There's something deeply satisfying about making your own condiments at home. The swirls of caramel, the folding of cocoa dust into coconut shreds, the steeping of hot, fragrant spices into boozy liquids wafting their own magic in the kitchen is irresistible for the sensualist in all of us. Therefore when I was researching, while composing my Vanilla Series (compiling a guide into the best vanilla fragrances), I came across some delicious recipes which can whet the driest of lips and put a creative spin to the hands of even the laziest cook.
These are easy to make (I have personally tweaked & tested the recipes to ensure it) and would provide for especially fetching and heart-warming homemade gifts to offer when invited over the holidays. All you'll need are a few pretty looking jars, some bottles and decorative ribbons.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
The quality of the raw materials is what makes this shine, otherwise it doesn't really require any specific skills. You will need 20 good, real preferably organic black vanilla beans, a couple of liters of premium 80 proof vodka, clear bottles with a cap, and a funnel to decant liquid into, and a week (or a month if you can spare it!) of steeping time.
You start by putting the beans whole (non peeled) into the glass bottles (divide them according to how many bottles you will fill) and carefully decanting vodka till the beans are immersed whole into the alcohol. Cap them and let them sit in a bright spot. The clear liquid will start turning golden, then ambery as the days pass. The longer it sits, it stronger the flavor becomes (same principle as with homemade liqueurs).
When ready you can stick pretty labels on the bottles and put a ribbon around the neck and you're good to go! The boozy, rich vanilla extract can be added in a pleiad of recipes and beverages from freshly made cookie dough instead of commercial vanilla and in meat dishes as an interesting addition to the deglazing of the sauce to cappuccino coffee. Enjoy!
(inspired by Bethanyactually.com)
Savory Vanilla Bean Sauce
This is great to pour onto anything that would scream for a little caramel goodness, rich in the taste of authentic Madagascar vanilla, from apple pie or crumble, to ice-cream and speculoos butter cookies or shortbread. Or feel free to experiment, it's as addictive as Nutella.
You will need:
1.5 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup water
1.5 cup whipping cream (of at least 30% fat)
1 teaspoon white vanillin crystals
1 organic vanilla bean (sliced and seeded)
2 teaspoons of coarse sea salt, shredded with pestle and mortar
Put the cream in a big cup and add the vanillin, the seeded vanilla and the shredded sea salt. Stir well.
In a saucepan, heat the water and pour the sugar over medium heat. Let it cook until it gets golden, without stirring (or the spoon would stick at this point and get messy.) Gently move the pan around if you need to.
Add the cream mixture to the pan, stirring with an egg whisker continuously until the hot bubbles go down and it sets.
Let it cool a bit and pour into clear glass sterilized jars. Cap them, turn them upside down quickly (make sure the lid is secure!) and again upside down and decorate with a nice ribbon. They should keep for a week or so in the fridge.
If you want to further aromatize the sauce, you can add the zest of one orange to the water or you can mix the vanillin crystals with freshly powdered cinnamon. It adds a special something.
(inspired by bakedbree.com)