Saturday, September 24, 2011

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract has always been one of my favorite flavors. With its classic taste, it is a simple way to add a comforting touch to your baking. The only downside of baking with true vanilla extract is the incredible cost. The price can make you want to reach for the cheaper ‘vanilla flavoring,’ but the reality is that nothing can compare to the delicious flavor of a baked good made with a high quality extract.

One day I was beginning a new baking project and realized I was out of vanilla extract. Knowing that I absolutely could not proceed without my favorite ingredient, I made a quick trip over to the grocery store to snag some. I snatched the bottle off the shelf after cringing at the outrageous price and rushed home to begin my baking. You can imagine my disbelief when I opened up the box and pulled out a half empty bottle of almond extract! A sneaky shopper must have switched bottles at the store, slinking home with a pilfered bottle of vanilla and leaving me unable to satisfy my sweet tooth. As much as I was upset with my fruitless trip, I was FURIOUS for wasting a good amount of money for nothing. What’s a girl to do to have a lifetime supply of vanilla extract and never have to worry about disappointing grocery runs again?

That’s when it came to me. I spend all my time making homemade baked goods, why can’t I make my own homemade vanilla extract? I began researching the process of making vanilla extract and was shocked yet pleasantly surprised to discover that with only two ingredients and some patience I could have my very own lifetime supply of the heavenly extract all to myself!

Vanilla Extract
You will need:
One liter of your favorite vodka
24-30 vanilla beans
for a smaller quantity use 6 vanilla beans per 1 cup of vodka

Vanilla beans are generally pricey in gourmet super markets. I purchased my vanilla beans on Amazon for $27…a pack of over 50! This is a lot cheaper than any I have seen in the supermarket and the initial investment in the beans and alcohol will be worth the savings you have in never having to purchase the extract again!

You can pour out a little bit of the vodka out of the bottle to make room for the displacement caused by addition of the beans. Split the vanilla beans lengthwise, it isn’t necessary to cut them completely in half, only enough to expose the dots of vanilla inside.Taking this extra step will ensure that all the incredible flavor of the beans penetrates the vodka, and may decrease the time you have to waitRecap the vodka and wait at least 3 months, 6 months is ideal (I know this is a long time but it will be worth it!) When the alcohol darkens and develops a strong vanilla odor, it is ready. When you want to use it, strain a small amount through a coffee filter and store in a small bottle. If you want a continuous supply of extract simply continue to replace the vodka that is taken out as you use the extract. The beans will continue to permeate flavor into the vodka for a long time; however, you can periodically take a bean out to use for your baking, and replace with a fresh one to ensure the extract keeps the vanilla potency.

To make the vanilla extract a more decorative element in your house, pour the vodka into a glass jar. Add the vanilla beans and leave on your counter for a great topic starter and kitchen embellishment.

Home made vanilla extract is a great DIY Holiday gift for friends and family. Simply strain the vanilla extract through a coffee filter and pour into pretty bottles. Tie a tag on with directions on how to add more vanilla and vodka so your recipients can continue the process themselves!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


My Grandma is a firm believer in the idea that dessert is the proper ending to every meal. Growing up, day after day I was by her side ‘assisting’ as she prepared her desserts (yes, that’s plural) for the day. She was always so patient with me; unraveling my hair from the Kitchen Aid beaters after I leaned to close to the mixing chocolate cake batter, or cleaning up the powdery mess caused by an explosion of confectioner’s sugar after I dropped the canister on the floor. As I grew older, I realized that all those sweet moments spent with her in the kitchen led me to develop an incredible passion for baking and creating desserts. Like her, I enjoy the sweeter side of life. She made me realize that the only career I could ever imagine myself in would be one as a pastry chef. Following a bachelor’s degree in business, I packed up my things and moved to NYC to attend the French Culinary Institute. While attending classes I interned and worked at various cake and pastry bakeries throughout the city. I am currently the kitchen manager at the Downtown Cookie Company (where I make the BEST chocolate chip cookie in NYC), and am starting up my own cake and pastry business GoBoulay, inspired by my grandmother’s recipes. Every day I am learning and discovering more and more about the world of pastry. The focus of this blog is to share all of these tips, techniques, recipes, and experiences with you so you feel inspired to create the same sweet moments with your family in the kitchen. So sit back, read, bake, take a bite, and enjoy your passion for the sweet life!