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Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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horchata, originally made in northern Africa from tiger nuts, is a refreshing drink perfect for hot climates. The small tubers of Cyperus esculentus, of the sedge family, were soaked, ground, and then sweetened to make horchata de chufa, a tiger nut drink still enjoyed in northern Africa and Spain today. Horchata made its way to Spain with the Muslim conquest prior to the year 1000; centuries later it spread from Valencia to the New World, where it took hold in Mexico.

Agua de horchata is a popular Mexican agua fresca, a fresh drink made with fruit, grains, pecans, almonds, and/or seeds, especially various types of melon seeds. Medium-grain white rice is the favored choice for Mexico’s sweet horchata, which serves as the perfect antidote to too-spicy chiles. This type of horchata is made by soaking rice overnight in water until the water turns white and milky, then draining and puréeing the rice with a little fresh water to make a smooth paste. The rice paste is forced through a fine mesh sieve, adding more water as necessary. Horchata is most often flavored with canela (Mexican cinnamon, or true Ceylon cinnamon), cane sugar, and lime juice, which are added at the end of the process. The horchata may be thinned with cold water to the consistency of milk, although those who prefer a richer drink add whole milk, cream, or condensed milk. Horchata is more flavorful when made a day ahead, but the taste should be delicate, almost bland. The drink is served very cold over ice.