Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Homemade Vanilla Extract

 
Vanilla... one of the most irresistible smells ever. Imagine baking without vanilla! That wonderful smell wafting in your kitchen and home, can there be a more welcoming aroma which can make your house smell like home? I love vanilla and whenever I see the little black bottle in my fridge, I feel like baking. Agreed, we have grown up seeing and eating goods baked only with synthetic essence, but vanilla is vanilla.

Vanilla extract in stores in India, is one of the many many baking ingredients unheard of. Except in very rare specialty stores. I have been using synthetic vanilla essence since the time I have been baking. I have used a couple of bottles of pure vanilla extract a few years ago, when I was not yet obsessed with baking and did not even know that there is something called as pure vanilla extract. Oh boy! I did not realize that what sis-in-law has sent from the US was pure vanilla extract! I used it freely in my cakes, but not without realizing that it was indeed imparting a very different taste to the one and only sponge I used to bake rarely. And then I realized that vanilla extract is indeed special.

Vanilla is supposed to the most expensive among spices, next only to saffron. The reason being extensive labor needed to cultivate the pods. Dark, shiny, plump and moist are the kind of beans which are of good quality - as opposed to the thin, shriveled and dry ones. They are sometimes coated with a white substance, they are vanilla crystals. Vanilla is available as pure extract, pods and vanilla powder. The bean is split into two and the tiny seeds are scraped out and added to cake batter, ice creams, custards etc. The beans can be dunked into milk, custard etc to infuse the flavor. Then the beans can be rinsed, dried and buried in sugar to gradually infuse the flavor into sugar, giving you vanilla sugar. The best beans come from Tahiti, Madagascar and Mexico. Tahitian beans are supposed to be the most aromatic ones and larger in size too, hence less of it needed in a recipe. Source - Rose Levy's Cake Bible & Wikipedia.

And it was a discovery to see home-made vanilla extract on Deeba's and then on Shaheen's blog. Fabulous! Sounds so very easy! Split vanilla beans and dunk them in vodka for 6-8 weeks and your extract is ready for use! Yes, I made my Vanilla Extract at home!



Had got some beans on my trip to Madikeri some time ago and had been wanting to make the extract. The beans looked quite good, not as plump and shiny as I have seen on other blogs.. sigh!! But hey, got to make the best of what's available.

Finally made it, just waiting for a week more to bake with it. It had better be good!!!

Here is how we do it...
Ingredients:
180 ml vodka
2 vanilla beans or more ( I used 3)
A sterilized bottle (a pretty yet functional one if u want to post this on your blog!)


Procedure which can hardly be called one! : Slit the beans vertically with a clean sharp knife . Then cut horizontally into 2 parts. Oops! Forgot this in my excitement! I have used 3 beans, that's a consolation.

If you would be using a new bottle. do sterilize it before you put the vodka in. I am very lazy so I used the vodka bottle itself.

        
Then dunk them into the vodka. Take a moment to admire how beautiful this looks.



I also took time to remember my Physics teacher in school... and yaaawnnn...the theory of refraction... Never was interested in Math and Physics! OK, back to the exciting vanilla!

Shake the bottle everyday. The extract is ready for use in 6-8 weeks. Shaheen says you could use used beans for this as they have loads of flavor left. Aren't the beans full of beans???:-)

Been meaning to check out vanilla beans at Maison des Gourmets and Supermarket, yet to. Will keep you posted on this..The better among the beans available in India are supposed to be the ones grown in Kerala. Would appreciate if you could recommend a supplier there.

For more tips on how to identify good vanilla and more check Shaheen's space here .






24 comments:

Prathibha said...

recently got to know that vodka is used 4 making vanilla essence...:)
u got dose pods in blore?
if in blore,whr??

Sarah said...

wow ... this is awesome!
I love your blog for the information it provides! Thanks for sharing! Also, where do we get vanilla beans in Bangalore?

Hari Chandana said...

Very useful post.. thanks for sharing !! :)

Indian Cuisine

sowmya's creative saga said...

good one..

Divya Kudua said...

Wow..I've been meaning to make this ever since I saw Deeba and Shaheen post the same.But you said it,the quality of Vanilla beans is the culprit.The ones I've seen here[in Chennai]look dry and shriveled.Got to find someone who supplies good quality Vanilla beans!

Great idea to make them in the Vodka bottle itself!

Priya said...

Omg, awesome thats truly a fantastic post Suma..

Jyoti said...

very informative post!

jayashree` said...

I've too have been waiting to get my hands on these elusive beans. Where in madikeri did u find them..

Sum said...

Yayy!!! I was just cribbing why my cake with local vanilla extract doesn't smell as good as the one mom used to bake with some real nice essence....
Now i got to make my own extract... will try to find some vanilla beans on my next trip to the hill stations down south, soon!! Thanks for a post in time :) Hope i find some nice ones...

divya said...

Mind blowing gorgeous pics and post...

Tina said...

wow...perfect...

Zareena said...

Wow!!! Very useful information. Thanks for sharing..

Sneha Benny said...

wow !!! Vanilla extract at home. Too good.

lesley chami said...

This is very useful information, I never thought about doing this. It looks good

Mamatha Anil said...

Thanks for sharing this information. We grow vanilla @ my parents place (Sringeri) but we never tried to do vanilla extract at home.

Suman Singh said...

Wow, brilliant stuff.. never would have thought of doing this..thanks for sharing!

Kiran said...

Wow that's very nice info.

Reshmi said...

hi suma, first time here and thnk u so much for sharing how to prepare vanilla extract at home.. Tats really helpful and I also found some other useful info at ur blog.. gr8 job!! love to follow u.

Rekha said...

Aah, finally the post is out :). FYI:Mother Earth stocks vanilla beans, i was waiting for your post ever since I bought it.

Nachiketa said...

Love your post..... The whole bottle of vodka would be awesome now.... am sure the trip to Madikeri was super n made even better by the beans :)
yayyy!!!!!! finally got my post on Homemade Vanilla Sugar and Vanilla Extract live on the blog.... :)

The Variable, Crazy Over Desserts - Nachiketa

Catch me on facebook @ Crazy Over Desserts

Priya Narasimhan said...

Hi Suma,
I too made this long time back after seeing purple foodie's blog. I don't know, I never got any vanilla smell. Its been more than 5 months I think. Only vodka smell. I am reluctant to use it in my bakes as I am worried it might spoil the taste..Do let me know how it comes out for you. I bought my vanilla beans from Munnar. Importantly, they have closed Maison des Gourmets in Bangalore. I learnt that the hard way.(roamed about that area for more than 1/2 an hour and came to know that it is closed :-( )

asha said...

I just had to add something important. We grow and process vanilla in our estate and having made vanilla essence from vodka, I can say for certain that the vanilla beans showed in the pic is too dry. It has to be plump and when we rub the bean we should be able to see the sheen of the oil.Unfortunately, most of the vanilla beans sold in the supermarkets are rejects for which the growers are not paid.So,both the growers and the consumers are cheated.

It is a pleasure to read your posts Suma. I am an ardent baker myself and often make my own substitutes for things which are not available in India. I am glad to note that we both are similar in that respect. I like your Indian twist to your recipes.

asha said...

I just had to add something important. We grow and process vanilla in our estate and having made vanilla essence from vodka, I can say for certain that the vanilla beans showed in the pic is too dry. It has to be plump and when we rub the bean we should be able to see the sheen of the oil. Unfortunately, most of the vanilla beans sold in the supermarkets are rejects for which the growers are not paid. So,both the growers and the consumers are cheated.

It is a pleasure to read your posts Suma. I am an ardent baker myself and often make my own substitutes for things which are not available in India. I am glad to note that we both are similar in that respect. I like your Indian twist to your recipes.

Kirti Rao said...

Hi,

any idea where can I find pure vanilla extract in bangalore or online may be?

Thanks,
kirti