Horchata is a Mexican specialty drink. It is often referred to as an “agua fresca” or a “fresh water.” These are drinks like tamarindos and the cucumber lime agua fresca which I posted last fall. They are essentially water flavored with fruit or other fresh flavors. I’m flat out cheating with this one. I admit it. The typical recipe calls for soaking rice for several hours or overnight and blending that into a milky substance flavored typically with cinnamon, vanilla, or almonds. I’m using milk and water (though rice milk might be a fun substitute). I’ve used rice flour in place of whole rice, because it seems to make a great deal of sense to me. It saves a step. And the pitcher of horchata is ready to go far more quickly. But, should you want to try a recipe that uses whole rice, take a peek at The Homesick Texan’s (Lisa Fain) recipe. Her recipe is a good example of an horchata that uses not only whole rice, but almonds, as well. Regardless of which you use, however, rice sediment will fall to the bottom of the pitcher as it cools. It needs a good shake before ladling it into a glass.
It has also become common to make horchata using sweetened condensed milk, and though there are certainly applications where I will use sweetened condensed milk, here, I believe it adds too distinctive of a flavor. I prefer making a simple syrup. You should be familiar with making simple syrup anyway, however. It is a refrigerator staple for me during the summer, because it such a handy sweetener for drinks. Dissolving crunchy sugar in cold water is for the birds. Make a big jar of simple syrup and keep it in the refrigerator. You will be ready to make this, or lemonade, of sweet tea, or any number of other great summer drinks.
I’m so happy to have a recipe for horchata that has met with Pitts’ approval. He used to tell me of having them when he studied in San Miguel de Allende during college. It is always nice to come close to recreating a treat from a long-ago memory. My kids aren’t crazy about this. The texture weirds them out a little. But I am crazy about it. And I think, though I cannot be sure, that it would be smashing with a shot of rum. Pitts and I drank glasses of horchata while walking through the market in Tepoztlán, Mexico on a recent trip with friends. It is a happy Mexico memory for me, as well. But, it has become a very popular street food type of treat in the U.S., as well. It is a great addition to the landscape. I personally think it has a bright spot in my home as a hot drink, an ice cream, and a popsicle flavor. I’ll get to work on those.
This is a natural recipe to use homemade vanilla extract. If you have never taken the time to make a bottle for yourself and a few friends, why not do it this summer?
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
3 cups milk
⅔ cup rice flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups ice cubes
water, as needed
1. Make a simple syrup by mixing the water and sugar together in a small saucepan and heating it slowly so that all of the sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Allow it to simmer lightly for approximately 2 minutes. Remove it from the heat and allow it to cool. This can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator.
2. In a blender pitcher, combine the milk, rice flour, cinnamon, vanilla, and simple syrup. Blend for one minute. Stop the blender and add the ice. Blend until the ice is incorporated. Pour the horchata into a tall glass pitcher or container and chill it for a few hours before serving. Chilling not only serves to cool the drink but also to allow the rice flour to blend into the drink, so as to avoid any chalky texture. Stir or shake the mixture well before serving as flour sediment will settle at the bottom. Serve over ice.
Note: The sweetness of this mix accounts for the fact that is served over ice and therefore watered down a bit. You may reduce the amount of sugar in this recipe to your liking by adding the simple syrup slowly and tasting as you go. Or, you may add a cup of water to the finished horchata to thin it out a bit. The consistency is a matter of preference. As written, it is fairly sweet and milky. If you prefer it to be a bit more watery as the term “agua fresca” implies, simply add a little more water.
It is summer. It is hot. It is crazy. Here in Dallas, it has been hot and cool and windy and still and rainy…very rainy. I’m grateful for the rain for many reasons. The kids have been playing in the small lake that always forms in our backyard during such gulley-washers and the mud is rampant at the moment. A homemade sweet drink is a nice way to do something fun in the kitchen that is best enjoyed out of doors, allowing you to take advantage of the excitement of the first days of summer…even if they are spent splashing through puddles.
See, I wasn’t kidding. That is Lily wearing “mud shoes” and tromping around in the wet yard. It is good being ten. And, of course I can’t help but show off one of my favorite Nancy Lou Webster treen spoons. I still have a few fun spoons and sissy sticks in the PIE ETSY shop. Stop by and take a peek.