Saturday, March 20, 2010

If you give a SAHM a vanilla bean...

My wonderful mother-in-law presented me with some whole vanilla beans as a present this past Christmas. I was delighted, as I had been having wistful thoughts already about what I would do with such an ingredient. The ones I received were from the lovely Penzey's spices company, from which we also received some fabulous cooking spice blends that we have to replenish as they are all used up!

My husband loves vanilla. I'm a fan, but am more of a chocolate person. Reading up on vanilla and ultimate recipes and true appreciation and what not, I came across a blog that posed what was deemed as the definitive question for those of us who are not sure where we stand on such an issue: "if confronted, decide whether you'd choose a bowl of best quality vanilla or chocolate ice cream, and "both" is not an acceptable answer."
I think this is a pretty good test, but I can see how some folks would disagree, vanilla ice cream is just so basic a representation of the flavor and ties in with a lot of nostalgia for most folks. It doesn't really play fair. I think I would still pick chocolate though. How about you?

At any rate, I wanted to make the most of my vanilla boon and proceeded to research what I thought would be some ultimate expressions of vanilla recipes.

I naturally went with vanilla ice cream first, thinking that if we really loved it, I could just make more with the rest of the beans, as the recipe only called for two and I had four.
I settled on Alton Brown's version, though the recipe as transcribed does not match the recipe if you watch the show segment. It makes a difference!
This ice cream was great, but not the ultimate expression of vanilla that I was looking for. The husk of the beans were leftover and I'd read in my research that you could make vanilla sugar with just the husk, so I set that aside for a few weeks (it doesn't take that long, but I figured it wouldn't hurt!).

The Vanilla Loaf that was so lauded in the aforementioned blog (I halved the recipe) called for vanilla sugar, so I figured this loaf's time had come this morning when I felt the need to cook. It tastes great and was easy enough to make, but the texture of the cake is not my favorite.

Now, you think to yourselves, well that's all the beans, what else could this have led to? The loaf called for a vanilla syrup to be made, and there was leftover - which I couldn't just throw out. I had thoughts of sweetening tea or some other beverage with it, like my sister does, but I also felt that the cake needed something to accompany it. (Ice cream!)

I didn't want to go out and buy any, and I didn't have the ingredients in house. But I did have the ingredients to make frozen yogurt! So the syrup was used quite successfully in a frozen yogurt (vanilla) and I still have half a bean left! My ultimate vanilla dreams have not been realized; whatever shall I do now? :D*


  1. I love it when you experiment in the kitchen- you always seem so logical and knowledgeable, and the results are always tasty- even the back to the drawing board stuff. :)

  2. Gosh, thanks! I always strive to be logical and knowledeable (tasty too!).