Almond Milk & Loaf

Almondfest 2012 is still going strong here in the Land of CCM 🙂

Remember I mentioned making my own almond milk?  Oh mamma, how good is homemade almond milk, chilled, on a hot summer’s day?  There are no words sufficient to describe its fabulousness.   Even better than having a fresh bottle of delicious almond milk is knowing you can bake something awesome with the leftover almond meal.  All of this and you have the added benefit of knowing precisely what’s in your almond milk, it is fresh, and you haven’t wasted food or precious dinero (aka money).

Waste not.  Want not.

Everybody wins.  Your body.  The planet.  Small furry creatures.  Somewhere.  I’m sure of it.

Now, there are lots of recipes around for almond milk (google it, seriously) so I’m not focussed on that here but I’ve provided a basic foolproof recipe at the bottom.  The focus here is what to do with all that almond meal after I’ve squeezed the bejeezus out of it when making the milk?

The short answer is:  ANYTHING YOU LIKE … just use it as you would almond meal.  The only difference is that the texture will be a little different because, squeeze as you might, some moisture will remain in the almond meal from all that soaking in water.  This is not a bad thing.

I like to keep it simple, especially as I’ve just made a mess from all the almond milk production, and I like to keep it healthy 🙂  My favourite thing to make is a quick and easy almond loaf.  It takes only a few minutes to put together, it’s very healthy, and importantly, it’s totally delicious.

The texture of the batter is mousse-like because of the moisture in the almonds.  This results in a loaf that is so soft it practically falls apart.  You need a fork to eat it.  It’s soft, light and has a slight caramel flavour as it’s sweetened with dates.  No flour, no added sugars, gluten and dairy free.  OK, it’s also kinda paleo 🙂

If you are following a low FODMAP diet and are very sensitive, you can substitute two to three tablespoons of maple syrup for the dates in this recipe.

Eat it on its own, topped with homemade nutella, more almond butter, your favourite jam, or ricotta and fresh fruit.  I love it with berries and yoghurt, especially raspberries, but it also matches beautifully with stone fruit, figs or citrus.  It would even be lovely with a sharp cheese as part of a cheese board … I mean, there are nuts, dates … just add cheese 😀

One serve provides good quality protein, is low in carbs and saturated fats, and provides a decent contribution to your daily fibre intact.

All this from leftover almond meal … that’s a pretty good deal.

Makes 1 standard sized loaf (23cm x 10cm loaf tin) that serves 12

450 grams almond meal, leftover from making almond milk*
5 medjool dates
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla bean paste or extract
1 teaspoon natural almond extract (optional)
3 teaspoons baking powder
200 grams almond milk, preferably homemade
sweetener (optional)

*This quantity is based on starting with 375 grams of almonds.  If not making almond milk, soak 375 grams of unblanched almonds for 8 – 12 hours in fresh water, covered.  The almonds will swell.  Drain well, and process in a food processor until a semi-fine meal.

Note:  This loaf is lovely if you add the finely grated zest of a lemon, lime, or orange.  Alternatively, replace the almond extract with a few teaspoons orange flower water or rose-water, or cinnamon, or a mixture of all three.  They really go really well with the almonds for a middle-eastern flavour combo.

Preheat the oven to 180℃.

Grease a loaf tin lightly with olive oil spray or line the tin with silicone paper.  I’d recommend lining the tin with baking paper that hangs over the sides a little as this will help you carefully remove the loaf from the tin.

Place the dates in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth.  Add all the ingredients and process until you get a lovely mousse-like batter.  The sweetener is optional.  I don’t believe it’s required as the dates give the loaf a lovely natural sweetness already but it’s up to you.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for about 50 – 60 minutes until the loaf has risen, is golden and cooked through.  It will still be extremely soft but a skewer should come out clean when inserted into the centre (with only crumbs attached).  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the tin.

When cool, remove carefully from the tin and place on to a serving dish.

Store the loaf, covered, in the refrigerator.

My aunt popped around the other day with some amazing baby purple figs from her tree.  OH MY.  This was dessert tonight for me … a slice of the almond loaf, some fresh ricotta and sliced figs.  Sublime.

Almond Milk
To make one litre of fresh almond milk, you will need

250 grams raw almonds
1 litre filtered or spring water

Place the almonds in a container and cover with fresh water.  Make sure the almonds are totally covered by the water as they will swell as they soak.  Cover and allow to soak for 8 – 12 hours or overnight.  Drain the almonds and place in a blender with the filtered (or spring) water and blend until the almonds are finely ground.  Pulse a few more times, then allow to sit for 10 minutes.

Use a large piece of fine muslin or extra fine linen/cotton to line a fine sieve.  Place over a bowl and pour in the almond mixture.  Make sure to extract as much of the liquid as possible into the bowl.  When only the almond meal remains, wrap up the muslin and squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible.

At this point you can sweeten the almond milk or add a dash of vanilla or cacao or cinnamon to flavour it.  I prefer to keep it plain so I can flavour it, as needed, if required.  Pour the almond milk into a glass bottle, seal, and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days.

NB:  Buy good quality fresh raw almonds to make sure your almond milk has a fresh, clean almond flavour, with no bitterness.

Macronutrient Profile (Almond Loaf)
Macros are provided for the loaf only (sans toppings etc).  For the almond milk, I have used average values for unsweetened almond milk.  The macros depend on the ratio of almonds to water but the variations won’t be too significant.

If you add any sweeteners to the loaf or vary it, this will impact the macros, of course.

Per serve macros are based on 12 serves per loaf.