While the ingredients vary depending on where it’s made, horchata is often a creamy rice beverage rich with vanilla and cinnamon. Although it can be served hot or cold, its flavors always remind me of autumn. So when I saw black rice for the first time, I knew I could take the warm spiciness of the horchata and give it a Halloween twist. I also definitely wanted to make it vegan.
So, I experimented with other seasonal flavors. I layered the horchata with a pumpkin shake—which sounded like a good idea but tasted just so-so. T. Rex and I both tried it. It just seemed, well, like baby food. Plus, the rice and cinnamon were totally overshadowed by the squashiness of the pumpkin. I set the idea aside for a while.
Then I remembered two things. First, my German grandmother once served orange slices sprinkled with cinnamon. I loved that slightly sweet warm spice with the bright citrus punch. Second, my mom would often make her version of a frothy orange shake for me and my sister. Layering the horchata with an orange shake is a much better idea that tastes great. It’s quite refreshing and I’m so glad the pumpkin version did not work out!
The Halloween Horchata is easy to make but it does take a while, so if you’re serving it for a party, start it early in the day.
½ cup black rice
4-1/2 cups very hot water
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
½ cup plus 2 TBS dark brown sugar
½ cup unsweetened coconut milk
1-1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice
1-12 oz can of frozen orange juice concentrate
2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
Pumpkin pie spice for garnish.
Place the rice in a sieve and rinse it under cold water several times until the water runs clear.
Put the rice into a blender. Cover and blend on medium for a few seconds to break down the rice. Remove the lid. Add the 1 tsp pumpkin pie to the rice. Carefully pour the hot water over the rice. Replace the lid and vent it. To prevent hot water from shooting out, place a towel over the vent and blend on the lowest speed for about 30 seconds. Remove the towel and allow the rice to sit for 3 hours. Blend again for 30 seconds.
Place a sieve over a pitcher and strain the rice water into it. Discard the rice or use it in another recipe. Add the dark brown sugar, ½ cup coconut milk, 1-1/4 tsp vanilla, and the ¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice to the rice water and stir. Cover the pitcher with a lid or cling film and chill in the refrigerator until cold. This can be done the day before serving.
To make the orange shake, defrost the orange juice concentrate for no more than 5 minutes. It’ll be easier to remove from the can. Add the concentrate, 2 cups coconut milk, and ½ tsp vanilla to the blender. Blend on medium until smooth and pourable but still thick.
Depending on the size of the glass, equally distribute the rice water between 4 to 6 glasses. Carefully and slowly pour the orange shake over the back of a teaspoon onto the rice water. This should give you two distinct layers. Garnish with a dash of pumpkin pie spice and serve immediately.
Don’t Freak Out!
1) After straining, the leftover rice will be fully cooked and bland yet taste slightly of pumpkin pie spice. You can use in your favorite rice pudding recipe, to fortify a harvest soup (like butternut squash or lentil), or heated gently with milk and sugar as a porridge. You could even try using it as a filler for a Moroccan-inspired meatball.
2) I use pumpkin pie spice in this recipe because the spice I buy has lemon peel in it—which highlights the citrus. But if you don’t have pumpkin pie spice, just use cinnamon. It’ll be delicious.
3) When I use pure vanilla extract, I usually use less than what you would think; to my taste, it can overshadow the other ingredients. However, if you like more, use more. Add a ¼ tsp at a time tasting in between additions until you get the vanilla flavor you prefer.
4) Speaking of vanilla, you can use vanilla coconut milk instead. Decrease or omit the amount of vanilla extract you use.
5) You can also make this horchata with cow’s, soy or rice milk. I don’t recommend goat’s, sheep’s, almond, hemp, or sunflower milk—they’re quite distinct in their own right and may not work out as well with the other flavors.
6) If you put the orange shake in the glass first and then top with the rice water (or if the layering doesn’t go well), don’t worry. You’ll get a nice tie-dye effect. Just plop in a straw and call it good!
7) You can omit the orange shake and just serve the rice water over ice. Or add a shot of spiced rum (or to your taste) to the rice water and top with the orange shake.
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