Recipe Stash: Horchata

Horchata Recipe Take #1

I’ve been browsing the web for a while now looking for the perfect horchata recipe that has the right balance of sweetness and spice. Since lactose and I aren’t the best of friends either and I like a lighter horchata, I wanted a recipe that omitted milk products and wasn’t syrupy sweet. This recipe is a work in progress that I’m tweaking, but so far after making it this way I was pleased with the results. This recipe made roughly about a quart of horchata.

To make this horchata you will need:

  • 1/3 cup uncooked, long-grain rice
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 5 cups water, divided (3 cups hot, 2 cups cold)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (dissolved in a little hot water until it becomes a syrup)
  • cheesecloth (tea towels and flour sacks will also do if you cannot find a cheesecloth)
  • fine mesh strainer
  • splash of vanilla extract (to taste)
  • time, and a lot of it

To make the horchata (2-day recipe):

  1. First thing’s first, blanch the almonds. This will only take about a minute or two.
  2. Skin the almonds. After you blanch the almonds their outer skins should be soft and easy to peel. Squeezing the almonds a little will pretty much slip the skins right off.
  3. Let the almonds sit and dry for a few minutes. (Take some time to grab a snack from the pantry while you wait because cooking while hungry is always a bad idea.)
  4. Once the skinned almonds are dry, toast them lightly in a dry skillet. Lightly is the operative word here. (I blackened a few nuts the first go round.) The toasty almonds will have a slightly sweet fragrant aroma.
  5. Take your 1/3 cup uncooked rice and grind to to a fine powder. (I used my blender for this. Make sure you have a firm grip of the lid though, otherwise rice everywhere. A hard lesson learned.)
  6. Get a large bowl, jar or pitcher and add the rice powder, almonds, and cinnamon sticks (Mexican cinnamon is preferred. I crumble my sticks but you can leave them whole as well). Stir 3 cups of hot water into the mix and allow the mixture to cool at room temperature.
  7. After the mixture has cooled to room temperature, cover it and let stand overnight. DO NOT put it in the refrigerator. Let it stand covered at room temperature overnight.

Day 2: It’s a brand new day and you should be well rested, energized, and ready to tend to the horchata you started last night. Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten it already!

Day 2 Preparations:

  1. Transfer the mixture to a blender and add two cups cold water. Blend the mixture until it is nice and smooth. Depending on your blender it may take a few minutes. (I have a dinosaur it took me 8.)
  2. Strain the blended mixture slowly (slow is important) into a pitcher using a fine mesh strainer and 3 layers of cheesecloth. (What I did was line the strainer with the cheesecloths and use a spoon to sort of the big chunks that might block the flow of the draining liquid. This step, out of all the steps, is the most time consuming. Straining is a slow process. Very slow.)
  3. After you’ve done the arduous task of straining your horchata, add the 1/2 cup sugar syrup. (I take half a cup of sugar and a splash of water and dissolve it on the stove briefly to make a syrup.) Add a splash of vanilla extract to taste.
  4. Refrigerate the horchata.
  5. After the horchata has been sufficiently chilled it’s ready to drink. Serve over ice and garnish with cinnamon sticks or cinnamon powder (or both). And enjoy!

It’s customary (and delicious) cold, but I also warmed up a little on the stove the next day to have in the morning instead of tea and it was absolutely lovely.

Happy cooking!