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Make your own vanilla extract, save a bundle


Published:   |   Updated: November 13, 2013 at 05:58 PM

I can go through boatloads of vanilla extract, especially during the holidays. I use it in everything from cookies and caramel sauce to custards and even caramel popcorn.

Last year after getting tired of rushing out to the store mid-recipe for vanilla extract and cringing a little each time I bought a huge bottle with an equally huge price tag, I remember thinking maybe I should start to buy it in bulk.

Instead I chose to learn how to make the stuff myself.

It was probably one of the easiest do-it-yourself projects ever and in the long run ended up saving me a lot of cash.

First, let me say this isn’t a project you can begin the moment you need it.

Most recipes advise infusing vanilla beans in alcohol for at least 4 to 8 weeks. The longer you do this, the stronger the vanilla flavor.

If you do a lot of baking during the holidays or you’re thinking how sweet it would be to give vanilla extract to all the bakers in your life, now would be the time to get to work.

I started by ordering a half-pound of plump, moist Madagascar vanilla beans from amazon.com for about $35, which amounts to about 65 cents per bean. That’s a killer price. I gifted some of them to family and friends.

I should mention that when I recently opened my plastic storage container of vanilla beans I discovered some of them had developed a thin coating of whitish “fur.” After a few minutes of online researching, I learned this is simply some of the sugar in the bean crystallizing. It won’t hurt the bean or you. In fact, it’s a sign that the bean is good and fresh.

Feel free to break out the cheap vodka, bourbon or rum for your homemade vanilla extract. After all, you won’t be drinking it.

Combine three to five vanilla beans for each cup of alcohol in a tightly sealed jar tall enough so they are completely submerged. Allow the mixture to “brew” at room temperature in a cool, dark place at least a month for the marvelous infusion of flavor to take place. Add more vodka or beans, as needed.

You’ll never run out of vanilla again.

I’ve been making this week’s recipe for fabulous vanilla bean cupcakes with salted caramel frosting for several years. They’re simply out of this world. I promise.

Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist and blogger. For more of her recipes, visit southshore.tbo.com and enter the search words Lynn Kessel or look for her blog at www.lynnkessel.blogspot.com.

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

Cake:

2 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt

12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped, seeds reserved (or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract)

2 large egg whites, at room temperature

2 large eggs, at room temperature

3/4 cup whole milk

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-well muffin pans with paper liners.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to aerate, set aside.

Place butter in a medium bowl and beat on medium-high speed until very light in color, about 3 minutes. Add sugar and vanilla seeds (if you’re using vanilla extract you’ll add it later), continue beating until mixture is airy, about 3 minutes.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl, turn the mixer to medium speed and add egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add milk (and vanilla extract, if you’re using it in place of seeds), mix until combined (the mixture will look curdled, but it’s not). Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture, and mix until just combined, about 15 seconds.

Fill the muffin wells about halfway, bake cupcakes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18 minutes. Set the pans on a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from the pans and let cool completely before frosting.

Frosting:

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons water

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup powdered sugar

Briefly stir together granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking, without stirring, until mixture turns dark amber in color, about 6 to 7 minutes.

Remove from heat and slowly add in cream and vanilla, stirring with a wooden spoon until completely smooth. Set aside until cool to the touch, about 25 minutes.

Combine butter and salt in a medium bowl and beat on medium-high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add powdered sugar, mix until completely incorporated.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and slowly add caramel. Beat frosting on medium-high speed until airy and thoroughly mixed, about 2 minutes.

Source: Adapted from www.theparsleythief.com.

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