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Cover: Founding Flavors

Recipes with Vanilla Beans

11Oct 12

Vanilla Extract on the Rocks, Please

As I started drafting this blog entry, I got distracted when I overheard a 60 Minutes report entitled The Flavorists: Tweaking tastes and creating cravings.  I encourage you to check out the news clip because it examines the food flavoring industry and its overall impact on obesity in society as food is enhanced with flavors designed to entice our taste buds.  The timing of the report was quite apropos given that I was writing about creating homemade vanilla flavoring.  My favorite part of the news clip is when reporter Morley Safer states that vanilla flavors can come ‘from a gland in a beavers backside.’  Yuck-a-luck!

And, while I’ll attempt to refrain from being hypocritical–because come on who doesn’t love munching and sipping on all sorts of store-bought snacks that are infused with these flavors–I do have to say that I couldn’t help patting myself on the back for making my own beaver gland-free vanilla extract where I knew that there were only two ingredients: alcohol and vanilla beans.  So, if you’d like to take a break from artificial flavors and so called natural flavorings, please read on.  Did I mention alcohol is involved?

This is perhaps the easiest recipe I’ve made in my baking journey thus far.  As noted above, the only ingredients are sliced vanilla beans and a good quality vodka.  I purchased my vanilla beans online and opted for the Bourbon Madagascar Vanilla Beans.  I sliced the beans, which really look more like vanilla strands, and placed them inside of an airtight bottle (the vanilla beans only appear once you cut open the vanilla strand).  Next, I grabbed the vodka, which if I could describe the look of horror on my husband’s face when he saw me reach for the Belvedere vodka I would.  But, let’s just say he was not amused and neither was I after I compared its price tag with other vodkas.  While I have since convinced myself this was an ‘investment’ in my future pastry skills, I’d take note from the Making Vanilla website, which contains a lot of useful information and states that you really just need to make sure the vodka you are using contains 35%-40% alcohol.  Once the vodka and the vanilla beans are combined and tightly sealed, place the container in a dark, cool area for a minimum of a month but be sure to shake the bottle once or twice a week.  After at least a month has passed, pour the mixture through a strainer covered with either cheese cloth or two paper towels.  And voilà , you are left with vanilla extract that can be stored and used as a truly natural flavoring for your desserts.


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