This weekend you may come across a recipe that calls for a vanilla bean. Vanilla beans nowadays seem to be more common in cookbook recipes or as an ingredient in your favourite baked good.
Using vanilla beans seems to be quite an investment when purchasing them in the grocery store or specialty food store. So if you want to jump in with your feet first when working with vanilla (other than extract), here are some handy tips to use them and make them go farther than just one recipe!
How to use a vanilla bean:
Using the tip of a knife, slice the vanilla bean lengthwise. Then, using the back of your knife with slight pressure, scrape out the small black seeds. Use for any recipe that you would like to be vanilla flavoured, for example like cookies, custards, ice cream, buttercreams and cakes.
At this point you have many options to use the vanilla bean a second time. You can:
1.) Infuse a hot liquid with the whole bean. Scrape out the bean as explained above . Then place the whole bean into the liquid. This will give the liquid an intense flavour with all the essence extracted from the bean with no waste. Once it has been in for 5-10 minutes or the duration of the cooking time, you can then strain it out.
Example for use: Ice cream, jam, caramel, simple syrup.
2.) Dry the vanilla bean at room temperature for 1-2 days after you have scraped out the seeds for any recipe. Leave it on the counter in a cool dry area. Using a food processor or a clean coffee grinder, coarsely grind the dried pod. Keep in an air tight container. At a later use, you can add to any hot liquid to infuse vanilla flavour. Before serving, strain through a fine mesh sieve.
Examples for use: Custard, preserves that need to be strained, milk.
3.) Make vanilla sugar. This can be made in two ways; add a whole dried, scraped out pod to a container of granulated sugar or add the coarsely ground bean as explained in example two into a jar of granulated sugar. Using the whole bean will give a beautiful aroma and flavour to your sugar and using the ground bean will give you flecks of vanilla throughout the sugar.
Examples for use: Baked good recipes, in your coffee, rolled cookies, or dust on donuts.
4.) Make vanilla vodka. Place a vanilla bean inside a vodka bottle and let infuse for one week before use.
Examples for use: Vanilla martinis or in any vodka based drink.