There are a few pantry staples that every baker (amateur or professional) keeps on hand. Flour. Baking Powder. And, for Canadians, at least one bag of iconic Redpath Sugar. But one of the most important pantry staple is vanilla extract.
Why is vanilla extract so important to baking? Simply put, it enhances the flavours of other ingredients, like chocolate and fruit, and also imparts a subtle vanilla taste. It’s also easy to make. When you make your own pure vanilla extract, you’re using natural ingredients and not relying on synthetic flavours to make your food magical. Although not all recipes will call specifically for pure vanilla extract, using true vanilla is always the preferable option. The flavour of a natural extract tends to be more reliable, as artificial flavour profiles can vary depending on which brand is producing them.
In Christine Tizzard’s new book Cook More, Waste Less: Zero-waste Recipes To Use Up Groceries, Tackle Food Scraps, And Transform Leftovers, Christine shares her recipes for the eco-conscious baker, including her Best Banana Bread that uses the entire banana, peel and all, and Chocolate and Dried Plum Brownies. A recipe developer who specializes in zero-waste cooking, Tizzard also shares her recipe for pure vanilla extract; a recipe that couldn’t be any easier to make.
Although Christine’s recipe calls for vodka to extract the vanilla flavour from the pure vanilla beans, she writes that you can “substitute vodka with gin, brandy, rum, or bourbon, or even a little splash of one of these mixed in. Just remember,” she adds, that “ you’ve got to like the taste of the alcohol you use.” Alternatively, use a neutral alcohol or rectified alcohol like Everclear.
100% Pure Vanilla Extract
- about 4 fresh vanilla beans and/or previously used and rinsed vanilla beans cut lengthwise to expose seeds
- 1⁄2 cup unflavored vodka
- Add the split vanilla beans to a clean bottle. Cover with vodka, using a funnel if necessary, and seal shut.
- Store in a cool dark place and shake daily for a minimum of 14 days.
- Use when needed, adding rinsed leftover pods from previous recipes and topping up with more vodka as it depletes.