Bake until tender:
Four 8-ounce baking potatoes
Let cool completely. Cut each potato lengthwise into quarters. With a teaspoon, scoop out most of the pulp,...
Starting at the tender age of eight or so, my parents shipped me off to camp for one week during the summer. It wasn't a particularly awesome camp. I often hear my peers speak rapturously of summer camp--bonfires and s'mores, horseback rides, canoeing, making bracelets--but the camp I went to was pretty minimal and restrictive.
For instance, we had an hour or two of swim time a day, but they segregated us into boys and girls and made a fuss out of what we wore to the pool. The majority of the time, we played sports, which I hated because I was the archetypal "last pick" for any sports team. I was chubby and awkward and frankly had no interest in softball or soccer or anything that involved fast-moving balls and people yelling at each other.
I distinctly remember burying my face into my stuffed animal every night and crying. My homesickness overshadowed every moment at that camp. I was miserable. The only bright moment I remember from those days was my first taste of whole milk.
I grew up in a household presided over by two thoughtful parents. The common knowledge those days was that lowfat or nonfat milk was what you should be feeding your kids, and so that was what I drank or poured over my cereal. At camp, though, they had whole milk (and now, we're learning that whole milk may not be such a bad thing), and I fell hard for it.
Ever since, apart from a brief foray into soymilk, I've been an unabashed advocate of whole, preferably unhomogenized, milk. I took this preference even further when I began my series of apprenticeships on small dairy goat farms. I often decanted milk straight from the bulk tanks into which we milked the goats. It was heaven.
But there are times when I can't get milk that meets my standards. During the winter, I usually don't have milk because the animals that produce it have been dried off so they can funnel more energy into their pregnancies. Or, for instance, after moving to a new place and having to hunt for a new source for milk, I will not have milk in my fridge. This is where I'm at right now. I'm admittedly a little hardcore about high quality milk.
But as an off-season substitute for the real thing, I love almond milk. Let's get this straight: almond milk will not fool you into thinking it's milk. There just isn't a substitute for milk. But almond milk is delicious in its own right, and when you need something to wash down a brownie or pour over granola, it's a very good stop gap.
Almond milk is readily available at most grocery stores, either in shelf-stable or refrigerated form. But it's so easy to make at home that I don't even bother with the store-bought stuff, much of which contains sugar or flavorings.
All you need to make almond milk is almonds and water. I use raw almonds, but roasted almonds will work. Whether the almonds are skin-on or blanched doesn't matter--the skins get strained out. The only almond I wouldn't use is a salted one.
You can add sweetener (such as maple syrup or honey) and vanilla extract if you like, but I prefer an unadulterated almond milk. Since I'm usually drinking it with something that has its own sweetness, I don't feel the need to sweeten the almond milk itself.
Almond milk can be substituted for milk in many baking recipes, although not for puddings. After sitting for a while, the solids in almond milk may settle out. Simply stir the milk to redisperse the solids, and you're golden.
Makes about 4 cups
Cover with cold water and allow to soak overnight:
1 cup almonds (raw or toasted, but not salted)
Strain the almonds and place in a blender with:
4 cups water
Purée until the mixture is white and no large chunks of almond are visible. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, several layers of cheesecloth, or a clean kitchen towel. Add to the milk, if you like:
(Sweetener--maple syrup or honey--to taste)
(1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract)
Refrigerate and use within a week.
Reserve the strained almond meal and dehydrate by spreading the meal out in a thin layer on a sheet pan. Let dry at room temperature (this may take a couple days). If you're in a hurry, you may dry the meal in your oven on its lowest setting or in a dehydrator, but this will still take several hours. Once the almond meal is dry, you can pulse it in the food processor to remove lumps. Use this meal in baking (do not try to replace all the flour in a recipe with almond meal) or smoothies.