Vanilla Beans

I like cooking. Anyone who knows me knows that I like cooking. Don’t ask me why, but I do. I don’t have any formal training, and can’t say I’ve ever even been to a restaurant where the food is served in courses instead of all at one time, but I do know what I like and what I don’t like. I started preparing meals for myself when I was around thirteen years old or so.

I like experimenting with all sorts of ingredients and preparations. Today’s ingredient is real vanilla bean.

I know I know, vanilla is not an exotic ingredient, nor is it really that rare. It seems vanilla is in everything, although I suspect that most is artificial vanilla.

For years now, I’ve been using vanilla extract. It’s basically vanilla bean soaked in alcohol. It tastes pretty good and smells ok. In the grand scheme of things, though, adding enough alcohol-based extract to satisfy my cravings can change the texture of a recipe.

So I was searching my deal sites last week, and I came across a link for a deal on real vanilla beans. For $7.95, you will receive seven Premium Bourbon-Madagascar Vanilla Beans. Shipping is free. Click this link to order through Amazon.

The beans are from JR Mushrooms and Specialties. The ones they sent me were moist and plump, and quite long as well. They have an amazing scent and a very mellow, smooth flavor. These things are amazing.

The vanilla beans came with a creme brulee recipe, so over the weekend Jaime and I headed off to the store to get ingredients. As we walked through the store, I could still smell the vanilla that had infused into the recipe during shipping. It is that strong.

We made the recipe, which turned out to be very good and quite a bit like Alton Brown’s recipe for creme brulee. The recipe called for dark brown sugar to be caramelized on the top, but my torch was having none of that. Dark brown sugar became very, very burnt very, very quickly. I tried light brown sugar. No go on that one, either. Instant carbon.

I settled on plain white table sugar. I have lots of experience melting it with a torch, so it was a piece of cake. I was able to achieve a nice, glass-like sheet of caramel on top of the brulees.

The texture of the brulee was amazing. I think I cooked it perfectly. It was incredibly light and fluffy, but very rich at the same time. The texture was the same throughout the dish, and it stuck to the spoon when turned upside down. It was nothing like the creme caramel that I made a couple years ago, which was more spongy and firm (and probably overcooked). The vanilla flavor was in perfect balance with the cream. Mmm.

Is that how creme brulee is supposed to be? No clue, I’ve never had it at a restaurant. But let me tell you, it was damn good.

Next time I make it, I’ll use vanilla sugar, and I’m thinking about trying turbinado sugar (vanilla infused).

If you like to cook and haven’t tried real vanilla bean, I highly recommend ordering some and giving it a shot. For $8, you have nothing to lose.

Mike

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