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Ode to the Vanilla Bean

Several years ago I became fed up with the shriveled up vanilla beans that you can buy at the store. So I did a little investigating and started importing them myself. Now I have fat & juicy beans that are simply fabulous. You may be wondering what one does with a kilo of vanilla beans.

•I make my own vanilla (more tasty and economical too). Here’s a link to a good recipe for that.

cremebrulee.jpg•I make crème brûlée (a delicacy). Crème brûlée is very easy to make, you just need to acquire the garb to do it with. Here’s how I make it:

    1 quart heavy cream
    1 vanilla bean
    1/2 cup vanilla sugar*
    6 large egg yolks

    Preheat oven to 300
    Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the tiny black seeds. Combine cream, vanillas seeds and vanilla pod halves in a heavy saucepan. Bring to boil. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside to steep for 15 minutes. Remove vanilla pods.

    In a medium-sized bowl, combine vanilla sugar and egg yolks and whisk until well blended. Add the vanilla cream and mix well.

    Place round baking dishes (ramekins) in a roasting pan. Pour cream mixture into the dishes. Add enough boiling water to the pan to reach halfway up the sides of the baking dishes.

    Bake just until the mixture is just set in the center, but still trembling (about 30 minutes). Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Serve with dark brown sugar sprinkled on top, caramelized with a baking torch.

    The baking time will depend on your ramekin size. I use very small ramekins (the recipe fills about 16-18 of them). This recipe was written for 6 ramekins (much bigger ones). So I usually bake mine for about 20 minutes.

    *Vanilla Sugar
    Combine 4 vanilla beans split in two and their seeds with 4 cups of sugar. Allow to sit for several weeks to flavor the sugar.

•I am currently working on perfecting my vanilla ice cream. I think I’m going to give this recipe a whirl this weekend.

•I use them for other assorted French desserts, including petit pots de crème au chocolat (mmmmm!)

And no, I can’t use an entire kilo of beans myself so I share with others. If you’d like to get in on our next bean-buy, join us at our Ravelry group. We’re discussing it now. The beans usually range from $1.00-1.50 ea. They are sold by weight so the quantity fluctuates (as does the exchange rate). Hopefully our beans will get here before the weekend!

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4 Responses to “Ode to the Vanilla Bean”

  1. Catherine C. Says:

    I want 20 beans! I can pick them up in OKC. Let me know! If you have any left over I may get more for gifts.

  2. Nancy A Says:

    I would love 20 and can get them if you are in OKC area. Do they keep well?

  3. keely Says:

    I can definitely bring them to OKC. If they arrive before the weekend, I’ll bring a batch with me on Saturday, otherwise it will be next Monday (7/12) before I can make my way there. I’ll let everyone know.

    They keep quite well - up to a year or even more. You want to keep them sealed and in a dry environment. I keep them with my spices. Don’t put them in the fridge. Naturally they’re the best when fresh, and slowly begin loose their plumpness. I’ve been known to resurrect dried, shriveled up beans by soaking them in water when desperate. That’s back when I’d try to use a whole kilo myself. Now that I share we all can have fresh beans more often! We order 2-3 times a year.

  4. Susan Hill Says:

    Keely, you are such an incredibly interesting womyn. Yes, I spelled womyn correctly. California style so no man/men is involved. Love hearing about your french cooking. I can only get motivated to make creme fraiche and feel so proud when I do that.