Baking is a science. While cooking, you can do a pinch of this, and a dash of that, but when it comes to baking, it involves precise measurements. You have to be sure that your dry ingredient and wet ingredient ratio remains the same, or you may end up with a very different product than you were aiming for. I always measure everything carefully when I’m baking.
Everything except the vanilla.
I just can’t help myself. I just add a good splash of vanilla. It has never harmed any recipe. I’ve never said, after testing the cake or cookie, “Boy, this really has too much vanilla in it” and I love the undertone that homemade vanilla extract gives to baked goods.
Now, not all vanilla extracts are equal. There is a reason that some cost only a dollar or two, and the next bottle costs upwards of $15. Some of the vanilla extracts on the store shelves aren’t really vanilla at all. They have such a weak flavour to them, that they really won’t do anything to enhance the flavour of your baking. Personally, I’ve become accustom to using Mexican Vanilla. My in-laws have brought me vanilla from Mexico for years already, although it has now become available on the shelves in stores locally as well.
My love for vanilla has also driven me to purchase whole vanilla beans. The grocery store prices have always prevented me from buying vanilla beans, since the prices in the grocery stores is ridiculous! Instead, I purchase mine online, either through Amazon or Ebay. You can purchase 25 vanilla beans for $20, which is much cheaper than the four or five dollars per bean I’ve seen in the grocery stores. In addition to being used to make homemade vanilla extract, vanilla beans can also be scraped out, and you can use the paste in your baking or in making custards. If you love the flavour of vanilla, you have got to try that at least once.
I began experimenting with making my own homemade vanilla extract, and I have to say, I LOVE it! The smell that wafts from the goods baked with this vanilla is amazing. And the extract is so easy to make, you really just put it together, and forget about it. Homemade vanilla extract makes a great gift, and if you are thinking this might be something you’d like to gift to someone on your list, you’d better start making it now! It takes about 8 weeks to get a good flavoured vanilla extract.
- whole vanilla beans
- gluten-free vodka
- glass jar or bottle
- Use a sharp knife to split the vanilla beans in half lengthwise, leaving one end attached.
- Place vanilla beans in glass jar or bottle. Use 5 beans per 8 oz of vodka. Cover the beans with vodka, and store in a dark place, giving the bottle a shake every week or so.
- Let the vanilla extract sit for at least 8 weeks before using. At that point, you can remove the beans if you wish, or you can just keep adding more vodka as you are using it. You just want the beans to stay submerged in the vodka.
Using different types of vanilla beans will give you a different flavour vanilla extract. Mexican vanilla beans will give you a bold and smokey flavour. Madagascar beans will produce a rich and creamy vanilla, while Tahitian beans will give you a floral aroma with a chocolate-cherry undertone. Bourbon beans will give your vanilla extract a nutty-chocolate character. You can even use a variety of beans to give your vanilla extract a unique flavour.
Note: The vodka level doesn’t drop on it’s own while the vanilla beans are soaking. I started to use this vanilla in recipes before taking an ‘after’ picture.
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