, and mostly a tolerable consistency, but lack that rich mouthfeel of real milk.

Recently our local farmer’s market has a vendor who is selling raw almonds. A little curiosity, a little googling, and I was on my way to making my own almond milk. Now that I’ve had it, I can’t go back!

XOXO

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Homemade Almond Milk

Makes 2 cups of thick milk; if you prefer a lighter consistency (like 1% milk) this might make 3 cups.

Overnight or preferably two days ahead, in a container with a lid, soak 2 cups of raw almonds in 4 cups of water. If I’m doing a two day soak, I put the container in the refrigerator. The almonds will plump up to nearly twice their original size, and the soaking water will turn light brown. When you’re ready to make the milk, drain the soaking water off of the almonds. Add to your blender:

  • 2 cups almonds that have been soaked 24-48 hours in 4 cups cold water, then drained
  • 2 cups clean water

Pulse your blender briefly, then run on the highest setting for 1-2 minutes, until a thick, lumpy paste forms. Turn the paste out into a colander lined with cloth placed over a bowl – you can use cheesecloth here, but that feels wasteful. I use a clean cloth napkin or a tea towel instead, since you can rinse it and throw it in the laundry.  Let it sit for 10 minutes or so, it will drain some of the liquid off (but not much!). Now’s when a little elbow grease comes in handy. Gather the cloth around the pulp and twist the neck of the cloth, squeezing the liquid out of the pulp. This will be productive at first, then it will seem like nothing more is going to come out: you couldn’t  be more wrong! The tastiest, creamiest parts of the almond milk are still trapped in the pulp. Using one hand to hold the cloth tight, take the other hand and squeeze the daylights out of the pulp in sections – I grab a lobe at a time and work my way around the cloth several times. When you’re done, you should have approximately 2 cups of liquid in the bowl, and the pulp will be somewhat dry looking.

You can save the pulp to add to muffins or pancakes, or as a protein boost in your smoothies.

A little pinch of kosher salt and the tiniest dash of vanilla extract (no more than 1/8 teaspoon) give the milk a more balanced flavor. Store the finished milk in a sealed container in the refrigerator and use within 2 days.

Something Sweet: French Toast Bagels, Maple Syrup Spread

Something Sweet: French Toast Bagels, Maple Syrup Spread

Darling Sister:

I hope you’re having a lazy Sunday afternoon. I’ve been putting little effort into homemade bagels, and reaping great rewards. Sundays are made for baking, when you can knead up some rich dough and wander off for several hours while a warm oven works a rising magic for you, then pop back by to shape and bake off something just lovely.

I needed a couple dozen treats to share at work tomorrow, so I doubled the recipe below.

I’ll bring some by to share with you, just as soon as I get off the couch!

XOXO

french toast bagels with maple syrup spread

french toast bagels with maple syrup spread

French Toast Bagels with Maple Syrup Spread

Adapted from this recipe, by Girl Versus Dough.

In a measuring cup, stir together and let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes:

  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast (1 envelope)

In the bowl of your mixer with the bread kneading attachment, combine:

  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons table salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • a dash of cloves (a pinch, no more! they go far)

When the yeast is foamy, add the yeast mixture to the contents of the mixer, with the mixer running on low speed. Quickly add in:

  • 1/4 cup additional warm water
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (the real stuff here – this isn’t the place for your favorite fake-out!)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Keep an extra 1/4 cup warm water on standby, adding in this water by tablespoons until the dough just comes together, about 2 minutes. Continue kneading in the mixer until a smooth, tacky dough forms, about 5 minutes (or 10-12 minutes if kneading by hand).  Turn the dough out into a large bowl with 1 tablespoon corn oil in the bottom, turn the dough to coat all sides with oil. Secure the bowl with either a snugly fitting lid or a piece of plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 90-120 minutes. Note: while I’m gathering my ingredients, I turn my oven on to 200 degrees and let it get warm. I turn the oven off when I begin kneading the dough, and rest the covered bowl in the oven, on a towel, with the door ajar to rise. You can also create a nice warm environment by microwaving a measuring cup of water until steaming hot, then placing the covered bowl into the microwave along with the hot water and closing the door.

After the dough has risen, turn it out onto a clean cutting board or countertop, punch it down, and cover with a damp kitchen towel.  Let the dough rest for about 10 minutes while you fill a large shallow pan with 2″ of tap water and bring to a simmer. Line a sheet pan with parchment or a silicone cooking mat, and bring your oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit.

french toast bagels, risen dough

french toast bagels, risen dough

Return to your dough. If the dough is too sticky, a little flour can help keep things moving, but I found this dough is rich enough that it wasn’t needed.  Using a large knife or bench scraper, divide the dough, covering the pieces with a damp dish towel. For this amount of dough, dividing into 8 equal pieces will make large, bakery-proportioned bagels. For more reasonable appetites, divide the dough into 12 or even 16 pieces.  Note the dough will rise by about an additional 1/3 during the remaining steps.

french toast bagels, dough divided

french toast bagels, dough divided

Take each portion of dough and roll it into a ball on a clean, unfloured surface: place a cupped hand down over the dough and work your hand in a circular motion, using the friction of the unfloured counter and the pressure from your hand to drag the dough into a lovely, smooth ball.  Without mercy, use your thumbs to create a hole in the middle of the dough and pull it into a ring, pulling and stretching until the hole is about as wide as the ring of surrounding dough.  Place the ring onto your prepared baking sheet, and continue to treat the rest of the dough likewise. When all are prepared, cover with your damp towel and admire yourself.

In batches, you will simmer each bagel in the pan of water for 1 minute, fifteen seconds on each side, flipping each bagel once. The bagels will puff up and appear somewhat alarming, but press on. Remove the boiled bagels back to your prepared baking sheet, and again cover with your towel. Note: if you like chewier bagels, boil them up to 2 minutes per side at your own risk!

Once all the bagels are boiled, let them cool slightly while you whisk up

  • 1 egg and
  • 1 tablespoon of tap water.

Use a pastry brush to brush all the exposed surfaces of your beautiful bagels with egg wash, then sprinkle the tops generously with a cinnamon sugar mixture of

  • 2 tablespoons white sugar,
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg.

Again, admire your handiwork, then straight into the oven for 25 minutes in the upper third of the oven!

When they’re done, the tops will be deep golden brown and the bottoms will be browned gently, as well. Cool on a wire rack as long as you can wait, then top with butter (delicious) or Maple Syrup Spread (glorious). Store as you would bakery bagels: in a paper bag on the counter or wrapped tightly in the freezer.

 

Maple Syrup Spread 

In your mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk together the following until fluffy. Add more maple syrup until it’s to your liking. Store in a sealed container up to 1 week (good luck with that).

  • 1 package cream cheese, preferably at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup softened unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (or more, to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Proper Steps

Proper Steps

Darling Sister,

To get working on my steps for the day, I walked over to SOMA for a healthy lunch to go, and a public space with a fountain to enjoy it.

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You would like this simple, fresh made lunch from Proper Food at First and Mission. I had the Miso-glazed Salmon & Soba Noodles. They are going to be opening another location close to my work soon.

I headed up the stairs right outside to the public space. Nice fountain, greenery and plenty of tables with seating. It is a bit noisy, they are erecting the new bus terminal right next door. But the lack of people in the space made up for it.

FullSizeRender-5You should check the list to see what public spaces are open near you!

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After the tasty lunch, I spotted this guy made by Ugo Rondinone, on the way back to the office. Thought you might enjoy him. Have a great work day.

FullSizeRender-3Later!

 

Crowd-Pleasing Carnitas

Crowd-Pleasing Carnitas

Darling Sister,

Tuesdays at our house are Game Night, when five grown fellas take over the dining room to play games and tease the dog about his chronic gas.  It’s also the night of the week I struggle with most, since if left to their own devices, these guys would eat pizza, all the time, every time – a dinner outcome that’s OK infrequently, but not weekly.  With this in mind, I’m constantly on the search for meals that are either fast to come together in one day (crock pot everything, skirt steak sandwiches) or that I can make mostly ahead, and assemble when I get home from work.  Tonight’s menu is a popular one in the rotation: carnitas, cilantro-lime rice, and salty, savory cole slaw.  Since your husband is over here, I’m pretty sure you’re at home eating ramen right now: read ’em and weep!

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Can’t Fail Carnitas

This recipe is adapted from this one by Smitten Kitchen. The formula is forgiving – feel free to adjust the volumes of juices, add more garlic or less, or otherwise mess about for your own perfect pot!

You can make this a day ahead, or all in one go – see notes below for details. 3 pounds of pork shoulder yields enough carnitas for six hungry adults as tacos.

In a large dutch oven, combine:

  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1.5-inch cubes (fat and all)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 6 cloves garlic – peeled and smashed
  • 1 cup orange juice (fresh is wonderful, but I won’t tell if you use store-bought, here I supplemented fresh orange with fresh, sweet meyer lemon juice because it was handy)
  • 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup lime juice (again, fresh is lovely, but Santa Cruz Organics makes an authentic jarred version you should really have on hand if you like to cook or cocktail at all)

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Add cool water until the meat is completely covered. Bring to a boil and reduce to a mid-strength simmer. Simmer until the water is gone and the meat is falling apart into tender strings – all that’s left in the bottom of the pot will be the extracted fats, and the meat will just barely start to brown on the bottom of the pot; for me, this takes around 3 hours. At this point, you can remove from heat, cool, and store in the refrigerator if you’re making this ahead.

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To serve, fry the carnitas in a dry skillet – the fats from the pot will be plenty – until crispy and browned. I like to use my spatula to separate and flatten any large chunks – the lacy, tender edges that fry up so crisp are always what I’m after. I usually need to fry up the meat in 3 batches – reserve the fried portions under a piece of foil until the whole lot is ready.

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Serve with warmed tortillas, fresh lime, a little jack or feta cheese, and cole slaw. Cilantro-lime rice and black beans are great sides with this.

Salty, Savory Cole Slaw

This is a free-form recipe based on this one from Bakesale Betty in Oakland- use more or less cabbage, and more or less dressing to taste – this recipe makes a bit more dressing than you may need, so don’t dump it all in…add half, toss and taste before adding more. You can make the components the day prior, and toss just before serving.

In a small container with a fitted lid, combine:

  • 1 small red onion, diced, and
  • enough red wine vinegar to cover (1/2 to 1 cup)

Let the onions macerate in the vinegar for at least 20 minutes, up to overnight. Before you serve, you are going to discard the vinegar, and just use the onions.

In a larger bowl, toss together:

  • 1/2 of a medium red cabbage, sliced into very thin ribbons
  • 1/2 of a small napa cabbage or green cabbage, sliced into very thin ribbons
  • 1/2 to 1 small bulb fennel, sliced into thin ribbons (you can also add a few fennel tips if you have ’em!)
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1 to 2 jalapeños, seeded and diced (depending on how brave you are – I always err toward less jalapeño)

In a container with a lid, shake together the dressing:

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

 

Spicy Mustard, Revisited

Spicy Mustard, Revisited

Darling Sister,

I hope you’re a fan of spicy, textured mustard; there’s quite a lot of it around here.  A few years ago I made mustard as a Christmas gift. There, I mixed brown and yellow mustard seeds in an overnight white vinegar soak and ended up with a spicy but uncomplicated mustard spread.  Here, I’ve given all yellow mustard seeds a two day soak in a delicious, crisp sauvignon blanc and champagne vinegar, then blended the seeds with local citrus honey, sea salt, cracked pepper, turmeric, and a bit of mustard powder. The result is currently powerful, but will age out quite nicely into a hot, toothsome, complex spread. I’m already looking forward to a mustard-rubbed roast, and summer sandwiches on crusty bread with this business filling up the nooks and crannies.  Bon appetit!

XOXO

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Spicy Mustard

I used all yellow mustard seeds here, but you can sub in 1/2 volume brown mustard seeds for more spice, and up to 1/4 volume black mustard seeds if you’re looking for true potency!

The recipe that follows made nearly 8 cups of mustard. This stuff will keep forever, but I’d recommend sharing some with friends you love! You can also cut the recipe down using the ratio of 2x liquid to 1x mustard seeds, and adjust your seasonings accordingly.

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In a large bowl or jar, soak the following for 48 hours:

  • 4 cups whole yellow mustard seeds (about 1.5 pounds)
  • 2 cups champagne vinegar
  • 2 cups sauvignon blanc or other dry white wine (dry sparkling white might be delightful here, if you can part with it!)
  • 2 cups cool water
  • 2 cups other vinegar (apple cider, white wine, or red wine, as suits your mood; I used white wine vinegar)

After two days, the seeds will be plump and soft. Pour off most of the remaining liquid. Put half of the soaked seeds in the bowl of a food processor at a time and pulse each half with:

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey (or sugar, or maple syrup), to taste

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After a few pulses, process until it reaches a consistency you appreciate – I like mine pureed, but with large bits of mustard seeds remaining. At this point, your mustard will taste surprisingly powerful. You’ll want to let it rest for at least a week before serving to all but the very bravest. The longer this mustard rests, the more mellow it will be.

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