If you are fond of watching different cooking shows on television, then you may have seen a chef scraping vanilla beans to be used in different kinds of fanciful dishes. This process of scraping the bean looks very simple especially if it is done by a professional chef. They use a very sharp knife in order to split it lengthwise and gather all the tiny seeds from inside the bean pod.
You can try this at home, but beware that splitting the pod with a paring knife probably looks easier on television than it is in real life. The texture of the pod is hard and leathery. If you want to open the pod with ease, then you can try this special trick. To soften the pod steam it for 1 to 2 minutes using a steamer or you can also use a sieve held over boiling water. After youíve cooled the pod, you should find it easier to split it lengthwise.
Next, scrape the seeds from inside the pod. Itís a good idea to use parchment paper or a wax paper on your working surface to catch the seeds as they fall from the opened pod. Without something to catch the tiny seeds, you may lose them which would be a tragedy. Also take care that the seeds donít stick to your hands or get under your fingernails as you work to get them out of their pods.
The whole vanilla bean is useful, even the pod. So once youíve scraped the seeds, you can still use the pod to prepare things like vanilla sugar that you can use in your coffee or sprinkled atop your morning cereal. This precious and ingredient is harvested from the orchid plant which must be pollenated by hand. This makes the bean a fairly expensive ingredient so itís wonderful that the whole bean can be used and nothing goes to waste.
In fact, vanilla beans are not only used in recipes for cakes and cookies, but it can also be used in various seafood recipes. Other uses include perfumes and candles, and one can even add it as an ingredient in cigars or stuffed into tobacco pipes. You can also add the seed of the vanilla bean plant to your yogurt or cottage cheese, adding a gourmet flavor to your midmorning snack. You can even treat your friends by serving them hot chocolate or coffee with a touch of vanilla added.
In order to get the best results from your vanilla beans, you should prepare them for use. Steam the pod in order to soften it enough to slit it lengthwise with a sharp paring knife. You could also boil the bean to make it soft enough to cut. You can scrape the beans from the pod and add them directly to any recipe. If you want to prepare vanilla sugar then add the bean pod to your sugar jar and in a few weeks youíll have a sweet addition to your pantry. Make sure that the jar has a very tight fitting lid and it is important that you keep the jar away from direct sunlight
There are so many great uses for vanilla beans and being able to prepare them yourself makes it even better. The extract that can be purchased at your grocery store just doesnít do the ingredient justice. A synthetic rendering of the ingredient just canít compare to the mouth-watering aroma and intense flavor that an authentic vanilla bean recipe can provide. You can even prepare your own vanilla extract for use in your recipes.
Your grandmaís famous chocolate chip cookie recipe will never taste better than when you use authentic vanilla extract. And making your own extract is so easy. Put your vanilla beans in a bottle of vodka. Store it in your pantry for two to four months, depending on the strength of extract you would like. Then enjoy all your dessert recipes a million times more than before because you took the time to make and use real vanilla beans.
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