Have you ever tried horchata? It's a Mexican drink made of rice soaked in water and spiced with cinnamon and sweetened with sugar, in it's simplest form. That's the way my brother-in-law Tony drank it growing up in Mexico. In addition to rice, sometimes almonds or seeds are also used in the beverage. Well anytime there is delicious homemade almond milk involved, I'm all in! So of course my version here is a rice + almond concoction. Add to that a shot of strong espresso, and you've got yourself a horchata iced latte - otherwise known as the best caffeinated summer sipper ever.
In my version I did something nontraditional. For the almonds, I follow the nut milk making approach which is to soak the nuts overnight (8-12 hours, but see note below for 'quick soak' method) and rinse off before using. I figure this achieves two things. First, soaking the nuts in water with a pinch of salt is said to break down the enzyme inhibitors making them easier to digest and absorb. I prefer rinsing them off rather than soaking directly in the horchata because the soaking liquid now carries the toxic enzyme inhibitors you were trying to eliminate from the almonds in the first place (read more about soaking nuts, seeds & grains here if you want to nerd out on that topic). Second, the soaked nuts are softer and thus easier to blend smooth in the blender. Better digestion + smoother horchatta is a win-win!
Another departure from the typical recipes for horchata, I use a scant teaspoon of condensed milk for that touch of sweetness because that is how I normally drink my morning coffee (my daily indulgence). If you don't have condensed milk at home (why why?) you can sweeten it with 4-6 pitted medjool dates added into the blender for a healthier version, or else simply dissolve granulated sugar in the espresso shot when serving.
Quick soak method for the almonds: if you are short on time, you can soak the almonds in boiling water (with a pinch of salt) for 1 hour. Rinse well and use as per the recipe.
Horchatta Iced Latte
Recipe makes about 3 cups of horchata or 2-4 servings. Extra horchata can be refrigerated in a sealed container for 3-4 days.
1/4C almonds, soaked and rinsed (follow soaking instructions outlined below)
1/3C white rice, rinsed several times
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 vanilla bean pod or 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3C cold water
condensed milk to taste (can substitute with medjool dates, maple syrup or raw cane sugar to sweeten)
2 shots espresso (or 4 shots if you want doubles)
1. The night before, place almonds in a glass container with a good pinch of salt (~1/4 tsp) and about double the volume of water to cover them. Give it a few stirs to dissolve the salt. Allow them to soak overnight (min 8-10 hrs). Alternatively if you are short on time, see "Quick soak method" in the headnotes above.
2. Drain and rinse the almonds in a colander under fresh tap water. This rids the almonds of the pesky enzyme inhibitors mentioned earlier. Put it into a high-speed blender, along with the rinsed rice, cinnamon sticks, vanilla pod or extract, and water. (If you are using Medjool dates as the sweetener, pit and put them into the blender now too. By the way if your dates are hard, soften them in a bit of boiling water for 20-30 minutes before using). Blend until smooth. It's important to TAKE YOUR TIME here. The more patient you are blending it, the smoother the horchata. Pour into a pitcher, cover tightly, and allow it to soak at room temperature 3 hours up to 12 hours.
3. After the soak, line a wide-mouth pitcher or container with a nut milk bag (I use this one) or doubled-up cheesecloth. Strain the mixture into it. Squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible with your hands. Discard the pulp (I get about 1/4 cup of pulp). Chill the horchata in the refrigerator.
4. Before using, give the horchata a stir as the mixture would have settled. To serve, place 1 tsp (more or less to your taste) of condense milk or sugar into a glass. Pour in a shot of hot espresso, stirring until the condensed milk or sugar is dissolved. Add 3 or 4 ice cubes, top with horchata. If desired, you can make it a double by adding a second shot of espresso into each glass.
Vegan or dairy-free option: If you want to keep this vegan and dairy-free, omit the condensed milk in favor of sugar or dates as mentioned in the recipe.