If you’ve ever been in my presence, you know that I always smell of vanilla. It’s my absolute favorite scent, and I not only saturate myself in it, but almost everything I bake contains vanilla. Tahitian, Mexican, Bourbon… extract, beans, perfume… anything vanilla is a treat in my manuscript. When using extract in baking, I rarely measure and usually just pour directly from the jar. And if I do measure, I add extra. The richest vanilla fragrance, however, comes from the bean itself. No extract can substitute the decadence a vanilla bean provides. It’s the second most expensive spice in the world, and if you’ve ever worked with a real bean, you know why. Saffron is number one, by the way.
Not sure why it took me so long, but I started making my own extract earlier this year. As with most homemade products, there’s no comparison to store bought version, no matter how fancy. Homemade vanilla extract means I control what alcohol is used and how long to age it. It also means that I get to keep the pod, which can be used to make vanilla sugar and, most important, that my extract is studded with caviar.
Ten vanilla beans arrived in the mail today, and I can hardly wait to put them to work and share the recipes. Glistening with moisture and sticky with caviar, some beans will become extract, others custard, ice cream or cake; a few will become sugar and at least one will be stored in a test tube in case of emergency.
Vanilla is but plain or ordinary. My hands still smell divine and there may be a fragrant dot or two on the camera…