Vanilla extract is an absolute staple for a baker. It is one of the few flavorings that works in just about everything (everything sweet, anyway) and, while cookies and cakes can be made without it, it really helps to round out the overall flavor of a baked good even when it is not the dominant flavor. As such, I put vanilla in lots of stuff. My two favorite kinds of vanilla to work with – aside from the beans themselves – are vanilla bean paste (mostly made by Nielsen-Massey, but also sold at TJs) and vanilla bean crush (made by Sonoma Syrup Co.). Both can be added to recipes that call for vanilla extract, but because they have vanilla bean specks in them, they can really do a lot to improve the overall look of a baked good.
I also keep a few kinds of regular old vanilla bean extract on hand, and I think I’m going to have to add one more. Traveler’s Lunchbox has a great post on how to make homemade vanilla extract. It is dead easy to make and all you really need is some inexpensive vanilla beans, purchased in bulk, a liter bottle and some 35-40% mild alcohol, like vodka or rum. Follow the TL instructions and in a few weeks you’ll have an amazing source of homemade vanilla – not to mention a neat homemade gift for any friends who are also bakers.
AnyaOctober 23, 2007
What a great idea! I’m going to make some for myself and one of my friends who is a wonderful cook! Thanks for sharing 🙂
DenaOctober 23, 2007
What a great post–and perfectly timed for me; I’m running out of vanilla extract. Thanks so much for sharing this info!
AnnOctober 23, 2007
This is definitely one of those smack-myself-in-the-head moments. I would never, ever have thought of do-it-yourself vanilla– and yet I’ve made kahlua and limoncello. Thank you!
Paula from Only CookwareOctober 23, 2007
Excellent, I use vanilla extract in so many things. Love it in milkshakes. I am going to head on over to see how it is made.
brilynnOctober 23, 2007
I recently purchased a bunch of vanilla beans off ebay and am well on my way to making my own extract!
RebeccaOctober 24, 2007
I’m definitely going to try that vanilla crush because I’m a vanilla lover myself. Have you ever had the Watkins vanilla? I think the flavor of it is head and shoulders above the Neilsen-Massey.
DaveOctober 24, 2007
Hi All…funny you should mention making your own vanilla extract. This year (starting now) check out your local HomeGoods, TJ Maxx and/or Marshall’s stores for the Sonoma Syrup Vanilla Bean Extract Simple Infusion Kits. Great for gifts…I hand select 3 different gourmet vanilla beans (used inn making our extract), and put them in to a beautiful, pour-spout bottle. Simply slice the beans, put them back into the bottle, add your own vodka/rum and let sit (in your pantry)for a few months. The older the bottle gets…the better vanilla extract you’ll have. oh…
I’ve also made do-it-yourself Limoncello and Pomegranate Liqueur Kits available for the holiday season. Enjoy!
LesleyDecember 30, 2007
I received one of the Sonoma Syrup Co. Vanilla Bean Extract simple infusion kits for the holidays and I love it! I love vanilla in everything, especially in milkshakes and coffee.