I’m posting this info on orgeat because I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback from people who have tried the technique and found that it saves a ton of effort and time over doing everything by hand. Enjoy!
Orgeat (a French word pronounced or-Jah) began as a syrup made with barley, but the barley was eventually replaced with almonds.
I will skip the history lesson and go straight to the more important question:
What makes the best-tasting homemade orgeat?
David J. Montgomery (perhaps better known as his online moniker Professor Cocktail) performed a taste test between eight different orgeat formulas, from coffee syrup to fancy concoctions sold in wine bottles. His two favorites:
- B.G. Reynolds Orgeat: “rich, nutty, and delicious”
- Small Hand Foods Orgeat: “rich, balanced flavor and texture”
I hurriedly ordered a bottle of the B.G. Reynolds orgeat, but I couldn’t find Jennifer Colliau’s (owner of Small Hand Foods) orgeat anywhere. *Since this writing, her products have become widely available online at smallhandfoods.com
The obvious question then becomes:
How could I imitate the best orgeat recipes at home?
I almost teared up with joy when I finally settled on my favorite orgeat recipe. I had been messing around with almonds for nearly a year, having thrown out gallons of terrible syrup, before I finally found one worth sharing.
The fact that the best-tasting orgeat I was able to create also happened to be the simplest was nothing short of beautiful:
Simply Awesome Orgeat
Yield: 1 Cup
Of course, a ton of testing and research went into the development of such a simple recipe. Here are the highlights:
- How does orgeat differ from almond syrup? Orgeat contains orange flower water and almond solids, while syrups use nothing more than almond flavoring (extract).
- Using normal almonds to make almond milk for orgeat actually doesn’t do the flavor justice. Commercial almond milk is made with bitter almonds, which contain significantly more benzaldehyde—the key contributor to almond flavor. Unfortunately, bitter almonds can be poisonous when handled incorrectly. Why not just use good-quality extract that already contains benzaldehyde?
- Most homemade orgeat recipes call for blanching, steeping, or blending fresh almonds. As it would turn out, so do most almond milk recipes. Buying good-quality retail almond milk saves a tremendous amount of work while maintaining the critical fats and proteins of almond solids.
- Not all almond milks are created equal. Look for almond milk with minimal sodium and make sure one of the first ingredients listed is almonds.
- SO Delicious contains 90 mg sodium and 1 g of sugar.
- Most commercial almond milk contains a substantial amount of sodium. Keep in mind the suppressive effect this will have on finished drinks: adjust accordingly.
- Some almond milk brands contain more sugar than others. Make sure to adjust your sugar levels accordingly.
- Do not heat the milk and sugar when combining. Heat will make the almond solids separate and also cause a foam to form.
- Almond solids quickly separate out of solution. Commercial almond milk contains thickeners and emulsifiers to keep the solids in solution.
- I preferred the unsweetened organic Pacific brand because it was the least viscous of the brands I tried (less hydrocolloid-based taste suppression) and it had a nice roasted flavor, but any almond milk will work in a pinch, as long as you properly tweak sugar levels, above.
- *I also tested SO Delicious, Silk, homemade nut milk, homemade roasted nut milk, and almond extract-only formulations.
If you have any question as to whether a specific brand of almond milk will work with this technique, leave its nutrition facts in the comments and I’ll do the calculations for you.