Read on and then say “howdy” to my long-time friend, June. She started blogging this summer and graciously agreed to come do a little writing here at RedWhiteandGrew.com. This will allow me to I can devote a little more time this week to my book. (It takes a blogging village to write a book, you know.)
Recently I read Mark Bittman’s op-ed in the NYT about cow’s milk and was intrigued at the idea of giving up cow’s milk. I have a tormented history with it; I remember as a child that my parents would nearly force the dreadfully chalky white medicine down my throat at dinner every single night. I’d ask for a glass of water; they’d hand me a glass of milk. All because they bought into the dairy industry’s propaganda that milk was the old spinach. The only time I willingly consumed it was with cereal, but of course, that was an unacceptable way of drinking it, at least with dinner.
My mother also bought into the idea that all fat was bad for you; so she only bought skim or 1%, which, to me, tastes like what I’d imagine ground up eggshells to taste like. I was secretly introduced to the wonders of whole milk by a friend in high school. It was, for me in a home with mild helicopter parents, like sneaking a beer behind their backs.
Anyway, I still have never drunk milk willingly as an adult except for hot chocolate or cereal. Plus I’ve gotten uncomfortable over the years with the idea of drinking milk from another animal. I can’t say that I’ve actually conducted some real research on the health implications on the matter other than reading a few articles here and there on the difficulty humans have digesting milk from a cow (presumably other animals as well). And when my son turned 1 and we could stop spending a quarter of our grocery budget on formula, we ecstatically turned to milk to feed my kid. And my kid loved the stuff. He would snort it down after breakfast and dinner and when he was younger, cry when he finished. He still sometimes asks for another cup and cries when we say “no.”
He also has an unusual amount of trouble coping with transitions. My sister-in-law told me that my nephew had similar struggles which seemed to alleviate when they removed cow’s milk from his diet a few years ago. As they’re related, Husband and I decided to try it out for a month and see what happens.
So that was decided. Now we had to decide what to replace it with. Somehow, we came up with almond milk. I don’t remember who or how, but we did.
We have a fancy-schmancy Blend-Tec blender. I thought that would’ve made it easy, and maybe it did make it easier. It’s not hard, but it’s time consuming. Basically, you initially grind ¾ cup of almonds, then add 3 1/4 cup water, 3 tsp. molasses, 1 ½ tsp. vanilla, and ¼ tsp. of salt. Then if you want, strain the grounds through cheesecloth.
I have to say I couldn’t stand the taste of molasses in the almond milk. I like molasses in cookies and other baked goodness…but the roughness of the flavor was too weird with the almonds for me. It was like a video I saw once of Taylor Swift singing with Def Leppard. I used just under 1Tbsp. of organic evaporated cane juice for the next batch, which I liked better.
I thought I took a picture of the grounds as I strained them but I didn’t, so I’m afraid you’ll just have to use your imagination to picture a lump of something resembling cat puke sitting on cheesecloth.
I couldn’t stand the idea of just throwing them away, so I read here that I could toast the wet grounds in a “low oven” and use them as flour. I didn’t know what a “low oven” was, so I guessed and put the grounds of several batches on a baking pan in a 250 degree oven. It took about half an hour to get them dry.
Eventually, I got sick of throwing them in cheesecloth, waiting for it to drain, toasting them in an oven, then cleaning said cheesecloth. So I decided tonight to just leave them in the batch I had just made and see if anyone (like my child) chokes on them. And to grind up the dried almond grounds I did have and use them as a flour substitute.
Since they were essentially toasted ground up almonds, they smelled amazing as I ran them through the blender. I started a batch of chocolate chip cookies from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, which calls for 2 cups of flour. I had about ¾ cup of almond flour and used white whole wheat flour for the rest.
The batter looked like chocolate chip cookie dough with little flecks. Otherwise, it had the same texture and required the same amount of baking time as usual. Except the dough was amazing. Raw eggs (and subsequently the fear of salmonella) don’t stop me.
So yeah, they look…exactly like chocolate chip cookies made with regular flour with little flecks in them. Except that these were the most amazing chocolate chip cookies I had ever tried. It’s like they were toasted almond chocolate chip cookies.
I’m still not excited at the idea of draining the almonds ground of every batch and toasting them in the oven…but I’m also not excited at the thought of going back to baking regular chocolate chip cookies. I am undecided as of this writing.
Here’s another, parting look at the final product. Happy almond milk-making!
June is a 30-something SAHM with either a lot of interests or an attention problem living in Austin with her family. Read more at her new-ish blog, Coffee Under the Umbrella.