Misadventures making soy milk and walnut tofu (July 2017)

This weekend I decided to try making both walnut tofu and soy milk.  I had never made either before and I understood I was going into this project to learn.  And likely to learn by making mistakes.

Before I list the mistakes, making a nut based milk is relatively straight forward.  Take your desired nut, hydrate or soak them for a while in water, then blend with water.  Strain the resulting slurry and you have your nut based milk.  An extra step is to heat around 180 F to sterilize.

Making tofu is like making cheese in that you take a “milk” and coagulate it with something.  Heat the “milk” and coagulant to start the separation of the curds and whey.  Drain the whey and pack the curds and you get tofu.

I recall having tried a delicious walnut tofu lightly dressed in soy at Sumika in Los Altos California and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Moreover, the soy milk I like to buy that did not have carrageenan in it was out of stock and I had to get one with carrageenan.  Now, carrageenan is a seaweed extract that thickens, gels, and/or stabilizes food giving a mouth feel that can be pleasant to some.  I am accustomed to soy milk without carrageenan that any soy milk with carrageenan just tastes too creamy or too thick.  Thus a taste/food experience memory and being out of soy milk without carrageenan led this weekend’s failures and learning.

Walnut Tofu

I went through the basics of soaking the walnuts in water, blending them, and straining the slurry through a cheese cloth.  I saved the solids since they were tasty (useful result – see below).

Now I had walnut milk and did not know how much coagulant to actually use or what to look for.  For my coagulant, I had sea water.  A quick bit of research showed I could use epsom salt or lemon juice as well.  One recipe had a ratio of two table spoons of epsom salt to four cups of milk.  That did not translate to the sea water.  So I added 2 tbsp of sea water to the four plus cups of walnut milk.  I set mix over medium heat and stirred.

And waited.

And waited.

Fearing I did not add enough coagulant, I added another tablespoon.  I continued to stir over the heat and the liquid started to look thicker.  After another 10 minutes, there was clear separation between clear liquid and solids.

I separated the solids using cheesecloth.  I let the solids drain for a while.

In the meantime, I mixed the walnut solids from the initial milk making process with coconut flour, palm sugar, and coconut syrup to make cookies.  They baked for 20 minutes and came out as dense nutty cookies.

After draining, I tried a little bit of the walnut tofu and…

It was too salty! 😲


Soy Milk

I went through the same basics of soaking the beans, taking off as much of the seed cover, blending the beans in water (2 cups soaked beans in 4 cups water), and straining through a cheese cloth.

I thought I had a good idea of using my sous vide Anova machine as a means to get the milk at a steady 180 F.  The execution of said idea was poor.  Instead of sticking the soy milk in a bag and sticking the bag in a water bath, I just stuck the machine in the soy milk and cranked the temp to 180 F.  But the Anova would beep after a while and I smelled burnt soy.

Turns out the heating element became crusted with soy solids and started to burn.

This imparted a burnt flavor to the soy milk.

I had to toss the batch. 😞

And clean the heating element of my Anova sous vide machine.


Lessons learned:

  1. Only use water with sous vide machines
  2. The solids left from making a nut milk are great for cookies, among other things
  3. Coagulants to make tofu take time to kick in – patience, not more coagulant matters

I’ll try again next weekend and see if I’m actually successful.



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