Monday, March 2, 2015

vanilla mishap (sort of)

I know it's been pretty quiet around here lately and there's a couple reasons why. 1. I've been trying to eat really healthy lately, so I'm just not baking that much (boo!! That needs to be remedied.) and 2. I want to share original content but recently there have been other publications/bloggers that have covered topics that I've been planning on sharing here. I'm sorry to say that it's been quite demotivating for me, but my sister reminded me that I can write on a topic with a different, fresh perspective. So that's what I plan on doing.

Well, I had all intentions of posting this do-it-yourself vanilla extract during the holiday's, since I was planning on giving it away as a gift, but alas the vanilla wasn't ready (or at least that's what I thought...more on that later). I can't believe how easy it is to make and I'm amazed that it's as good as the one I've been using for years.

2 days after adding the vodka. It looks like a freaky science experiment (among many other things)
If you're a baker and go through vanilla like a crazy person (ahem, c'est moi!), than you should probably just make your own. And if you have a lot of friends who are bakers, than this is an excellent gift (especially if you pair it with cute measuring spoons and a favorite cookie recipe). Although it does take time to become vanilla extract (about 2 months!) so there needs to be some planning involved (I think September/October is enough time to have the vanilla extract ready by the holiday's, if that's when you want to give a lot away).

I had started making my vanilla at the end of October, but I thought it wasn't ready because it wasn't a deep color. My problem was comparing it to the Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract. I made my vanilla extract with vodka, which is clear, but bourbon starts off with a caramel color so of course my vanilla would never be as dark as the bourbon kind. Took me about a month to figure that out. Oy vey!  

Oh well, at least there was no question if the vanilla was ready and none of my friends or family minded receiving the vanilla in January. Before giving it away I baked a few things just to make sure it tasted good, and then I knew it was ready. Well now that I've basically given all the vanilla away, it's time for me to make another batch. This time I plan on using bourbon to see how closely I can get it to resemble the Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract. Let me know what you use and how it goes! 

Homemade Vanilla Extract
Recipe adapted from here
Makes 12, 4 oz. bottles

1.75-liter bottles vodka or bourbon
25 vanilla beans (I used these from here)

12, 4-ounce glass amber bottles, washed (I used these from here)
2, 24 oz. glass mason jars

1. Cut the vanilla beans in half, and then cut off the curled ends of the beans and discard. Divide the beans evenly among the mason jars and cover with vodka or bourbon and close tightly. Shake vigorously.
2. Place jars in a cool, dark spot and shake the bottles about once a week for at least 1-2 months (but you could do this forever if you wanted). When it’s ready, the vodka should become a dark caramel color and the bourbon will be a dark brown.
2. When ready to gift, place a small funnel on the top of the 4 oz. bottle and carefully pour the vanilla extract into each bottle. If you’d like, you can include a vanilla bean (one should fit in each bottle since they were already cut in half). Use a pair of clean tongs to retrieve a vanilla bean and add it to the bottle. Slap on a cute label and then go make some cookies!

**The gift that keeps on giving:**
If you have beans left over, be sure to squeeze out the bean paste from the beans and save it in an airtight container. Use it in ice creams, sweet sauces, whipped cream, jams, jellies, etc. You can also allow the pods to dry out (after you squeeze out their insides) and then grind them up into a powder using a coffee or spice grinder and sprinkle it into anything that you’d like to add vanilla flavor to (or mix it with sugar to make your own vanilla sugar).

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