I love vanilla beans. Probably one of my favorite discoveries. I remember trying straight vanilla extract as a kid and how wonderful it smelled yet tasted terrible.
A couple of years ago I got my first vanilla beans. They aren’t cheap, but neither is good vanilla.
There are a few things to know and to do with vanilla beans. For starters there is no waste. If using in a recipe you will procure the seeds but the remaining pod is full of flavor and likely still brimming with seeds so there is plenty to do with it.
As a general rule an inch of vanilla bean is equal to a teaspoon of vanilla. Of course as with any spice it will vary by quality. In bean form though you get a very good product to work with so use accordingly.
The easiest way to harvest the seeds is to cut to desired length and make a slit down the middle. Using a dull knife or spoon scrape the seeds from the bean and add to recipe.
Now what to do with the rest of the bean. I personally keep a jar of vodka with all of the bean remnants; I use that anytime I just need some simple vanilla extract for a recipe. You can though add the bean to some sugar for some vanilla infused sugar or simply toss into a potpourri mix. What ever you do; don’t thow it out! There is so much good flavor and smell left that you really should enjoy every last bit.
I wanted to buy some ice cream the other day but then I started reading the labels; there are so many unpronounceable items in those containers even the ones that claim to be natural. I went home without any ice cream. For some reason today I picked up a container of ice cream salt and realized I should just make my own. I remembered there was an ice cream maker in the basement that probably had been setting there for I would guess at least 20 years and likely was never used. Well, turned out it was a yogurt maker so it must have been from the 90’s! Says it makes great ice cream too so I am ready to go.
Homemade Ice Cream
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
2 cups milk
seeds from 2 inch piece of vanilla bean or 2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup cream
Combine egg yolks, sugar, and salt.
In double boiler add egg mixture to 2 cups milk. Begin heating over medium heat.
Heat until it begins to thicken stirring frequently. It took about 20 minutes to reach desired thickness; mixture will lightly coat a spoon when ready. Chill until ready to continue.
Meanwhile get the ice cream machine ready. This one worked relatively simply; no need for crushed ice just regular ice cubes and salt ~ follow directions for your maker before proceeding.
Once mixture has cooled add cream and vanilla.
Add to ice cream chamber of maker and begin churning as directed.
It took about 25 minutes for my first batch of ice cream to be ready.
This particular maker turned itself off when ready; simply follow directions for yours.
Angel food is one of my favorites. It really isn’t too hard to make; requiring only a bit of patience and, as grandma used to say, good weather. To be honest I will make them anytime I like; however really humid weather does leave them a little less fluffy but still delicious. No matter the weather don’t be afraid to try. I’ve even made them using a hand-held mixer to beat the egg whites so no excuses to get cracking. I enjoy mine with strawberries and whipped topping; enjoy yours with your favorite fruit if desired.
Angel food cake
12 egg whites (keep the yolks for some noodles if you like)
1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla ~ if you have vanilla bean use the seeds from a 1 inch section
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup flour
Separate the egg whites from the yolks. It is best to do this one at a time into a little dish. If an egg yolk breaks into the whites start again. The key is to keep the fatty yolk out of the whites for best results. Place whites into large mixing bowl and allow to warm to room temperature; about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile sift the powdered sugar and flour together 3 times. Three times may seem silly but it insures the flour and powdered sugar are as smooth as possible and mixed well.
Adjust baking rack to lowest position and preheat to 350 degrees. Add cream of tartar and vanilla to egg whites and begin beating at a medium speed until soft peaks form. This will take a couple of minutes or more; soft peaks curl over when beater is lifted.
Gradually add granulated sugar a couple of tablespoons at a time. Continue beating until stiff peaks form.
Sift about 1/4 of the flour mixture into the beaten egg whites. Gently fold in adding remaining flour 1/4 at a time. Spoon batter into ungreased tube pan. One with a removable bottom is ideal. Gently cut through batter with a knife to remove any large air pockets.
Bake on lowest rack for about 45 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Top will be lightly browned and no longer sticky. Cool in pan inverted on a wine bottle. Once completely cooled loosen from sides of pan and remove.