If youíre anything like me then youíll love both the taste and aroma of authentic vanilla beans when youíre baking in the kitchen. These wonderful creations of the orchid plant are able to spice-up even the simplest of dishes, while also making your kitchen smell like something out of heaven.
But vanilla beans are not cheap. Thanks to labor-intensive growing and harvesting techniques, even a small bunch of beans is likely to put you back a fair few dollars. Of course, you can buy vanilla extract and vanilla powder but these tend to be equally as expensive, if not more so. In my house though, opting for a cheaper alternative is a massive no-no. It simply has to be the real thing.
If youíre going to fork out for authentic vanilla beans then you need to know how to get the most of your beans. Iíve made a list here of 10 great ways you can use vanilla beans in the kitchen, ensuring that your money doesnít go to waste.
Everybody loves a freshly baked cookie warm out of the oven. To give your cookies a little extra flavoring, try adding a few drops of extract (make sure itís derived from authentic vanilla beans) into your cookie mix.
#9: Savory sauces
Some people are surprised that vanilla beans can be used when preparing savory foods, but these versatile creations are ideal for adding a little je ne sais quoi to everything from a Bolognese to a curry. QUICK TIP: make sure you donít overdo it; you only want a hint of vanilla flavor coming through.
Be it apple, blueberry, pumpkin, or any other pie, a little vanilla extract added to your filling will add another dimension to dessert. Alternatively, sprinkle some vanilla powder on top for a fine finishing.
#7: Sweet bread
Bread always smells better when itís homemade and just out of the oven. Imagine the aroma of vanilla beans on top of this smell. Vanilla bread and cinnamon bread with vanilla extract are two types of sweet bread that will have your mouth watering.
#6: Vanilla custard
Add vanilla extract (from pure vanilla beans, of course) to your custard mix or while making your own custard. Next stop: a delicious dessert accompaniment.
#5: Vanilla sugar
If you have any leftover vanilla powder, be sure to mix it with regular granulated sugar. Youíll have yourself a wonderful vanilla sugar that can be used in beverages (vanilla flavored latte grand, anyone?), be sprinkled onto fruit, or even added when baking. This is truly one of the best uses of vanilla beans that I have ever come across.
Use your imagination here. Vanilla extract can be added either to your cake mix or to the icing/frosting you decorate the cupcake with. If youíre feeling particularly adventurous, why not try a paste made from vanilla beans. A dusting of vanilla powder or vanilla sugar also makes for remarkable results.
#3: Hot chocolate
As far as beverages go, very few can top a vanilla-flavored hot chocolate, particularly during those cold winter months. Itís a simple drink to make as well. Simply add some vanilla powder to a powdered chocolate mix and add water. If you prefer things a little richer, melt some dark chocolate and add vanilla extract. A dusting of vanilla powder can make a fine finish also.
#2: Vanilla slices
I love vanilla slices (the Napoleon slice or mille-feuille, for you French lovers). For me, these puff-pastry slices of heaven are the best vanilla-based bakery item. When made with authentic vanilla beans they taste even better. Theyíre a little awkward to make but the taste is more than rewarding enough.
#1: Vanilla ice cream
How could anything other than ice cream be number one on this list? Vanilla ice cream is popular the world over, and for good reason; itsí simple-yet-delicious taste is ideal for contrasting those rich desserts, or for enjoying on its own. Homemade ice cream that uses pure vanilla beans is simply delectable.
So there you have it. The list above should give you some ideas of ways to use vanilla beans, vanilla extract, and vanilla powder. If you have any other handy hints or secret recipe ideas that make good use of vanilla beans Iíd love to hear from you.