Vanilla Vanilla and More Vanilla

                There are certain times when you need to be a food snob. I am not talking about the my refrigerator is bigger than your refrigerator or I can identify that odd looking imported fruit faster than you can kind of snob. Rather, I’m talking about knowing when to say, “I’ll pay a premium for the best of the best of a certain ingredient” and then actually put your money where your mouth is. I am, of course, referring to purchasing vanilla extract and vanilla beans instead of the imitation stuff.

Ever wonder why true vanilla extract is so expensive? Well, it takes quite a bit of work to create the dried bean and that wonderful liquid concoction called extract. Vanilla is the fruit of an orchid plant, which grows in the form of a bean pod. The orchid flowers are laboriously hand-pollinated during a short one-month flowering period. The fruit is not permitted to fully-ripen. Hand-harvesting occurs four to six months after the fruit appears on the vines. Once harvested, the green beans go through a treatment process lasting another six months where they slowly ferment and produce their unique aroma and flavor. The dark brown vanilla bean is usually 7-9 inches long and yields about 1/2 teaspoon of seeds. Vanilla extract is made by percolating or macerating chopped vanilla beans with ethyl alcohol and water.

Vanilla beans should be kept in a tightly-closed container in a refrigerated area where they should last up to six months. Pure vanilla extract has an indefinite shelf-life, and actually improves with age. Beware the pretender; Vanillin (notice the slight difference in spelling).Vanillin is a “fake” flavor mixture of pure vanilla extract and synthetic substances. The two most common sources for synthetic vanillin are a by-product of the paper industry, which has been chemically and a coal-tar derivative (yeech).

The following recipes all incorporate vanilla extract or vanilla beans to create wonderful moments of vanilla bliss. Make sure you don’t give in to the temptation to add just a little more of the extract to any of the recipes. The vanilla should enhance, not overwhelm the recipe.

CHOCOLATE AND VANILLA BREAKFAST ROLLS

 I try to keep a few imported chocolate bars such on the pantry shelf for  these rolls. If especially like to use fruit filled or nut filled bars.

1 tablespoon (1 package) active dry yeast or 2 teaspoons instant dry yeast

Pinch of sugar

1/3 cup warm water (105º to 115º)

1 cup warm milk (105º to 115º)

1/4 cup sugar

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 large egg

2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 to 3 cups flour

Two 3-1/2-ounce bars imported bittersweet, white, or milk chocolate

1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon milk, for glazing

In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast and pinch sugar over warm water. Stir to dissolve and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. In a medium mixing bowl with a whisk or the work bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the milk, sugar, butter, egg, vanilla, salt, and 1 cup of the flour. Beat hard for 1 minute. Add the yeast mixture and 1/2 cup more flour. Beat again for 1 minute. Add the remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time to form a soft dough that just clears the sides of the bowl, switching to a wooden spoon as necessary if making by hand.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 1 to 2 minutes, adding flour 1 tablespoon at a time as necessary to prevent sticking. Cover the dough with a towel and let rest for 20 minutes on the work surface.

Divide the dough in half. Roll out each portion to a 12-inch round. Cut each round into 8 wedges with a pastry wheel or sharp knife. Break the chocolate bar into its scored sections. Set a section on the base of each wedge. Roll up from the base to the point and form into a crescent.

Arrange about 2 inches apart on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until puffy, about 30 minutes. The pastries may also rise overnight in the refrigerator. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375. Brush the tops with the egg glaze. Bake in the center of the preheated oven until golden brown on top and bottom, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before eating. Serves 8

From about.com

VANILLA FRUIT SLAW

4-5 cups thinly sliced cabbage

2 stalks celery thinly sliced

1/2 cup finely shredded carrots

1 apple, cored and thinly sliced into bite-sized pieces

1/2 cup seedless red flame grapes

1/2 cup thinly sliced dates

1/4 cup toasted, chopped walnuts or pecans

Salad Dressing

1/2 cup vanilla-flavored yogurt

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2-1 teaspoon sugar (to taste)

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice or apple cider vinegar

1/2-3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

salt and white pepper to taste

Combine all of the salad ingredients into a salad bowl and toss.

Mix ingredients for salad dressing well, adjusting flavors to taste.

Sprinkle chopped nuts over top of salad. Serves 4 to 6

VANILLA APPLE CAKE WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

4 apples, peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces

1 tablespoon sweet white wine

1-3/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 large pinch ground cloves

1 teaspoon baking powder

12 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 vanilla bean

6 eggs, separated

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1-1/4 cups sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 10-inch cake pan with parchment and set aside. Placed prepared apples in a bowl and pour wine over the apples. Sift the flour, cinnamon, cloves and baking powder, and set aside.

Strip the vanilla seeds from the bean, and then place the seeds, pod and butter into a small saucepan. Cook over low heat until the butter turns light brown. Remove the vanilla bean and let cool to room temperature.

Separate the eggs. Place the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whip the yolks with the vanilla extract and salt. When the egg yolks start to change color and start to get fluffy, add 3/4 cup of the sugar and continue to whip until light in color. Fold in the butter mixture, and then fold in the sifted flour mixture. The batter will be thick. Fold in apples and wine and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer whip the egg whites until fluffy, then add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and continue to whip until stiff. Fold the whites into the cake batter in thirds. When well mixed, pour into the cake pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool on a wire rack. When cool, run a butter knife around the edge to loosen then turn out onto a plate and top with vanilla cream cheese frosting.

VANILLA CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

4 ounces (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

7 ounces cream cheese

3/4 cup powdered sugar

seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean

Place the unsalted butter, vanilla seeds and the powdered sugar in the mixer with the paddle attachment (if available). Beat until soft and well creamed. Add the cream cheese and continue to mix until well combined. Spread on top of the cooled cake. Refrigerate the cake until the frosting is firm, about 30 minutes.

TERRIFIC VANILLA BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

3 cups (6 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

10 1/2 cups (2 1/2 to 2 3/4 pounds) powdered sugar

3 tablespoons whipping cream

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar, then cream and vanilla. Makes about 7 1/2 cups.

CHERRY VANILLA CHOCOLATE CAKE

1-1/2 cups sour cream

1-1/2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons butter, melted

4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Scant 2-1/4 cups flour or cake flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 eggs

Preheat oven to 350. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans or one 9 x 13 x 2-inch pan. In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the sour cream, sugar, butter and vanilla extract. Mix to combine. In another bowl sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Add the flour mixture to the sour cream mixture and mix to combine. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Pour the batter into the pans and bake until the cake springs back when lightly touched (about 20 – 30 minutes, depending on pans used). Cool on rack for 10 – 15 minutes. Remove cake from pans and sprinkle lightly with Kirsch (cherry brandy). If the cake has been baked in one large pan, cut cake in two layers and sprinkle both layers with Kirsch.

While the cake is cooling combine the filling ingredients

12 to 16 ounces cherry preserves

2 tablespoons Kirsch

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Mix well and reserve 2 teaspoons of preserves to use as glaze. Place bottom layer of cake on serving dish. Cover with cherry preserves, then place top layer onto cake. Frost with the following frosting.

chocolate frosting

1 cup sugar

1 cup heavy cream

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, broken into small pieces

1/4 pound unsalted butter (8 tablespoons)

pinch of salt

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Place sugar and cream in a heavy, medium-sized saucepan and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 8 minutes. Remove from heat and add chocolate and butter, cut into little pieces. Mix well. When chocolate and butter are completely melted, add pinch of salt (optional) and vanilla extract. Place in refrigerator until mixture has cooled. If necessary, beat with a spoon or whisk until frosting is the right consistency for frosting the cake. Decorate cake with fresh cherries that have been pitted and glazed with the balance of the preserves, and sprigs of mint.

Submitted by Anya Marchoni Chicago IL

VANILLA PEACH PIE

4 pounds ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, slice thin (about 8 cups)

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

2 crust pie crust recipe divided in half

Whipping cream (for glaze)

Position rack in lowest third of oven and preheat to 400. Combine peaches, 1/2 cup sugar, brown sugar, flour and cardamom in large bowl. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; discard bean. Toss to blend well. Let stand until dry ingredients are moistened, about 15 minutes.

Roll out 1 pie-crust portion on lightly floured surface to 12 1/2-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch pie dish. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Spoon peach filling into crust, mounding slightly in center. Roll out second pie-crust disk to 12-inch round. Drape crust over filling. Trim overhang to 3/4 inch. Fold edge of top and bottom crusts under, pressing to seal. Crimp edges decoratively. Cut 4 slits in top crust to allow steam to escape during baking. Brush crust lightly with whipping cream. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Place pie on baking sheet. Bake 45 minutes. Cover crust edges with foil to prevent over browning. Continue to bake until crust is golden and juices bubble thickly, about 1 hour longer. Cool completely on rack. Serves 8.

Modified from Bon Appitite June 2000

VANILLA RICE PUDDING WITH APRICOTS

4 cups plus 1 tablespoon whole milk

1/2 cup medium-grain white rice

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

3 large eggs

2/3 cup dried apricots, diced

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Combine 4 cups milk, rice, sugar, cinnamon and salt in heavy large saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until rice is very tender, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes.

Whisk cornstarch and 1 tablespoon milk in large bowl to blend. Add eggs; whisk to blend. Whisk in hot rice mixture. Return to saucepan. Add apricots; stir over low heat just until mixture comes to boil. Mix in vanilla. Serve warm or pour pudding into buttered medium bowl. Press plastic wrap onto surface. Chill until cold, at least 8 hours or overnight. Spoon pudding into bowls and serve.

VANILLA CARAMEL RUM SAUCE WITH PINEAPPLE

1 tablespoon butter

2-3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 pineapple, cut into bite-sized cubes

2 tablespoons rum

1/2 Vanilla Bean

Melt butter, add sugar and stir until melted. Split and scrape the inside of the vanilla bean; reserve.  Add pineapple, rum, and reserved vanilla bean to sugar mixture.  Cook on high until liquid is reduced and pineapple is glazed.  Serve over ice cream. Serves 6 to 8

FRESH BERRY VANILLA COFFEECAKE

1 cup fresh raspberries

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 cup unbleached flour

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 cup vanilla yogurt

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg

3 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds

1/4 cup vanilla powdered sugar

1 teaspoon milk

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. In a bowl combine the raspberries and brown sugar. Set aside. In another bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda and set aside. In another bowl combine the yogurt, butter, vanilla, and egg and  mix well. Add the liquid ingredients to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Spoon 2/3 of batter into an 8-inch round cake pan coated with cooking spray or lightly buttered; spread evenly. Top with berry mixture. Spoon remaining batter over berry mixture; top with almonds. Bake for 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Combine powdered sugar, milk and vanilla extract; stir well. Drizzle the glaze over the cake. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 8.

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