Tag Archives: vanilla

How To: Make Vanilla Extract

31 Jan

When I moved to Germany three months ago there were things I was prepared for and things that I wasn’t.

What I was prepared for: language differences, crazy techno, drinking until 8am (shhhhh), snow, the absence of sunlight in winter, and a dearth of Mexican food.

What I WASN’T prepared for was the difference in baking supplies. Things I had always considered compulsory-vanilla extract, brown sugar, chocolate chips-were suddenly either completely unavailable or ridiculously expensive. You guys. A tiny-ass package of chocolate chips (maybe half a cup?) costs over 2 euro and claims to contain enough chips to make 20 cookies. They do not. I’d need at least 4 packages to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies which would cost way too much money. I haven’t had a chocolate chip cookie since I moved here.

Brown sugar is available but it is brown granulated sugar, not the dark, sticky stuff you can get in the states. Vanilla extract comes in either tiny glass vials or plastic envelopes and doesn’t taste or smell the same. It is much more sweet and syrupy.

Another surprise is that baking powder comes in packs of paper envelopes, and Germans use vanilla sugar more than vanilla extract, which also comes in paper envelopes. Many German baking recipes use these envelopes as measurements, so it’s not uncommon to see recipes call for “one packet of vanilla sugar, one packet of baking soda”, etc.

I moved to another country armed with all of my American recipes, of course, so these measurements make no sense to me and are not very helpful when I’m trying to re-create my favorite chocolate chip cookies. I’m sure I could figure out how much vanilla sugar to substitute for vanilla extract but not only does that sounds like a pain in the ass, I’m not sure how well it would work. So.

A welcome discovery was that vanilla beans are actually much cheaper than they are in the states and I decided to just make my own vanilla extract. I’ve actually done this once before on a larger scale and ended up with enough to last me almost 2 years. There are tons of formulations for vanilla extract making out there. I think the internet kind of exploded with them a few years back when someone discovered just how crazy easy it is to do.

All you need is cheap vodka, vanilla beans, and time. What?? I know. Also, an added bonus of doing this is that if you ever get desperate you can drink what is essentially your very delicious, very potent vanilla vodka. You’re welcome.

The amount of vodka to vanilla bean varies depending on how much vodka you start out with. I had a teeny bottle (about 1/2 a cup) so I only used one bean. If you have a larger bottle I would use two to three beans. A good ratio to keep in mind is one bean to every 1/2-1 cup of vodka.

First, you want to take the label off of the vodka. You can do this by soaking the bottle in a mix of water and soap for a few hours. After that the label should come right off.

Take your vanilla bean (or beans) and make a vertical cut down the length of the bean, splitting it in two but keeping the ends intact.

Put the bean in the vodka, seal the bottle, and shake to release all the vanilla particles.

Put the bottle in a cool, dark place and shake it every few days for at least a month. It will begin to take on a darker and darker hue, and after a month it is ready to use. That being said, the longer you can stand to let it infuse, the better. Two to three months would be the best.

This is the same bottle 10 days later.

This is 2 months later.

Still 2 months. Vanilla particles!

And ta-da! Vanilla extract. You can also use bourbon or rum as long as it’s high proof. (Bourbon would be super delicious, yeah?) Once it has been infused you can strain out the vanilla particles if you like but I personally don’t think it is necessary.

You can also cut the proportion of vanilla to booze in half, decrease the infusion time, and make vanilla infused booze! More on that later, perhaps?

Wouldn’t this make a great gift for that baker in your life? I’ve also heard of people making giant batches and using them as party (or wedding!) favors. What would you do with your delicious homemade vanilla extract?

xoxo, Stef

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Recipe: Coffee Can Vanilla Custard Ice Cream

11 Jul

I love homemade ice cream.

I also love to make ice cream, because I can do whatever I want, however I want, whenever I want. Peach ice cream? You got it! Chocolate custard? You betcha! Caramel swirl with m&ms, chocolate chips and peanuts? Why not? Dooooo iiiiiit.

The only problem is that I don’t have an ice cream maker. I used to, but it was a cheapie one from Target and one day a few years ago it stopped working. I had it running for nearly eight hours before I realized that the little paddle inside wasn’t spinning, so the ice cream couldn’t become ice cream, just liquidy mess. It sucked.

I hadn’t bothered to make ice cream since, because I thought you needed a proper ice cream freezer and I don’t have one. It turns out, you don’t need a freezer at all, just some ice and salt and ingenuity. These things I have in spades, which is why tonight I will have vanilla custard ice cream for dessert, and you can, too.

Recipe from Fanny at Chez Panisse by Alice Waters.

2 egg yolks

1/2 C sugar

1/2 C milk

3 drops vanilla extract

lemon zest

1/2 C whipping cream

First you will need one very large jar and one small. The reason the recipe is called “coffee can” ice cream is because you are meant to use two coffee cans, but I don’t buy my coffee in cans. Jars or tupperware will work just as well. The small jar will hold the ice cream ingredients, and it needs to have a very tight seal. The large jar will hold the small jar, the ice, and the salt.

Separate the egg yolk from the white and put the yolk in a small saucepan.

Add the sugar and whisk. Heat the milk (I used the microwave) until hot, but don’t let it boil. Slowly add the milk (about 1-2 TB at a time) to the yolk and sugar until completely combined.

Heat gently, stirring all the time. You want to thicken the mixture slightly, either until it reaches 170˚ or it coats the back of a metal spoon and you are able to draw a line through it with your finger.

You are supposed to strain it at this point, but I didn’t. This did not negatively affect the finished product, but hey. If it makes you feel better, strain your custard. I don’t like to follow directions.

Add the vanilla and the lemon zest and put the mixture into the fridge and allow it to cool. Once cool, stir in the cream and put the mixture in the little jar. If you wanted to add fruit or chocolate pieces to your ice cream, this would be the time to do it. Put a piece of saran wrap between the jar and the lid.

Put the jar in the freezer overnight, until it is frozen half solid.

Take it out and pack it in the larger tupperware with ice and salt, and shake for about 20 minutes.

If the ice cream is too soft for your liking, you can put it back in the freezer until it is more hard.

Serve!

Add chocolate fudge if you like.

Hooray! Ice cream without a crazy ice cream freezer/maker/mabob.

❤ Stef