Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Life & Times of a Vanilla Bean (and a half)

I've been waiting for two weeks for the vanilla to brew/steep/extract/whatever vanilla beans do to make liquid vanilla, and the time has come to cook with it!

I put one and a half vanilla beans in 1.5 pints of Belvedere vodka (almost a whole bottle). I scraped the seeds from the beans to make it more vanilla-y. (For more ways to make your own vanilla, see here.) I shook the mixture in a large glass canning jar every day (or almost every day) for two weeks.

When the waiting was over, I strained the liquid through paper towels. I managed to save most of the seeds for baking with later, and I think I'll stick the beans in some sugar for a while to use for sprinkling and sweetening.

Then I made cookies. It wasn't easy finding a good vanilla-centered vegan cookie, but I settled on this recipe for vegan sugar cookies. I used unbleached white whole wheat flour, vegan white sugar, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla instead of what the recipe called for. I also added some of the vanilla seeds I'd saved. The white whole wheat flour is a little strong for a plain cookie, but I think some vanilla icing will even it out, and the heartiness of the wheat will become a delicious bonus.

On a whole, the cookie is nothing like the traditional sugar cookies I was hoping for. The dough comes out of the oven in exactly the same shape as you put it in, so I squashed the balls of dough with a glass before baking the rest of them.

They're good, but I really want some regular ol' sugar cookies. I'm totally committed to vegan baking so until I find the perfect egg replacement, my great grandmother's recipe will have to wait.

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