by Dave Arnold, with Nastassia Lopez
Our favorite new centrifuge application is making nut milks.
Recently, a pastry student complained that her almond milk was too grainy. She wanted to know if we could do a better job. Damn skippy we could â€“and we started down a fruitful path of exploration.
Almond milk isÂ typically made by blending almonds with hot water and straining the resulting glop through cheesecloth; most of the solids are retained in the cheesecloth and most of the liquid and fat passes through (coconut milk is made in a similar fashion). We do things a bit differently: we blend the almonds with hot water and put the resulting sludge into a centrifuge at 4000 gâ€™s for 20 minutes. The centrifuge separates the mixture into 3 parts based on density. At the bottom are the grainy solids (which we discard), in the middle is the watery stuff, and the fat floats on top. Almond milk made this way is incomparably smooth and delicious.
Then we got to thinking. If almond milk is good, how about peanut milk, pistachio milk and pecan milk? They are all fantastic. What if we replaced the water with chicken stock, dashi, or orange juice? The orange pecan milk was a dud, but the dashi and chicken milks we made with peanuts and pistachios were amazing.
Initially, we had problems with the pistachio milks because the 3 pound vacuum packed cans of pistachios we buy have too many bad and oxidized pistachios. A couple of bad pistachios will ruin the whole batch of milk. It is now our standard procedure to dump all of the pistachios on a sheet tray and visually check for crappy pistachios.
For our first application, we wanted to do a riff on Tom Kha Gai, Thai chicken and coconut milk soup. Luckily we have a Thai intern to get the flavors right.
Pistachio and Peanut Milk Tom Kha Gai
300 grams of pistachios (or peanuts)
900 ml chicken stock
Blend and spin in centrifuge at 4000g’s for 15-20 minutes.
Soup (per 500 ml nut milk):
20 grams of lemongrass
20 grams of ginger
8 grams of galangal
1 gram coriander seeds
1.5 limes squeezed
5 kafir lime leaves ripped
Pinch of salt
20 grams Tiparos fish sauce
50 g honshemeji mushrooms
2 grams Thai bird chilies (chopped)
10 grams scallions for garnish
25 grams of ginger
Pistachio Oil for garnish
Bring nut milk, mushrooms, garlic, fish sauce, peppers, lime leaves, coriander seeds, white pepper and salt to a boil. Simmer 5 minutes. Add galangal, ginger, lemongrass and cilantro. Simmer another three to five minutes. Strain it. Add lime a little at a time to balance acidity.
We garnished the pistachio soup with crushed toasted pistachios, and our centrifuge spun pistachio oil. The peanut soup was garnished with scallions and red Thai chilies.
Pistachio-Dashi Milk Soup
Dashi Nut Milk:
900 ml dashi (20 g/liter ma kombu vacuum packed and circulated at 70 C for 1 hour infused with a bunch of bonito flakes and strained).
300 grams toasted pistachios
Blend and spin in centrifuge at 4000g’s for 15-20 minutes.
red miso paste
Ayu fish sauce (this is an amazing new fish sauce being brought in from Japan. It smells like country ham. It is crazy good. Get it from True World Foods).
Bring nut milk and miso paste to a boil. Add fish sauce and miso, blend. Correct acidity with rice vinegar. Garnish with bacon, fluid gel, scallions, and pistachio oil.
13 thoughts on “Nut Milk.”
Everything old is new again. Almond milk was a common ingredient in the late 14th century because 1) half the days on the calendar were set aside for meatless eatingâ€”the so-called lean daysâ€”and 2) cow’s milk spoiled very fast whereas almond milk lasted longer without refrigeration. Usually a combination of sweet almonds with a few bitter almonds were pounded to a paste with water in a mortar and then strained through linen with a two-man twisting action. The almond milk was often used for soups, as in the original blanc manger. (See http://xrl.us/bgxevf)
I’ve found it fairly easy to obtain good almond milk using blanched, raw almonds and filtered water. The pureeing is done in a Vita-Mix. The straining is done through unbleached muslin and physical force. The resulting “milk” is very smooth and silky with no solids.
Using simple stocks instead of water is a new twist. I’ll have to give it a try.
As perhaps your only gluten, dairy, and soy allergic reader, I must chime in as nutmilks are part of my regular rotation. I was just thinking a few days ago, as I was making cashew milk, that a cetrifuge would be a great way to make the milk smoother. A couple of comments…
First, cashew milk is wonderful and very creamy, with a very mild flavor. One can even make a whipped cream-like substance with it, if you make it extra strong by extracting with less water, or by not extracting, but using a professional blender to really pulverize the paste. (Peter mentions above that he uses a Vitamix…I would love to say I have tried that, but they run about â‚¬800 here, so, like a cetrifuge, not really an option for my little home kitchen.)
Second, you may like to try soaking the nuts overnight before grinding. This is particularly useful for cashews and pecans, which seem to soften significantly and make a thicker milk after soaking.
Other thoughts–hazelnut milk makes amazing hot chocolate,–don’t forget sesame and sunflower seeds, both of which have a rather green flavor, but are interesting,–last, especially for drinking milks, I have found it essential to add a bit of salt at the end, otherwise it all tastes a bit watery.
Did you ever acquire a wet-grinder? I have been thinking that could be a great way to really pulverize the nuts before adding additional water.
We have 2 wet grinders. We love them. We use them all the time for nut butters as well as chocolate. You should definitely get one. As for the price of the vita-prep in the EU I’m shocked. We always comment that people use the thermomix in the EU simply because they don’t have vita-preps. Now I know why. Can you buy one on eBay US and have it shipped? They are $400-500 here (330 Euros). Heck, for 800 euro you could take a vacation over here and bring one home.
I wonder if a bit of methylcellulouse would perk up your whipped nut-cream.
The voltage would be one problem…
Yes, voltage would be a problem, but not an insurmountable one given the extreme price difference. I have a Hobart vintage Kitchenaid I brought with me that I will run off of a transformer as soon as I get my kitchen organized (don’t even get me started on the ridiculous mini-kitchens over here…). I could run an American Vitamix off of the same transformer, I’ll just have to look up the wattage. Wet grinders seem impossible to find here too, which is funny since there is such a large population of Indians in Europe, but maybe I just haven’t yet found the correct German word for wet grinder. I will ask at the local Asia-markt tomorrow.
In other thoughts I am so inspired by the nutmilk soup idea…I am thinking of cashew-curry-apple (chutney) or sesame-rosewater-chicken. mmm.
Several years ago I spoke to a vita-prep rep about using the 60 cycle motor on 50 cycles. It won’t spin as fast. My memory is that they make a 220/50. I wonder if they will sell it in the US at US prices?
i still have nightmares from my stage making horchata in the thermomix and straining through cheesecloth….
There’s an idea: Horchata Base spun in the ‘fuge
the new site is cool, but I loved the recent comments section on the right! Can you put that back in place as well?
Will do. Welcome to the new site.
What type of centrifuge do you use? The ones I’ve used in labs typically have a very small capacity.
We have 2 fuges, but the one I’d recommend for chefs is the Jouan C412 or similar. They are older, but widely available on eBay, therefore cheap. They do 4000g’s. 3 liters per spin in 4 750ml buckets.
I’ll check it out Ben W. Thanks
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