How to Use a Vanilla Bean
Using whole vanilla beans is a very simple process that will add a lot of flavour to a huge variety of dishes. All you need is a good, sharp paring knife to open the bean.
Vanilla beans have two components: the pod and the seeds inside. Both parts of the bean can be used in baking, infusions and flavourings. The seeds inside are tiny, black and have a bead-like quality - these can be observed in good-quality vanilla ice cream, for example, peppered throughout the product. The pod should be moist and pliant.
To open the vanilla pod simply lay it flat on a clean cutting board, hold one end of the bean and slice the pod lengthwise with a small, sharp knife. When the pod is open, you can use the flat, dull edge of the knife to gently scrape out the vanilla seeds. Add the seeds to your baking or infusions for a soft, rich flavour.
Even after the seeds have been scraped, the pod can be used as a flavouring agent for sugar, syrups, milk or cream, nut milks, puddings, and more!
Chop a seeded or deseeded pod into a few smaller pieces, and place it into an airtight container with any sugar of your choosing. Give it a good stir or shake to distribute the pod pieces, and let infuse for about two weeks. You can replace the sugar in the container as it gets used up - vanilla pods last a long time and will continue to infuse the sugar with flavour even as they dry out. Great for adding to coffee, custards, oatmeal, fruit, and anywhere you would use regular sugar. Makes a great gift.
Note: Our Orchid Brand Vanilla Bean containers are perfect for converting into a sugar shaker!
Vanilla Simple Syrup
(yields 375 ml or 1 ½ cups of syrup)
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1-2 deseeded vanilla pods (one pod is enough, but you could add another for a more intense flavour)
In a saucepan, bring the sugar and water mixture to a gentle boil, stirring often until the sugar dissolves. Be careful not to over-boil, as the sugar may crystallize. Once the mixture is boiling, add the vanilla pod(s), stir to incorporate and turn off the heat. Let steep uncovered for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until the flavour is infused to your desired intensity and the syrup has thickened to your liking; stir occasionally.
Remove the vanilla pod and strain the syrup into an airtight container. Keep refrigerated for a month. Add to your lattes, cocktails, smoothies - you could even make your own vanilla creme soda.
Note: Replace the sugar with an equal amount of honey if you prefer.
(yields 4-6 servings)
4 cups whole milk
1/3 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, sliced lengthways
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
Combine above ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a slow simmer over low heat - do not boil the milk. Stir occasionaly to keep rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Simmer for 35 minutes, adding raisins halfway through cooking time if desired. Remove vanilla bean before serving.
2 cups graham crackers crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 lbs cream cheese, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 cup amaretto
1 cup sour cream
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tbsp amaretto
Toasted almond slivers (for garnish at the very end)
Preheat oven to 350°F
To make the crust, combine ingredients and press into a 9" springform pan. Bake for 5 minutes and set aside to cool.
For the filling, beat the cream cheese and sugar together until smooth. Beat the eggs into the mixture, one at a time, until the mixture is uniform and fluffy. Add the almond extract and amaretto, mix well. Pour into the cooled, prepared crust and bake at 350°F for 40 to 45 minutes or until set - it should be firm to the touch.
While the cake is baking, mix the topping ingredients (except for the almond slivers) together. When the cake is done, spoon the topping on top if it and bake an additional 5-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with almond slivers. Let sit until it is cooled; refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight before serving.