Homemade Almond Milk (Chocolate Pudding)

This week I had one of those random flashbacks that seem to come up and smother you for no reason, then *poof*, vanish. It was more of a feeling than a recollection, actually. For an instant, I got a surge of the overwhelming dizziness that surprised me the when I moved back to the States after just a year in Taiwan. Ironically, it was the deluge of words, the signage that I could read and understand, that was the cause. You'd think it would be the other way around--that I'd have experienced overwhelming relief, not dizziness, in no longer having to squint, decipher, and clumsily guess about the wheres, whats, and how much of shopping, but that wasn't the case. Maybe I grew too fond of drifting in gentle oblivion.
Later, I wondered why the deja vu in a quick run to King Sooper's, and I think I have the answer: I got caught up considering the amazing expanding dairy cases. They seem to stretch without actually taking up more space every visit, like fun house mirrors. This time, they were impressively adorned with lots of enticing yellow sale stickers, and if I hadn't been short on time already, I could have drained too much of it reading the ingredients lists of all of them just to satisfy curiosity.
Increasingly, people seem to be turning to dairy alternatives, now boldly occupying the aforementioned dairy shelves, because they find cow's milk too harsh. That hasn't been my experience, but I do find these milk "substitutes" intriguing, especially non-dairy darlings, almond and coconut. Compared with others, almond milk is especially low in calories: one cup of original Silk Pure Almond contains 60 calories, versus approximately 90 calories in soy, and 130 for 2% cow's milk. Plus, the packaging claims are awfully beguiling, including 50% more calcium than dairy milk; excellent source of antioxidant vitamin E; 0 fat or cholesterol. And, it really does taste great. The naturally sweet nuttiness and creamy texture make it seem like an indulgence. I'm not sure I need the ambiguous "Natural Flavor", Gellan Gum, Sunflower Lecithin and other ingredients noted on brand packaging, though they're likely just fine, if only in moderation, like so much else. Still...
Almond milk is made when roasted almonds are crushed to make almond butter, then mixed with water plus vitamins, stabilizers and, often, a sweetener, such as evaporated cane juice. A couple of years ago, I was in quiet awe of my friend Emilee who, committed to a cleanse, made her own almond milk everyday for several weeks. This week, I figured I could at least make the effort to try once. I discovered that, although a daily ritual of making almond milk would be something of a pain, one more "little thing" that adds up, like laundry, it's a pretty easy process, and nothing extra/miscellaneous need be included. I followed this link from Eco Child's Play; others simply go straight to the blender without the extra bother of soaking, but I liked these steps and found the explanation interesting, too. First you soak  2 cups of almonds overnight in water. Next, rinse the nuts and put them in a high speed blender with 6 cups of filtered water. Blend until smooth, then strain to get rid of the brown almond skins and any leftover chunks.
I took some of the almond milk and made homemade almond milk chocolate pudding which, at the risk of sounding like a Philadelphia ad, was dreamy. The lightly sweet richness of the almond milk means you can get away with using very little sugar. It's not a decadent chocolate mousse for  a dinner party, but it's definitely a satisfying snack that is much better for you than a lot of its peers, when you feel such is in order. In my case, I had a movie-length dental appointment that was well overdue (I had a troublesome cracked filling and, if I'd been more timely, it probably wouldn't have been so long);  I couldn't open my mouth fully, was tired and nursing a chocolate craving, and found this perfect.
Easy Almond Milk Chocolate Pudding
Serves 2
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons organic sugar or honey
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder (I used a quality dark cocoa)
  • 2 cups plain unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate, broken, or 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

1. In a small cup or bowl, combine the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons cold water, mixing to dissolve. Set aside.

2. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and cocoa powder. Over medium-low heat, gradually add the almond milk, about ¼ cup at a time, stirring constantly until smooth.

3. Mix in the cornstarch mixture and vanilla until well incorporated. Still stirring constantly, cook until the mixture is thick but just slightly thinner than desired (the pudding will thicken as it cools).

4. Remove the pan from heat and add the chocolate/chips, swirling with a spoon to incorporate. Cool slightly and serve warm, or spoon into dishes and chill in the refrigerator for two hours or more.


(A Little More Decadent) Chocolate Almond Milk Pudding

Serves 4

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 cups almond milk, divided
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  1. Combine remaining 1/3 cup sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl, stirring well.
  2. Combine 1/2 cup milk and egg yolks in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.
  3. Heat remaining 2 cups milk in a medium heavy saucepan to 180°, until tiny bubbles begin to form around the edge.
  4. Stir egg yolk mixture into the cornstarch mixture. Gradually add half of hot milk to sugar mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk.
  5. Add egg yolk mixture to pan; bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a whisk.
  6. Reduce heat to low. Add vanilla and chocolate, stirring to help chocolate melt smoothly. Continue heating and stirring until pudding thickens. Chill.

Photo credit: Flikr user roboppy