Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Homemade Vanilla Extract: Day One.

The #1 easiest way to feel like a rockstar in the kitchen this week?

Make homemade vanilla extract!

September is here and its bringing shorter days, cozy sweaters, pumpkin spice lattes, candy corn, and a summer finale to Pretty Little Liars that I'm just not ready to talk about. Fall is here! It means a week in Hawaii, a Color Run, a month-long work training away from home that I am not looking forward to, experimenting with pies, and as much pumpkin-baking as I can stand. And I'm already daydreaming of my Christmas baking list: endless peanut butter blossoms, gingerbread cakes, cut-out sugar cookies, and all things cranberry-white chocolate and peppermint mocha.

All this baking means two things for me:

1. Just keep running for real (I started C25K Week 6 this week!)

2. I'm going to be needing a whole lot of vanilla extract.

Why are we making our own vanilla? Because those little vials are costly! I must buy them at least once or twice a month.... and I definitely had four vanillas in my Christmas stocking last year. And maybe a bag of chocolate chips. Totally normal.

Things you need to know:

Vanilla extract looks like this math: five minutes + a Mason jar + cheap vodka + vanilla beans + shake that thing. It's like baking, but not. Not only are you on top of your game, making your own baking extracts, but you're using vanilla beans (fancy!) and measuring out vodka in measuring cups (so classy).

Now is the time.

Christmas: less than 4 months. 

Homemade vanilla extract: 2-3 months. 

It's a weekend project and we're doing it!

... and it all starts with Mason jars. Be about it!

Two bonuses to making your own extract: these make the perfect holiday gifts (I started a couple jars to give out as gifts this season) and if, you're still not convinced, leftover vodka for spiking that end-of-summer cocktail and/or dealing with the big A reveal on Pretty Little Liars. I can't even.

Let's talk vanilla beans.

I baked with vanilla beans this summer for the first time with these peanut butter cup vanilla bean cupcakes. Those specks! It's love. Or maybe it was just the peanut butter buttercream.

I buy all my vanilla beans from Beanilla through Amazon. For just about every part of the world it seems, there is some kind of vanilla bean. Mexican, Tahitian, Indian, . For my vanilla cupcakes, and this extract, I used Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans... which Beanilla described as "rich, dark, and creamy with an overwhelming sweet, buttery aroma."

Sweet, buttery aroma? So in.

Two tips (and a sneak peek!):

Tip #1: Use cheap vodka! The quality of alcohol does not effect the quality or taste of the finished vanilla. You could even experiment with bourbon or rum!

Tip #2: For every cup of vodka, you'll need at least 3 vanilla beans.

And the sneak peek?

There are pumpkin spice cupcakes headed your way soon!

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Printable Recipe 

A Mason jar (or other tightly-sealing glass jar)
Vanilla beans (3 beans per 1 cup of vodka)

Using a knife, split each vanilla bean in half, leaving about a 1/2-inch at each end intact.

Place split vanilla beans in glass jar and completely cover with vodka. Remember: for every cup of vodka, you'll need at least three vanilla beans.

Tightly seal your jar and shake vigorously. Place in a cool, dark place for at least two months. Shake occasionally.

As you use your vanilla extract, simply refresh it by adding a new vanilla bean and vodka.

Source: Beanilla