Face-Off: Alterna-Milks, Part 2

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Our previous foray into the world of dairy alternatives pitted the previously reigning champion Soy Milk against underdog fighter Almond Milk. We promised to bring you round two, Almond Milk versus Rice Milk.

Almond Milk: We used Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Almond Milk Original Flavor, which is low in calories and fat, with a touch of fiber, fairly low sugar content, and a respectable amount of calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin E and Vitamin A.

Surprisingly bright white, it certainly looks like milk, even bubbling up gently along the edge of the glass. The taste is a little creamier and milkier than we had expected; the nut flavor was subtle, not at all overpowering. There's a nice sweetness to it that lends itself well to breakfast cereal.

We had it with a double shot, and it was tasty and sweet enough, thanks to the addition of evaporated cane juice, that we didn't even need to load it full of vanilla syrup, our usual morning vice. It also paired well with granola. So far, so good.

We tried the milk in a few different recipes. We happened to be cooking mashed potatoes, cupcakes and cornbread that week, so these recipes were the guinea pigs for our experiment. In mashed potatoes, the almond milk was a bit too sweet for our taste. Our dinner guests were torn, though. Some enjoyed the back note of sweetness and thought it added a nice uniqueness to the potatoes, while others balked. The cupcakes were a huge success. The sweet almond flavor in our vanilla bean cupcakes was so delicious, many of our guests ate two or three. We would recommend almond milk for baking sweets even if you're a hardcore cow milk devotee. The cornbread turned out well, too -- the consistency was still nice and crumbly.

Rice Milk: We used the refrigerated Rice Dream Rice Milk Original Flavor. It has double the calories and the same amount of fat as almond milk. There is no fiber, but again a relatively low sugar content and good amounts of calcium, Vitamin D and Vitamin A. It trades in all that Vitamin E in almond milk for a quarter of our daily B12 requirement.

Though still white and slightly bubbly, rice milk is significantly thinner than almond milk or even skim milk. It looks a bit like chalk water. With that delicious thought in our head, we imbibed. Okay, now imagine you made a pot of rice, combined it with a little sweetener and a lot of water, and then expelled all the juice out of this concoction. That is what it tastes like. We love rice, so we wouldn't call it bad; in fact, we kind of like the stuff. But it definitely wouldn't fool anyone into thinking they were drinking dairy milk.

In our morning cereal, we enjoyed the rice milk with Chex (told you we like rice), but would still prefer the almond milk. Same goes for the latte: tolerable, but the almond milk was much tastier. Rice and coffee won't soon make it to our top-ten tasty food pairings.

We decided to substitute the rice milk into the same recipes as before to maintain consistency. Speaking of consistency, the thinner rice milk did produce a runnier batter in both the cornbread and cupcakes. The cornbread turned out good nevertheless (grain + grain = yummy, apparently), but the cupcakes were decidedly richer and had more flavor complexity with the almond milk. As far as the mashed potatoes, we had to reduce the amount of rice milk to maintain proper potato texture. Once the butter, salt, and pepper were added, however, the flavor was still palatable and preferable to the almond milk.

Results: Again, the almond milk triumphed. It was tastier, creamier and richer. It did better in the baking department and was fairly close in the mashed potato category. We would tie the rice milk at a close second with soy milk, depending on your personal taste preferences. Stay tuned for the next installment, in which we feature the reader recommendation of So Delicious's Coconut Milk. Can Almond Milk hold on to its crown much longer?

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