Recipe: No-soak horchata

Ta-da!

Horchata with its ingredients: milk, white sugar, rice flour, vanilla and cinnamon

Today I’m going to depart from tradition a bit and post a recipe—as the title says, horchata. Now, I should disclaim up front that I am not hispanic and don’t have any sort of credential for judging authenticity. Call me an enthusiastic amateur. I’m offering this recipe because I’ve been working on it for a while, and I think I have something to offer in that it tastes just like a more traditional recipe, but by using rice flour cleverly, it avoids the overnight soaking time and the blender mess required for proper horchata.

If you don’t know what horchata is, it’s a traditional cold beverage in parts of Latin America—according to wikipedia, the rice version I’m talking about is mostly from Guatemala—while other beverages carry the same name in other parts of the Spanish-speaking world. It’s a sweet, cinnamon-flavored drink with a rice-milk-like base. Unlike rice milk, the rice is usually uncooked so retains a different flavor, and it’s much thinner than what you can buy in stores as rice milk.

Recipes for horchata can be found here, here and here; my recipe is based on the first one, but you’ll notice that all three require a blender. Mine does not; instead you need to acquire pre-milled rice flour from somewhere, the finer the better. You can get rice flour in some grocery stores, I am assured, but I bought mine from amazon.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 sticks cinnamon
  • 2 cups water
  • 5 cups ice and/or water, or to fill a half-gallon pitcher
  • 1/4 cup fine rice flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup white sugar, or to taste
  • 3/4 cup milk

You will also need a half-gallon pitcher, a long spoon, assorted measuring implements, and a small, transparent microwave-safe bowl or glass measuring cup.

Procedure:

  1. What the cinnamon-water should look like

    What the cinnamon-water should look like

    Put one and a half sticks of cinnamon in a small, clear microwave-safe bowl and cover with two cups of water (amount isn’t critical). Microwave (or heat however you like) for several minutes until the water takes on a noticeable amber color (see photo). The cinnamon sticks should be nucleating air bubbles and the water should be steaming but not boiling.

  2. Meanwhile, put the sugar and the rice flour into the pitcher.
  3. Pour the hot cinnamon water into the pitcher, keeping the sticks in the bowl for now.

    Mixture after step 3

    Mixture after step 4

  4. Add the vanilla and mix as thoroughly as possible, breaking up any clumps of flour. The flour doesn’t dissolve, ever, but you want to wet all of the flour and get it into suspension.
  5. If you want to serve immediately, add a bunch of ice now; if you have time to chill it in the fridge, water is fine. Add the milk and stir.
  6. Dump the soaked cinnamon sticks into the pitcher; they will continue to steep and add cinnamony flavor for however long the horchata lasts.
  7. Serve chilled and/or over ice, stirring occasionally as the rice flour settles. If you are feeling fancy you can garnish with a sprinkle of powdered cinnamon.

A couple of notes: this is a very sweet recipe, as is all the horchata I’ve had in restaurants; feel free to change the amount of sugar. For that matter feel free to change the amounts of cinnamon and vanilla, try adding other spices like cloves or nutmeg, or try it without the added cow’s milk. If you can find almond flour or other nut flours, try substituting in a little of those (traditional horchatas in various parts of Latin America are often made with nuts) and see what tastes good. Horchata makes a good summer party beverage, as it’s sweet and cold; due to the starchiness of the rice and the added milk it is also a reasonable way to get relief from spiciness if you have it with a meal.

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