Mad About Vanilla! Recipes, Tips And More

Mad About Vanilla! Recipes, Tips And More

As temperatures start to dip, the idea of firing up the oven and baking something sweet gets harder to resist. And not counting sugar, what ingredient is more associated with the heavenly smells of cookies, cakes and squares than vanilla? Personally, we can't get enough of the stuff.

So what do you need to know about vanilla? Well as you may already have learned from experience, a little can go a long way, whether you're using fresh pods or extract -- and that's a good thing, because either form can be pretty expensive (pollinating, harvesting and curing the beans is a labour intensive process). If you've never used a whole vanilla bean before, it's not difficult: just slice it in half with a paring knife, then use the back of the knife to scape out all the goodness. Here's a video of Stefano doing just that, from his Almond Panna Cotta with Chocolate Sauce recipe:

A couple more tips for storing those vanilla beans. Before you use them, you're going to want to keep them in a cool, dark and airtight place (no need to refrigerate or freeze them, which can lead to hardening). And once you've scraped out the insides of the pod, don't throw it out! Instead, stick it inside your sugar to make, you guessed it, vanilla sugar. Check out what that looks like in this video of Stefano's Vanilla Sugar Donut Holes:

Be careful with that vanilla sugar, though: once you taste it, you might find yourself using it in all kinds of sweet treats! Now all this focus on the whole bean doesn't mean that we don't also love vanilla extract, which is made by immersing the beans in alcohol and letting them infuse over time. A dash (or two or three) of the stuff can elevate most anything sweet — indeed, if you have extra extract, try doubling the amount called for in the recipe for a richer, more complex result.

Below, a few of your favourite vanilla-packed cakes, puddings and other treats.

Vanilla Sheet Cake with Mascarpone Frosting
Vanilla Sugar Donut Holes
Almond Panna Cotta with Chocolate Sauce
Panna Cotta with Strawberries
Easy Berry Napoleons
Lemony Ricotta Pie
Citrus Carpaccio
Easy Cinnamon Rice Pudding