Sunday, August 5, 2012

How to make Vanilla Sugar

Stop. We should all stop what we are doing.

Let go of the mouse, drop that bagel, put down that coffee, relax your shoulders. Ahhhh. Feels nice to let go right? Now imagine a big fat hug from a giant squishy penguin. 

That's what vanilla feels like.

Have you ever used vanilla beans before?

They are something else I tell ya.

There's a reason why majority of people say that their favourite ice cream flavour is vanilla. It's because vanilla is phenomenal. 

I'm not talking about that artificial flavour stuff made from tree bark. That's vanillin. It's fake.

I'm talking about pure, gorgeous, undeniably fragrant vanilla beans - the source of pure vanilla extract. Vanilla beans or pods are grown from a species of tropical orchid plants and are rather pricey because they are difficult to grow and rather labour intensive.

Although we use it here, there and everywhere in baking, it's no minor ingredient.

Pure vanilla, especially Bourbon vanilla from Madagascar, is so warm, comforting, soothing and downright delicious. The extract is made by simply soaking vanilla beans in alcohol, specifically ethanol. This is because alcohol is required to dissolve the oils of the seeds to extract the flavour.

I have a stock pile of vanilla beans in my freezer. I wrap them up in bunches of 3 or 4 in plastic wrap and then seal these bunches in a resealable plastic bag. Easy.

When you are ready to use them, let them sit out at room temperature for about 10 minutes until they are pliable and then you're so good to go.

To prepare them......

They are filled with thousands of teeny tiny beads packed full of flavour. It's like caviar for Barbies. 

Here's the thing....I go through so many vanilla beans, and not ALL of my recipes require the actual pod. Whenever I have the opportunity to steep the pod in cream, like when I'm making chocolate truffles, crème caramel, crème brulée, or any sort of custard, I do it!

But, sometimes there's only a need for the seeds. To save that pod and get some use out of its cuddly aroma, let it dry at room temperature for about an hour and then shove it down into a canister with about 4 or 5 cups of sugar. Seal it tight and let it jive.

Every time you use vanilla bean seeds, add the pod to the lot. After a month or two you will notice that the sugar will take on the fragrance and some of the flavour of the bean.

Use this in any recipe where regular granulated sugar is used. Use it to sweeten your coffee, tea, hot chocolate or not-so-perfect fresh berries.

Plus I have a major issue with wasting. I just can't do it.

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