One thing I learned in culinary school was that everything can be used for different things. There were no limits and the fun in food is the creativity. I was never a baker, but baking was a requirement for my degree. I was open to the challenge, especially since it was my first time working with commercial style equipment. I am not even a person who likes sweets very much.
The first lesson we learned was a simple one. One of a common ingredient in many baked goods…vanilla extract. We learned that you can actually make it on your own. Yes, your very own vanilla extract! If you buy vanilla extract from the store, you know that it can be quite expensive for not that big of a bottle. This recipe actually saves you money and will last you for quite a while. Also, even if you aren’t Martha Stewart in the baking kitchen or pantry you can easily do this (as long as you’re 21).
- 12 vanilla beans
- 1 pint of Vodka (a basic but good brand)
Find a large bottle that will hold at least 12 vanilla beans. Fill the bottle with vodka. Let the beans marinate in the vodka for at least a month. They can be kept in a dark place for at least 4 weeks, but 6 weeks is recommended. Remove the beans and the extract is ready for use.
When you are ready to use the extract, you will get a rich syrup that will add a bold flavor to any recipe. Plus, you can use the paste from the beans after you remove them. Nothing goes to waste.
Learning this simple recipe made the road ahead in baking class seem easier to attack. The world of baking seemed much easier and less intimidating. I became more creative and willing to experiment with the simple ingredients. This is just the start of the possibilities.