When it comes to Mexican drinks, I've always been more into agua frescas than horchata. But for some reason, lately, I can't stop craving horchata. It's cold, light enough to be refreshing, yet comforting at the same time.
Horchata is a drink made from rice and a little cinnamon. I used the recipe in Rick Bayless' Mexico One Plate at a Time cookbook. His recipe goes one step further and adds almonds to the mix which is how it should always be made, as far as I'm concerned.
Horchata will remind you a bit of rice pudding but it's much lighter and only a little sweet. It's flavors are very soft. And it's light enough to be a true drink, not a dessert.
I couldn't help but think what a great ice cream flavor this would make. I made Bayless' horchata but with milk instead of water and then added that to an ice cream custard base. It turned out to be as delightful as the drink. It is a little richer, thanks to the eggs and a little cream. But it isn't overly sweet. The hint of cinnamon and almond round out the flavors but gently. This recipe has a little higher ratio of milk to cream, so it freezes a little harder. But I like that it's not too rich. The eggs add enough richness on their own.
To start, make the horchata:
2/3 cup long-grain white rice
1 1/4 cups blanched almonds
3-inch piece of cinnamon
2 1/2 cups whole milk (or water, if you're only making horchata and not ice cream)
1 cup sugar
Heat the milk (or water) over low heat until it comes to a simmer. In a bowl, combine the rice, cinnamon stick, and almonds. Pour the warm milk over the rice and stir together. Let cool completely, then cover and refrigerate overnight.
Add the sugar and then whiz in a blender. You'll want to blend it on high until completely smooth, several minutes. Strain through a fine sieve lined with a cheesecloth. Use a spoon to press the solids against the sieve to extract as much liquid as possible.
You should have about 1 1/2 cups of horchata concentrate. Pour into a quart container and put a strainer on top.
(To make horchata for drinking, add 2 more cups of cold water. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if necessary. Serve over ice.)
Adapted from Rick Bayless' Mexico One Plate at a Time.
To make horchata ice cream:
1 cup whole milk
1 cup cream
5 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
slivered almonds, toasted (for serving)
Warm milk and cream to a simmer over medium heat.
While the milk is warming, whisk together the egg yolks in a separate bowl.
When the milk is warm, very slowly. and whisking constantly, pour the milk mixture into the bowl of egg yolks. Whisk together and then pour it all back into the saucepan.
Heat the custard mixture over low heat, stirring or whisking constantly. Keep whisking until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. (You can test it by running your finger down the back of the spoon. If it leaves a trail, you're done.) Take it off the heat immediately.
Pour the custard through the strainer into the horchata mixture. Add the ground cinnamon and whisk well to combine.
Put the horchata container into a larger bowl, then fill the outer bowl with ice. Pour some water into the outer bowl, forming an ice bath. Let cool in ice bath on the counter until the ice melts. Then remove it, cover and refrigerate overnight.
Freeze in ice cream maker according to its instructions.
Serve with slivered almonds sprinkled on top.
Makes a little less than a quart.