When I realized I needed to give up dairy, my heart broke just a little bit.
Forget about stinky cheeses, Alfredo sauces and sour cream-smothered baked potatoes: How would I ever get through the day without a creamy coffee? My favourite: the breve one-to-one—one part heavy cream to one part espresso.
I like the quick hit.
I set out to create the best non-dairy latte I could. The research is ongoing and I welcome your comments and suggestions. I’m not sure the perfect latte is truly achievable—but pursuing the quest for it is worth every drop.
Here are some things I’ve learned:
Store-bought almond milk sucks. It’s just a personal opinion, but what is that soapy aftertaste? I could only handle so many scrunchy-faced five-dollar lattes before admitting that something had to change.
Milk is sweet. That lactose you can’t tolerate? It’s a sugar. Once you’ve tasted unsweetened nut milk, you’ll understand exactly what you’re missing.
Milk has fat. I’ve tried thickening up my nut milks by blending in coconut oil, without a lot of success (unless you enjoy oil slicks floating in your coffee). Instead, you can thicken almond milk by gently heating it on the stove while stirring with a whisk; just before it boils, it will suddenly thicken up.
Almond or cashew? I say almond (although cashew does the trick in a pinch). The benefit of cashew milk is the nuts only need to soak for an hour or two, rather than overnight. Cashews also blend up so smooth that you don’t need to strain your milk. So, easy-peasy, no pulp to deal with, but you just don’t get the froth. And it’s all about the froth.
OK, so are we ready? Here’s what you’ll need:
1 Cup raw almonds
2 Cups water
Optional sweeteners: date, honey or maple syrup
A fine-mesh sieve
A kick-ass espresso shot*
Soak the almonds 24 to 48 hours, strain and rinse, and put them in the blender with water. This version makes a pretty thick milk, so could be thinned with another cup or two of water. Add sweeter, if desired, such as honey, maple syrup or half a date. Blend on high for several minutes and then pour through the fine-mesh sieve (I don’t bother with fragile nut bags or messy cheese cloth, but you can if you want). Store in a jar in the fridge for up to three days. Nut milks don’t last long, so it’s best to make small batches.
There are a few things you can do with leftover pulp: I add it to pancakes, granola and homemade bread, or dry it in the oven (low heat for several hours) to make almond meal. With some dates, cacao and peanut butter, it makes some pretty sweet bliss balls.
But back to that latte.
*Now, for that espresso shot: You can make it whatever way works best for you. We recently bought a fancy-pants espresso maker, but honestly my stovetop one works pretty darn well. My local coffee shop has them both beat, so I often show up there with my homemade almond milk in one hand and reusable coffee mug in the other, then let them add the caffeine.
I’m not sure if that makes me a really easy customer or super high maintenance.
Next, froth your milk (if your local barista isn’t already doing it for you): you can use your steamer or a stovetop frother. Gently skim the froth from the top while pouring some almond milk into the espresso. Go easy: You don’t want to water down your latte.
Maybe more than the beverage itself, I love the ritual of making my morning latte. The challenge of creating a decent nut milk just adds to the process. Even though it’s an extra step, you’ll get into the rhythm of putting the almonds to soak when you’ve only got a day’s supply left and planning Saturday morning pancakes to use up that leftover almond pulp.
So let’s share (and Instagram) some results! Tag me here.
*My husband is currently working on the best-ever espresso shot. But that’s another post…
Author: Amanda Follett
Editor: Caitlin Oriel