Posts Tagged ‘vanilla’

Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Vanilla 101

September 8, 2015


Vanilla is a flavoring that is used in almost every sweet thing that we bake. The type and quality of vanilla is crucially important to the taste of our baked goods.
Vanilla can be used in either its original pod form, which is derived from the orchid plant, or the more commonly used extract, which comes in a bottle. The pod imparts a stronger flavor than the extract, and leaves behind tell tale dark specks. Vanilla pods are on the more expensive side, and require more effort to use.

The extract is made from macerated vanilla beans which have been soaked in alchohol and water, and then aged for several months before filtering. The FDA specifies that pure vanilla extract be made from 13.35 oz. of vanilla beans per gallon during the extraction process. Imitation vanilla is comprised of artificial flavorings, commonly paper industry by-products and chemicals. Bottles marked vanilla flavoring are made from a blend of extract and imitation vanilla.  The faux versions tend to have a slight chemical flavor that is unpleasant.

For the best outcome in baking, stick with the real deal; either vanilla pods or pure vanilla extract. Although these are more costly, the outcome is well worth the investment. Remember, most recipes only call for a teaspoon or so.

When purchasing vanilla extract, look for a pure amber color. Clear or very dark liquid indicates that it is either a synthetic vanilla, or that dyes have been added.



One notable high quality commerically produced, commonly found vanilla extract is Nielson-Massey. There are many other very good vanilla extracts at slightly lower prices as well.

Store your vanilla extract in a cool, dark place, and make sure it is tightly sealed to avoid evaporation.

Ultimately, the two types of vanilla can be used interchangably. The rule of thumb is:

1 vanilla bean is equal to 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract.

You can also make your own vanilla extract, using vanilla beans and alcohol, such as vodka, bourbon or rum. Here is a great tutorial from The Kitchn.

Happy Baking!

Top photo: Glasshouse Images

Bottle photo courtesty of Nielson-Massey

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Unrecipe of the Week: Happy Birthday B!

January 14, 2012

Today is B’s birthday and of course, there will be cake. When she was little, there were elaborate Winnie the Pooh creations with 3D features and piped fur. Later, we made panda bear cupcakes and chocolate fondue with sticks of cake, fruit and marshmallows arranged  like flowers in terra cotta pots.

So what does the kid whose mom actually loves to make these things ask for? An ice cream cake. Yup, Baskin Robbins or Carvel would be fine. No fancy flavors, just chocolate and vanilla. My heart sank. So, ever creative and industrious, I embarked on a homemade ice cream cake. You need time to let each layer  freeze before adding on, but it is incredibly easy to do. I am already thinking of gourmet combinations to make in the future.

B’s Ice cream Cake:

Toss a bunch of Oreos in to the food processor and pulse until they make cookie crumbs. The filling acts as butter would in a cracker crust and binds it all together. Press it into the bottom and about 1″ up the sides of a spring form pan. Freeze.

Soften the ice cream flavor of your choice, and put it into the mixer and beat for a few seconds until it is the consistency of thick batter. Spread it on top of the cookie crumbs and freeze until solid.

Add a layer of hot fudge sauce and freeze.

Repeat with another flavor of ice cream and freeze the whole cake until solid.

Carefully remove the cake from the pan. Press ground cookie crumbs onto the sides to cover, and sprinkle some on the top if you desire.

Decorate, or just cut and enjoy!

Happy 12th Birthday B! 

photo: Glasshouse Images

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