Like most people with at least a passing interest in foods made from recognizable ingredients, I’ve heard a lot about almond milk in the last decade. But my love of all things milk, cream, crème fraîche, sour cream, double-cream, triple-creme, dulce de leche, sweetened condensed milk and milk fudge (you know, just to get started) was such that I had little interest in making it a regular part of my life.
Plus, there was so much that I didn’t understand. First, most recipes call for raw almonds. Have you ever tasted a raw almond before? They taste, to me, terrible, like waxy nothingness. Why stretch this waxy nothingness into a glass of liquid? However, you know that flavor you get when you deeply toast almonds to a nice milky coffee (mm, milky coffee) shade, that incredible flavor which is amazing in pastries as it is on salads and even for a plain snack? Why weren’t we making almond milk out of toasted almonds — was it just the shade? Does beige “milk” unnerve people?
And then — yes, I know, there’s more — I mean, I like almonds. I do! But I also love walnuts and pecans and hazelnuts. Where’s the pecan milk? Where’s the hazelnut milk? Where’s the chocolate-hazelnut omgnutellamilk.
[Insert sound of a needle scratching off a record.]
Suddenly, I was very very VERY interested in vegan dairy products — although, typically, for all the wrong reasons, but it’s too late to change my ways now. I toasted hazelnuts so they were quite dark. I soaked them for most of a day in water. I blended them until as pureed as possible. I strained. I squeezed. And then I melted chocolate and whisked the toasted hazelnut milk in a little at a time. I chilled it. I poured it into tiny glasses and propped in bendy straws. And then my darling little kindergartener arrived home from his first day at school and I said “Mama made you a chocolate snack!” and he was so excited and I poured him a glass and he said, “No. I do not like this.”
I suppose it should be noted that nut milks are probably an acquired taste — if you’re not crazy about almond milk, this may not convert you. But my husband and I loved it. It’s barely sweet (though you can add a little sugar if desired) and tastes spectacularly of chocolate and hazelnuts, without the dairy products muddling the flavor — it will not survive the weekend. It may not even survive this paragraph.
One year ago: Bake Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage (this is so on our back-to-school menu)
Two years ago: Homemade Wheat Thins (and this)
Three years ago: Roasted Tomato Soup with Broiled Cheddar (and this)
Four years ago: Grape Focaccia with Rosemary
Five years ago: Melon Agua Fresca, Cubed, Hacked Caprese, Tomato and Corn Pie
Six years ago: Marinated Eggplant with Capers and Mint, Sour Cherry Compote and Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee
Seven years ago: Spicy Soba Noodles with Shiitakes
Chocolate and Toasted Hazelnut Milk
This is one of those recipes that I thought I came up with on my own (I mean, I did) but it turns out, I’m not the first one to have this inspiration because, obviously, chocolate hazelnut milk is a beautiful thing. You can see many other iterations here. Most I’ve seen either use raw hazelnuts, more water, sugar substitutes, cocoa or cocoa nibs. I opted instead for well-toasted hazelnuts for maximum flavor. I found that holding back the water slightly made it creamier, and with a good semi-sweet chocolate, it had a nice, mild sweetness (although children may not agree). You could add a teaspoon of sugar, simple syrup or your sweetener of choice to the mixture, or more to taste, if it’s not sweet enough for you.
I imagine this would be wonderful in an iced coffee drink or milkshake, but we just like it straight from the fridge in a glass.
Yield: About 3 3/4 cups chocolate hazelnut milk (or 3 2/3 cups toasted hazelnut milk, without the chocolate). We had 3/4 cup servings, so it serves 5.
2 cups (10 ounces or 285 grams) hazelnuts
3 1/2 cups (830 grams) water, plus more for soaking
1 1/4 cups (7 1/2 ounces 215 grams) semisweet chocolate chips or rough-chopped chocolate
Sugar or a sweetener to taste (optional)
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread hazelnuts on a tray and bake for 10 minutes, then toss them around and return them to the oven for another 2 to 5 minutes, until they’re fragrant and golden brown under their skins. Let cool to lukewarm. Place in a large bowl or jar and cover with an inch or so of water. Let soak overnight or up to two days at room temperature.
Drain hazelnuts and rinse, then place in a food processor or blender. (If you have both, I’d opt for the blender.) Add 3 1/2 cups water and blend for longer than seems necessary to puree them. Set a mesh strainer over a large bowl. Line it with a fine-mesh cheesecloth such as butter muslin or nut milk bag or a lint-free dish towel, leaving overhang so that you’ll have enough cloth to wring the mixture out in a few minutes.
Pour blended hazelnut mixture through cloth; you can use a spoon to stir it and help it along. When you’ve got mostly semi-solids left in the cloth, pull up the sides and use it to wring what you can from the hazelnuts.* What’s in your bowl is now the toasted hazelnut milk.
In a large saucepan or microwave-safe bowl, melt your chocolate halfway, then stir it off the heat until it it finishes melting. Whisk in 1 cup toasted hazelnut milk, at first one teaspoon at at time and then in a thin stream until you have a smooth chocolate-hazelnut sauce. Whisk this into the remaining toasted hazelnut milk. Chill until needed.
Do ahead: I’ve read that nut milks only keep for two days, but could this be true? I would have guessed a week. I will update this with a firmer estimate once I learn/experiment more.
* What to do with the leftover nut meal? I’ve seen suggestions to toast it in a pan to dry it out and then add the nut meal to baked goods and/or granola. Let me know if you have a creative use for it.