Archive for: vanilla bean
The original pound cake got its name from its ingredients. It contained a pound of eggs, a pound of butter, a pound of sugar and a pound of flour. It was a dense cake, but it had a tender texture that other cakes at the time lacked and it became popular enough that we still have pound cakes around today. There are lots of recipes for pound cakes out there, some adding additional ingredients and some cutting back on some of the original components, and many of them are good recipes. Sometimes, however, it pays to stick close to the original recipe and this one is pretty true to its roots.
This Vanilla Bean Pound Cake is a straightforward pound cake recipe, made with butter, eggs, flour and sugar. I added a little bit of salt to make the vanilla in the cake pop more and a little bit of milk, which prevents the finished cake from feeling too egg-y. As in traditional pound cakes, there is no leavening in this cake, so don’t be alarmed that there is no baking powder or baking soda on the ingredient list. The slight rise that this cake has comes mostly from the inclusion of the eggs in the cake batter. It has a very dense crumb but is so tender that it almost seems to melt in your mouth when you take a bite. It may not look fancy at first glance, but this is one of those cakes that I would choose over an over-frosted layer cake any day of the week!
The cake, although simple, feels very indulgent thanks to its buttery vanilla flavor. Since I used a whole vanilla bean in the cake, it is also loaded with specks of vanilla. This is one recipe where it is definitely worth splurging and using whole vanilla beans, scraping out the seeds and adding them to the batter. If you don’t have any, however, you can still get a good vanilla flavor into the cake by using 2 tsp of vanilla extract.
The cake is baked in a loaf pan and cut in slices to serve. It can be served plain, with a cup of tea or coffee, or it can be dressed up in a number of ways. For instance, you could turn it into the base of a strawberry shortcake and finish a slice with fresh berries and whipped cream. For summer entertaining, you can toast a slice on the grill to give it some extra texture and serve it with a big scoop of ice cream. The cake keeps well when it is stored in an airtight container and it can be baked a day or two before serving, if necessary. This also means that you can nibble away at your cake in small slices over the course of a week if you don’t have any plans to entertain or simply want to keep this cake all to yourself.
Vanilla is one of the most important flavors in a baker’s kitchen. It is included in most recipes because it boosts the flavor of other ingredients and makes everything from chocolate to berries taste even better. It also, of course, tastes fantastic on its own and deserves a little time in the spotlight. Pure Vanilla: Irresistible Recipes and Essential Techniques is a cookbook that focuses on vanilla and lets it be the star of each and every recipe in the book. Now, “vanilla” is often used to describe something plain or boring, but you won’t find any “vanilla” vanilla here, as the recipes are designed to maximize flavor and let the sweet, complex floral flavor of real vanilla stand out.
The book opens with a brief history of vanilla, one of the most expensive spices on the planet, and how it came to be so popular. It then goes into how vanilla is processed and the different types of vanilla that are available for use by bakers, such as whole vanilla beans, vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste, just to name a few. Avid vanilla fans will appreciate the tasting notes that describe how vanilla from one region differs from others – since vanilla from Indonesia, Mexico and Madagascar all have their own unique flavors – and everyone will benefit from the vanilla FAQs, which include quick tips on how to store vanilla and what exactly is imitation vanilla.
From the intro, the book goes into the recipes and it focuses on dessert. The chapters include Breakfast, Cakes and Pies, Cookies and Bars, Candies and Confections, Custards and Creams, and Drinks – and every recipe is vanilla oriented, from Baked Vanilla Bean French Toast to Ultimate Vanilla Cupcakes. There are recipes for making homemade vanilla extract, vanilla syrups and vanilla-infused liquors that will give readers many new ways to use vanilla, too. The photos are beautiful, but the promise of all that vanilla flavor really is enough to make every recipe sound appealing even without them, so the most difficult thing about working with this book – if you are a vanilla lover – is deciding where to start.
White chocolate is a wonderful vehicle for vanilla. Good quality white chocolate is made up of cocoa butter, sugar, milk solids and vanilla, so most good white chocolate will already have a distinct vanilla flavor and it doesn’t take much more to push that to an even better one. So that means that this White Chocolate Vanilla Bean Tart is a good choice for vanilla lovers, as well as for anyone who is a white chocolate fan.
The tart has a chocolate crumb crust and is filled with a decadent vanilla bean-infused white chocolate ganache. The ganache is made with just three ingredients: white chocolate, heavy cream and a vanilla bean. The cream is heated and infused with vanilla, then poured over the white chocolate to create the ganache. It is silky smooth with a beautiful vanilla and cream flavor that reminds me a lot of vanilla bean ice cream. The chocolate crust is made with plain chocolate wafer cookies that have a strong cocoa flavor to them. As a result, the crust is not very sweet at all, so it tempers the sweetness of the ganache and adds a crunchy texture to each bite of the tart.
Be sure to use high quality white chocolate, not anything labeled as “baking pieces” or “candy coating.” These faux white chocolates aren’t made with cocoa butter and won’t give you the silky texture that we want in this tart. They also tend to be extremely sweet. I used Callebaut white chocolate in my tart and can assure you that it is worth splurging on some premium chocolate as a base for this recipe.
If you don’t have individual tart shells, or simply want a larger dessert, this recipe can be prepared in a 9-inch tart shell instead of four individual shells. This recipe can also easily be halved to serve make just two tarts. When I halve the filling, I often make all four tart shells anyway and just tuck two away (in an airtight container) for a few days for later use, as it is nice to have a tart shell or two on hand.
Vanilla extract is used in most baking recipes to add a splash of vanilla flavor, which helps to intensify other flavors in your recipe. Vanilla beans, on the other hand, tend to get saved for “special occasion” baking. Since they can be fairly expensive, many people only reach for whole vanilla beans when they are making a special recipe that needs that extra vanilla flavor. Unfortunately, sometimes you will find that your vanilla beans are dried and tough if you have waited a long time to use them up.
Vanilla beans keep extremely well and can last for years when stored in a glass container that will lock their natural moisture in, allowing them to stay plump and flexible. Many companies prefer to have vanilla beans packaged in plastic bags or other containers that are inexpensive to keep prices down. Unfortunately, this non-airtight packaging is not ideal for the beans and when you find that your vanilla beans are dried out, it is often because the beans were stored for a long time in less-than-perfect packaging.
Dried beans are not easy to use, since it can be difficult to cut them in half and scrape out the seeds. Fortunately, you can rehydrate a dried out vanilla bean to give it new life and use more easily. Place the dried bean in a shallow bowl and add some hot – but not boiling – water to immerse the bean. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to stand for about 10 minutes, until bean is soft. The vanilla bean should then be used right away. This method isn’t going to plump up your beans if you want to put them back into storage, but it does make them useable – and using them will help free up space in your pantry for a fresh batch of vanilla beans.
Vanilla beans are one of the most amazing ingredients a baker can have in the kitchen, perfect for adding a wonderfully floral vanilla flavor to anything from ice cream to pound cake. Vanilla beans can be quite expensive, however, so many bakers reach for vanilla extract instead of vanilla beans, preferring to save the beans for those special recipes. Vanilla beans can last for years without losing their potency, but it is important to store them correctly so that you always get the most out of them.
The best way to store vanilla beans in in an airtight glass container. The beans will retain their moisture and their potency when stored in glass, and you will never have to worry about the beans drying out when they are stored this way. Plastic containers are cheaper than glass and some packaging companies opt for those instead, though plastic is not as good at protecting the delicate flavor of the vanilla as glass. Some retailers occasionally opt for even cheaper packaging, and I’ve seen vented plastic bags. These are the worst storage option because the beans don’t need to “breathe” by being stored in the open air, and this is the fastest way to end up with dry and brittle beans that are difficult to use.
These guidelines are also true if you use a lot of vanilla beans and buy them in bulk (say, from Costco or a bulk spice company) to get a better deal. When you get them, depending on how the beans are packaged, you should transfer them to a glass container for longer term storage.