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I never dreamed I would be writing a post about my vanilla bean paste recipe.
Then I broke it.
If you don’t care about my trials and tribulations, you can get to the recipe here.
When vanilla extract prices started rising, it was more cost effective to make my own vanilla bean paste and my own vanilla extract from the beans. Now I just think they taste better. 😊 Compared to quality vanilla extract, it is still cost effective. Compared to store brand pure vanilla extract, it comes out about the same.
The addition of vanilla seeds to a recipe always makes the dish seem fancier. It’s not just vanilla ice cream, it’s vanilla bean ice cream… those little flecks of vanilla appeal to our eyes and enhance our taste experience.
Seriously. Good. Stuff.
You can see the vanilla seeds in these yummy scones.
I am craving some vanilla bean swiss meringue buttercream now.
Anyway…what were we talking about?
Oh yeah, the vanilla bean paste I broke.
Spoiler alert: I fixed it.
I have made vanilla bean paste a couple of times with no issues, so I just wanted to make it quickly and move on to my cake baking for the week.
Turns out, my vanilla beans were dry. Vanilla beans should be flexible and moist when used, not hard as a rock.
To start the recipe, I am supposed to cut my beans into smaller pieces and then grind them in a spice grinder with half of my sugar.
Since the beans were so hard, the grinder did not work. So, brilliant problem-solver that I am, I just figured the beans needed to be rehydrated. I boiled a small amount of water and added it to the sugar and bean solution.
I probably should have used a sieve and separated out the sugar first.
After a few minutes, I put the goo back in the spice grinder and failed again.
Vanilla beans are expensive, and I was not giving up that easy. I decided I would go ahead and make the syrup base first, add the beans, and maybe then I could get them to puree in the blender after boiling.
After the mixture had boiled for two minutes, I poured the concoction into a blender and turned it on high.
I was sure it worked, so I poured the paste, though it is really a syrup, through a sieve to get the fiber-like parts of the beans out of the mix.
What was left was more than a ground up mess of vanilla beans. I still had actual pieces!
Did I mention I am a brilliant problem solver? Also, that vanilla beans are expensive?
Seriously, I was not giving up yet.
Since I had well hydrated pieces of beans, I was able to put them back in the spice grinder. The result was a mulch-like mass of vanilla bean.
I put the syrup back on the stove, added the bean mulch, and brought it all back to a boil for another couple of minutes.
After I strained the mixture once more, I was rewarded with a thick, dark syrup, filled with vanilla bean goodness!
Before I called it complete, I had to let it cool a while and check to see if the seeds floated to the top. If the mixture separated, then it would need to boil longer.
Lucky for me, this time it stayed just right!
My leftover vanilla bean bits went into a jar with some brandy. In eight to ten weeks, I will have some fabulous vanilla extract to use as well.
The lesson here? I am a brilliant problem-solver! 😉
…and vanilla beans are expensive.
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This is how it’s supposed to go…
Making your own vanilla bean paste is cost effective and oh so delicious when used in recipes!
- Cut the ends off of the vanilla beans and reserve for vanilla sugar. Chop the beans into half-inch long pieces
- Add the beans and half the sugar to a food processor or spice grinder and grind until it forms a sandy-looking mass. If you use a spice grinder you’ll need to do this in multiple batches as it won’t all fit at once with most grinders.
- Add water, remaining sugar, and corn syrup to a medium saucepan and heat to a boil over a medium flame. Allow to boil for 2 minutes.
- Add the ground beans and sugar to the boiling sugar solution. Allow to boil for another 2 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve placed over a bowl (or large mouth canning jar). Use a flexible spatula to work the paste through the sieve as much as you can. Reserve the pulp that is left in the sieve to make extract (see below).
- Allow the paste to sit for a few minutes. If the mixture separates quickly, put back on the stove to boil an additional couple of minutes.
- Scrape into a jar with a well sealing lid (if it was not strained into one already) and allow to fully cool before setting the lid.
- Add vanilla bean pulp to a pint-sized mason jar.
- Add approximately 220 grams of your choice of alcohol to jar. (I have tried rum and brandy so far. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the rum, but it is gluten-free.)
- Shaking the jar a few times a week, leave to infuse for 8 weeks.
- When it has infused for eight weeks, strain out the vanilla bean pulp, reserving the liquid.
- Use in place of vanilla extract in any recipe!
Adapted from Kara’s Couture Cakes Kara’s notes: The corn syrup is an invert sugar which helps to prevent crystallization of the sugars in the paste. If you don’t like to use corn syrup, you can use lemon juice instead. Use half a fresh lemon for this recipe. Store up to one year in an airtight jar at room temperature and out of sunlight. If you get any crystallization, just heat like you would crystallized honey.
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I made these – it worked great!