Vanilla Pod (Vanilla planifolia)
Vanilla Pod has a delightful, aromatic fragrance and is one of the most recognised flavours of any spice. Vanilla is a fruit that, once harvested, is dried or cured to preserve and lock in the flavours of this pod. The most common commercial vanilla comes from Mexico but it is also cultivated in a few other countries.
Vanilla is the second most expensive spice on the market globally. This spice is probably one of the most recognised flavours and aromas and is loved all over the world. It also has the capacity to blend its flavour with others to make some awesome tasting treats.
Vanilla pods are readily available on line. You can also buy vanilla extract and flavourings online as well. Vanilla pods should be stored out of direct sun light in a cool dark cupboard using an airtight container. This is the best way to store them, but remember that these pods are best used within in a few weeks of buying them and before they dry out. This is definitely a fantastic spice to have if you like your desserts, cakes and other sweet treats.
So, there are various ways vanilla can be used in cooking. One of my favourites is vanilla ice cream, which always reminds me of sunny days on the beach. Not only is this spice an absolute winner with desserts but can also be cooked with meats and fish. You can even make delicious sauces with vanilla that really make for something different and tasty.
The amount of desserts, cakes, cookies and other sweeter dishes this spice can be used for is almost endless. Its smooth, creamy and vanilla flavour blends with any of these. Vanilla milk shakes are another favourite that are easy to make.
Using vanilla is easy to do. Firstly, you need to slice the pod length ways with a sharpe knife. Then simply scrape the black seeds out and add to your cooking or what ever it is you are making. Remember, when using a fresh vanilla pod that it is roughly the same as using one tablespoon of vanilla extract.
I really enjoy making, and of course, the fun bit, of eating creme brûlées. They are much simpler to make than most people think. They are a delicious, creamy, sweet and the vanilla flavour makes them just adorable!
Serves 6 people
5 large egg yolks
680 grams of whipping cream
220 grams of granulated sugar
1 whole fresh vanilla pod
1 kettle of boiling water
First you need to preheat your oven to 160 degrees centigrade or 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the oven rack in the lower middle position in the oven.
Take a medium sized saucepan, add the cream and 680 grams (2 cups) of the sugar and mix it together thoroughly.
Take a small,sharp knife and cut the vanilla pod length ways. Scrape out all the black seeds and add to the saucepan. On a medium heat stir the mixture until all the sugar has dissolved. Once it comes to a simmer turn the heat down to its minimum setting and cover. Leave this to gently simmer for 10 minutes.
Now remove from the heat and leave to cool for 10 minutes uncovered.
Take a mixing bowl and add the egg yolks. Whisk these up until totally blended. Then very gently and slowly add the cream mixture, whisking it in as you pour. Once it is combined and mixed together, stop!
Using 6 ramekins pour the custard mixture equally into each of them up to 3/4 full.
Take a 9 x 13 inches pyrex baking dish. Place the ramekins in it and then pour the boiling water no higher than half way up the ramekin.
Place into the oven and leave to bake for around 35 minutes. You can tell when they are done as the custard should be all but set in the centre when you give it a gentle shake.
Remove the ramekins and leave to cool at room temperature. Now chill in the refrigerator for minimum of 3 hours.
Now comes the fun bit! Take your brûlées out of the fridge and evenly sprinkle the rest of the sugar over them. Take a blow torch and quickly move the flame over each brûlée one at a time until the sugar has melted and takes on a golden caramelised colour.
Serve straight away, seriously yummy!