Wednesday, January 21, 2015
For years, I resisted making my own vanilla extract, trusting my extract needs to companies that did an exceptional job of it. I didn’t believe that I went through enough of it to justify the extra expense of vanilla beans. This went out the window a year ago when I realized I’d blown through a $20 8-ounce bottle of vanilla extract in one vanilla-fueled frenetic holiday baking season. Ouch. Taking a cue from The Wednesday Chef, I decided it was time to make my own and I haven’t looked back since. Here’s how you can do it too:
1. Buy vanilla beans: David Lebovitz has a great explainer on vanilla beans and a bit about the industry worth reading before you get started, but if you’re eager to just get shopping, a simple Google search for “buy vanilla beans” will return more results than anyone will need. My recommendations are two-fold: If you can find a site with unfiltered outside reviews from customers (a clue is when not all will be glowing or 5-star), do so, and, Buy your beans by weight, not number because if the beans are smaller than average, you don’t want to feel shorted. A quarter-pound bag will yield enough for 2 to 4 16-ounce bottles of vanilla extract, depending on bean size. (My batch yielded 4 bottles, but the beans were on the small — but no less delicious — side.)
2. Get a bottle to store your extract: Get a couple extras, because this makes fantastic gifts. An old, well-sterilized vinegar or oil bottle will work here, or a small wine bottle, or even an old glass vanilla bottle. Or, you can buy new ones. An amber bottle will better protect the extract from light and heat, though I’ve used clear ones so that I can see how the steeping is coming along, and just store it in a dark cabinet. [I’ve gotten mine from Specialtybottle.com.]
Continued after the jump »
Friday, October 5, 2012
Is it fall where you are? Are you dreaming only of thick scarves, rust-colored crackly leaves, hayrides and hot apple cider with a cinnamon stick? Are pumpkin dishes on your agenda? Wouldn’t it be great if you knew how to turn those adorable pumpkins at the market into the puree that most baking recipes call for? Well, look no further!
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet. Halve a sugar pumpkin and scoop out the seeds. Place the pumpkin halves cut side down your baking sheet and roast the pumpkin until it is completely tender inside, about 45 to 50 minutes. Scrape the pumpkin flesh off the skin with a large spoon (metal is great here, because of the sharper edges) and puree in a blender or food processor until smooth. Let cool and use as needed.
1 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree holds about 1 3/4 cups of puree.
Don’t have a sugar pumpkin? Sweet potato, butternut squash and red kuri squash are all great substitutes for pumpkin puree in recipes. Sweet potatoes will roast faster and so will smaller squash, but the method is the same: halve, roast facedown, scrape the flesh off the skin and puree it until smooth.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Crème fraîche, the ultra-rich, slightly tangy and impossibly dreamy cream I like to stir into pastas and soups and drizzle over baked fruit desserts is not carried in every grocery store, and even where it is, it’s not exactly the most budget-minded ingredient. Here’s how you can make your own at home: Mix one cup of room temperature heavy or whipping cream with two tablespoons of butter milk in a glass jar and cover. Let it stand at room temperature for 8 to 24 hours, or until it thickens. Stir well and refrigerate for up to two weeks.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Five years ago, I moved into an apartment with a skylight over the kitchen and built-in spice shelves along a wall and decided to overhaul my mess of spice bottles and bags to make them fitting for such a pretty display. I looked for containers that would be uniform, have a wide mouth (to easily dip measuring spoons or fingers for a “pinch” in), were opaque (so that the sunlight wouldn’t damage the spices over time) and wouldn’t cost a fortune to buy in the quantity I needed.
Continued after the jump »
Monday, August 24, 2009
There are few baked goods and/or frostings not improved by the addition of brown sugar but if your kitchen is anything like mine — that is, woefully understocked most of the time — you’ve probably needed it before and not had it. Fortunately, you can make your own with a combination of molasses and regular sugar. To make one cup of light brown sugar, combine 1 cup granulated sugar with 1 1/2 tablespoons molasses; to make one cup of dark brown sugar, combine 1 cup granulated sugar with 1/4 cup molasses; the food processor works great for this, if you have one. Now bring on those brown sugar shorties!