What to do with a whole lotta vanilla?
April 7, 2010 8:39 PM   Subscribe

Whole Vanilla - what can I do with whole vanilla pods (beans) etc? My sister, who had been living in Mexico just brought me back 10 - 14 whole vanilla beans (they are in plastic so not sure exact number). What wonderful, delicious, useful or creative things can I do with them?

Perhaps you have a favourite way to make vanilla extract?

Saw this older post, anything else to use them for?
posted by saradarlin to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Let one soak in a jar of vodka for a few months. Enjoy over ice.
posted by TEA at 8:43 PM on April 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Ooh. Do everything!

Vanilla extract: Split open a pod, scrape the seeds out into some vodka and throw the pods in too. Let steep forever :] Good for adding to drinks, too! If you're a vanilla fiend like me, you can use it as perfume, too.

You can make vanilla simple syrup by adding the seeds and/or pods to plain simple syrup.

When using the seeds in a recipe (ice cream base, creme brulee, pudding, cake), use the leftover pod by sticking it in a container of sugar. Vanilla sugar! Good for coffee, tea, cinnamon toast...

Sometimes I used to take the empty pods and put them in cheesecloth under my car seats as an air freshener.

After you've gone through those, search out the organic vanilla bean shop on eBay -- I used to buy vanilla beans by the half pound when I was baking regularly.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:47 PM on April 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

Oh! And if you like loose-leaf black tea, put a couple of the split pods in with the loose tea. Vanilla black tea is amazing.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:48 PM on April 7, 2010

Perhaps you have a favourite way to make vanilla extract?

Don't do this. For the amount of extract you'll get, it's not worth it to ruin that many delicious vanilla beans.

1) Steeping.

Basically, you just soak the vanilla beans in a liquid ingredient for your dish. Water doesn't work especially well. Shoot for liquids with either alcohol or fat (milk, cream, oil, vodka, etc.). Heating helps, but boiling can kill off the aromatics.

2) Seeding.

This is the best way to get flavor into non-liquids, and usually enhances liquids as well. You split open the vanilla pod, lengthways, with a knife. Then you scrape the knife edge along the pod, scraping out the tiny black seeds and some of the black meat.

I make a killer chai latte using both of these methods. In a saucepan, heat an equal amount of heavy cream and milk. Seed a vanilla bean into the dairy, and then toss in the pod to steep. Heat gently for as long as you can stand it, up to maybe half an hour. Add honey to taste for sweetness. If using unspiced black tea, add such spices as you like; I have some pre-spiced black tea. Combine in dairy and very strong tea in equal measures.

But you can use the scraped seeds in pretty much any recipe that calls for vanilla extract. They're so tiny that they never ruin texture or anything.
posted by Netzapper at 8:52 PM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Snip off a small piece and put it in the pot when you make hot chocolate. Creative, no. Delicious, yes.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:53 PM on April 7, 2010

Vanilla sugar is great. We keep a vanilla bean in our sugar bowl at all times.

I love vanilla beans and use them in all my tasty desserts. It's best in creme brulee. I love this creme brulee recipe. You just split the vanilla bean open lengthwise and scrape the seeds out into the cream with the back of a paring knife or butter knife, then throw the pod in and pull it out later. You can also take your favorite ice cream recipe and do the same (put the seeds and pod in the cream while it's cooking). I especially like making ice cream with vanilla beans and basil. You'll notice that the flavor is way more vanilla and less alcohol than when you use extract.

If you like making cakes, I suggest using the vanilla beans in your frosting. Just use the seeds of one bean instead of vanilla extract. I make a really simple cream cheese frosting using this method. MeMail me if you want any recipes.

Really, you can use them in place of vanilla extract in any baking recipe, though I find that when you actually bake something (cake or cookies or whatever), or when you're using stronger flavors, like chocolate, the difference between vanilla beans and extract is not huge, so you may opt for extract, since it's cheaper. I save my vanilla beans for things that don't require baking.
posted by lexicakes at 9:00 PM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ice cream made with fresh vanilla beans is amazing. David Lebovitz has a great recipe, if you'd like one: Amazing Vanilla Ice Cream
posted by nyxie at 9:07 PM on April 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh, and caramels made with fresh vanilla beans are also amazing. There are several other recipes on David's blog, just search for caramel. :)
posted by nyxie at 9:10 PM on April 7, 2010

definitely something creamy vs. cakey-bakey...more flavor, that way...pudding? (i love 'pudding' it in my mouth;) the bbc food site has a widget where you type in the ingredients you have lying around and it pops up recipes...try that.
posted by sexyrobot at 9:19 PM on April 7, 2010

Vanillia bean infused bourbon is divine.
posted by Jawn at 9:25 PM on April 7, 2010

If the pods are currently in lame-o packaging that will let the aromas escape, stick them in your sugar bowl while you decide what to do with them. But don't wait too long - they'll lose their heavenly fragrance and flavor pretty quickly. (At least some of it will be captured by your sugar, though.)
posted by Quietgal at 9:48 PM on April 7, 2010

I've loved this Tarte au Citron recipe and added 2-4 vanilla pods depending on how many tarts I've made - approximately 1/2 a pod per tart. It's really excellent!
posted by kirstk at 9:59 PM on April 7, 2010

This is the tastiest coffeecake in the world. Make a few and freeze them for later!
posted by coppermoss at 10:15 PM on April 7, 2010

20 GOTO 10

Me, I recommend making Alton Brown's "Serious Vanilla Ice Cream," but leave out the peach preserves. Your ingredients will then be: Half and half, cream, sugar, and vanilla.

I admire its purity.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:20 PM on April 7, 2010

I second the vanilla sugar suggestion.

With the amount of beans you have, you could make a lot of little jars of vanilla sugar now, and give them as gifts for birthdays and/or Christmas!
posted by spinifex23 at 10:27 PM on April 7, 2010

Cream of Walnut Soup from the French Laundry cookbook. (The only recipe in that thing I've dared to try)
posted by Comrade_robot at 7:13 AM on April 8, 2010

Best answer: The Cooks Illustrated vanilla extract is a winner
To make vanilla extract, split a fresh bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Place the seeds and split pod in a 1-cup sealable container. Add ¾ cup hot vodka (we used Smirnoff—a premium brand is not necessary) and let the mixture cool to room temperature. Seal the container and store at room temperature for one week, shaking gently every day. Strain the extract, if desired, and store in a cool, dark place. The extract should keep indefinitely.
The Cooks taste tests had the homemade versions beating their previously best rated commercial versions.
posted by electroboy at 9:13 AM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

Smitten Kitchen, best recipe blog ever, uses vanilla beans all the time. Search her archive, almost every recipe is a winner. I've made this cranberry vanilla coffee cake and it is dreamy. This hazelnut brown butter cake is also heavenly. This, this, this, and this all sound pretty amazing too. And that was just in the first page of search results.
posted by doift at 9:22 AM on April 8, 2010

+1 Vanilla sugar.

Works best if you have one of those big glass jars with the airtight, gasket-sealed lids. Put a pound or two of sugar in there along with a few beans, store them (agitate occasionally) for a few weeks, and then begin to use. You can refill with new sugar as you consume it, as long as you don't do it too quickly; the beans will last quite a while.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:30 AM on April 8, 2010

pastry cream!
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 5:15 PM on April 8, 2010

« Older What is this tattoo?   |   Liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiimes. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.