Vanilla syrup and extract

Since I had an excuse to buy vanilla beans to make vanilla creme anglais, I have developed a bit of an infatuation with vanilla. I’m more of a savoury person than sweet, so I’ll hold off changing my blog to ‘vanilla fields’ for now, but it’s close… And believe it or not, the cheapest place I’ve found to get whole vanilla beans is at our homebrew shop. So the experimenting begins…

I started last night with vanilla syrup – you know that stuff you buy at Starbucks for $10! Yeah, it’s sugar and water with a bit of flavour. Most recipes called for vanilla extract rather than whole beans but I thought I’d try using beans for the visual effect. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stay emulsified but you do get pretty black specks in your latte. My french cooking teacher would probably be appalled and you could opt to strain them out, if you really so desired, but I like them.

Syrup:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise and the seeds scraped

Place all three ingredients into a small saucepan and simmer until the sugar dissolves. Let cool. You can bottle it right away or let it sit overnight. If you do strain out the seeds though, give it at least a day or longer to let them infuse. It wasn’t very vanilla-y last night but today it’s much better already.

Now, what to do with those leftover, beautiful, flavourful beans!? Well, I’m glad you asked.
Another trick from my french cooking instructor is 40 used vanilla beans to 1 litre of vodka makes the purest vanilla extract. I don’t know how many of you would actually go through 40 beans or need a whole litre of extract but it’s something you just add pods to each time you use them. I am starting with only 375ml and will aim for about 15 pods.

A tea latte, for anyone who still hasn’t had one – half steeped tea (usually earl grey), half steamed milk, 1 oz. vanilla syrup.

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Pretty, pretty cheese

These are my first camemberts! I took the cheese course at the UBC Farm in November and have finally had a few moments to start making cheese. Actually, I tried once before but mistakenly understood 90F as 90C, and you can imagine, it didn’t go well. I killed my kefir grain, my rennet, my starter culture and my milk. So, this time, apparently things went better because I was lucky enough to get real curds and real cheese! I think my curds were a bit too big, as these are quite soft, but I’m hoping it just gives me a nice soft cheese. I should be able to eat them in six to eight weeks, after they age in my cheese cave, and get all ripe and mouldy. Yum.

For all of the details and how to make them, check out David’s blog: http://thewayofcheese.wordpress.com/

For all the work and cost of milk that is high enough quality to make cheese, I can’t say it’s really cost effective, but it is super satisfying to discover how it’s done and to be able to do it yourself. Kind of like beer making, except that is amazingly cheap to make. The instructor recommended using raw milk, as it has the healthiest bacteria culture but the next best and accessible is pasteurized but unhomogenized. I used Avalon’s Old Fashioned Standard. My next step… get me a goat!

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Fallen Chocolate Cinnamon Cake with Lime Zabaglione

Happy Birthday to ME!

Well, that, and I’ll usually find the biggest, most intensive recipes to use some ingredient. In this case, it was lime. Besides the fact that I thought it might be an amazing recipe, I was also trying to use up a rather large bag of wee limes I bought at the Granville Island market about two weeks ago. Nevermind that I only need about two…

Cake

10 whole eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp cinnamon, more for dusting
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 cup water
12 oz (375 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
cocoa for dusting

Line 10″ springform pan with parchment, leaving 1″ collar over the side. With mixer, beat eggs with 1/2 cup sugar, cinnamon and cayenne. Whip for approximately 10 minutes. The eggs should fill your mixing bowl. Combine remaining sugar with water in a pot over med-high heat and bring to rolling boil. Pour over chocolate, stirring to melt. With mixer on low, drizzle chocolate into egg mixture. Pour into prepared pan, bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes. Cake should still be a little jiggly. Remove from heat and let cool. Refrigerate for a few hours to set. It should have high sides, a crusty top and a fallen, fudgy middle. Don’t worry – it’s supposed to look this way.

Once it has fully cooled and set, flip cake onto serving plate. Sprinkle top with cinnamon and cocoa. If you’re feeling fancy, do alternating lines or cut out fun stencils.

Lime Zabaglione

For anyone familiar with French cooking, it took me a second to realize this is otherwise known as “sabayon”. Cooked egg yolks with some kind of acid, otherwise, the base of sauces we love like bernaise and hollandaise.

3 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
zest and juice of one lime

Combine all ingredients in a metal mixing bowl. Place bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk eggs until they are pale yellow and frothy. If eggs are getting too hot (cooking at the edges), remove from heat for a minute. Continue whisking until eggs form a ribbon when drizzled.

Source: Flavours, Spring 2008

Ta-da! It’s Beer!

And it’s delicious! Fresh and light, beautifully floral, thanks to those fresh hops. Fall is quickly disappearing and the seasonality of a fresh hopped beer is already nearly past. Our next endeavour? Not sure. Anything that would be ready for Christmas probably should have been already made. Maybe a nice cuddly winter bock can still be on the agenda for the colder months…

Maraschino Cherries Three Ways

Boozy cherries? Yes, please!

When I was in Washington State earlier this year, I was lucky enough to find a bottle of real Maraschino Liqueur. For whatever reason, we don’t stock it in BC. It was also in August, so I was extra lucky to be able to take advantage of our local cherry bounty this year. Lo and behold, homemade maraschino cherries! These are definitely more of the cocktail or cake ingredient variety – not so much the sundae topping or Dresden stollen-making type – they are a little hot with the alcohol (while it is a liqueur, not a spirit, it ranks at 36%), and a little soft with the marinating but soooo yummy.

I used Skeena cherries, which worked well because they’re quite firm and crunchy so they hold their shape after soaking for so long. I also tried Rainiers – the white, peachy, pink cherries, which have a milder flavour but they didn’t hold up well – turned a bit brown due to their lighter colour, as well as just getting mushy.

I tried a few different recipes. These two, plus one jar of just pure liqueur. They’re all good but I think I like the one with the smashed pits the best. Gave it a bit more bitterness and complexity.

Unfortunately, the recipe I think I used, the link isn’t working anymore but here is an alternative with smashed pits.

And here’s my second try:

1 lb cherries, pitted
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tsp lemon juice
pinch nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine ingredients in sauce pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, add cherries and simmer for 5-7 minutes longer. Remove from heat, add 1 cup maraschino liqueur and cool. Refrigerate, uncovered until cold.
Supposedly they keep for two weeks but I’ve had mine in the fridge since August and they’re still good. Alcohol is a pretty good preservative, after all.

Source: Cupcake Project

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Pina coladas!

And what does one do with all of that leftover pineapple juice from making carrot cake? Why, make pina coladas, of course!

1 oz. (or more…) of white rum
4 oz. pineapple juice
2 oz. coconut milk

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Bridgeport Kingpin

I recently took a trip to Seattle for my best friend’s stagette. Taking the cheapest coach bus route from Vancouver we could possibly find, I was in definite need of a beverage to cushion the late Friday night arrival. (Ok, yes, it was only 9:32pm, but it felt much worse.) Luckily, we found a little market on the way to the hotel and I picked up this lovely refreshment from Oregon. A triple hopped double red ale, I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect. When you start throwing around multiples of flavour, citing rye, malt and generous hops, I thought, is it going to be enjoyable? Or a struggle? But I was won over by the promise of 7.5% to take the edge off so I jumped in. And I’m glad I did. This little beer is not really so little for its size at 12 oz. It’s slightly sweet, definitely hoppy, but an almost Belgian style delivery. Delicious 🙂

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Beautiful Beer

This is the result of our very first batch of beer!! And it’s delicious! We are doing an all grain mash so it’s going to be a lot of fun to experiment. We made what was supposed to be an Irish Red Ale but is a bit more like an English style brown. It’s tasty though and properly carbonated to boot.

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Popsicles

This summer, I renewed my love of popsicles – and who wouldn’t with these colourful beauties. While the cup at the bottom does keep it from dripping, it makes it rather difficult to actually finish off your popsicle. This requires some fancy licking, which is, well… awkward.

However, I happened upon this fun book this summer, all about a troupe from Brooklyn making popsicles from fresh ingredients and of course, how would that not delight me!?

I can’t even really tell you how I made this – apricot tarragon is not in the book – there are, however, many variations and easily adaptable. That’s partly why I love this book. They take some time to explain the process but then the world is yours to explore.

I modified this recipe a bit from a plum, yogurt, tarragon, to use up all the apricots I had sitting about, as one does… They also have beautiful concoctions of peach-bourbon, cognac and pear, and strawberry balsamic. Their ingredients include everything from lavender and star anise to heirloom peppers and moonshine (though not all at once… *shudder*). And where exactly does one find moonshine nowadays, anyway?

Here it goes:

Makes about 10

1 lb apricots (about 12)
1 cup simple syrup (ratio 1:1 sugar, water – heat until dissolved)
2 sprigs tarragon (They chose to season their syrup, and discard. I didn’t think the flavour was strong enough so chopped them up and put them directly in the popsicles. To each their own. It might be nicer to have a smooth popsicle finish and not find bits of green to chew on and perhaps the flavour comes through more in a plum concoction – either way, you know I love my tarragon so those leaves were going in.)
2 tbsp fresssh lemon juice
1/4 vanilla yogurt

Preheat oven 350 degrees. Cut apricots in half and remove pits. Place cut-side down on cookie sheet and roast until softened – about 20 min.

When cool, add apricots and everything else to food processor and blend. Should be quite sweet – they explain that the mixture will dull in sweetness on freezing so make sure it is on the curl-your-toes side.

Mine ended up quite tart, which is kinda nice on a really hot day. However, I also used plain yogurt instead of vanilla and might have even reduced the syrup because I don’t like things too sweet.

If you have leftover popsicle mash, ice cube trays are great.
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Local ice cream!

Beautiful local ice cream! These guys make good stuff and you should try it. This flavour was whiskey hazelnut. Made for me! I picked this one up at the Woodlands Smokehouse and Commissary, which is worth a visit, if not for ice cream, which is admittedly pricey at $9/pint, the housemade salamis, maple bourbon bacon, Cartems donuts, and other such local delicacies… not to mention the best Reuben sandwich I’ve ever had! My mouth is seriously watering, just thinking about it… Ugh.

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