No, those aren’t mummy fingers! Those wrinkledy-brown things are one of my favorite ingredients — vanilla beans! And I’m about to give you the most extraordinary culinary gift — the gift of vanilla freedom!
Via this link, you can purchase vanilla beans BY THE POUND. Instead of $8 for two lonely little beans, you can get a quarter pound for $10! It sounds too good to be true, but it’s not. It’s legit. And you know what that means? You’re free to make some mischief! Here’s how you go about it once you get your beans…
Vanilla Goodness Extraction 101
Run a paring knife (or any small blade, so you have control) down the length of the bean, splitting it two long halves (do not chop it in half). Then use the flat side of the knife to scrape out the seeds on each half. Add these to cake batter, cookie dough, or ice cream. If you’re looking for the most perfectly indulgent recipe to showcase your vanilla, look no further than Barefoot Contessa’s panna cotta recipe. I make it every Christmas, and it’s DIVINE.
When it comes to vanilla beans, it may be what’s on the inside that counts, but the outside is most definitely NOT chopped liver. Don’t you dare throw away the husk! You can stash these perfumed peels in all manner of recipes and get a big flavor boost. Here’s just a few ideas:
Simply stash your discarded vanilla husks in a canister with your choice of sugar. In less than a week, you’ll have a richly perfumed pot of culinary gold. Substitute it for sugar in your favorite recipes, like cakes, cookies, pancakes — you name it. Plus, it makes a great gift. Pour some of the sugar into a mason jar, tuck in a vanilla husk or two, and you’ve given a gift that keeps on giving!
Vanilla Pomegranate Sangria
I love sangria, and when I happened upon this recipe on Pinterest the other day I literally swooned! Here’s a link for details on how to make it. It just sounds like the perfect winter sangria — the rich tartness of pomegranate and the sweet touch of vanilla. It’s on my to-do list for sure!
I’m not a huge fan of liquor, but the idea of vanilla vodka makes me smile. It’s just as easy as vanilla sugar. Just drop a couple of vanilla bean husks in your bottle, pop it in the freezer, and voila! It will probably tint your liquor, so go with something brown, like bourbon, if you like.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Now that you have access to an affordable supply of vanilla beans, the only limit is your imagination. So go forth, ye mischief-makers, and have some fun!