Thursday, May 17, 2012

Homemade Extracts and French Toast

A while back, we were running low on vanilla at my boyfriend's house (before we moved in together and he became my husband). Since this can be a slightly expensive replacement if you buy the real stuff, and I was baking a lot, I thought about it for a few moments. I've made infused oils and vinegars, why not extracts?

We did just that! We found a few cool-looking glass bottles and set out to make our own vanilla extract. We used a dark rum base, because it's something we would actually consume outside of the process, but bourbon or brandy or such would work well, too.

It's an extremely easy process. Economical, too! Slice the side of a vanilla bean to allow the rum access to the more flavorful bits, place it into a glass bottle, cover with rum (you'll need a funnel for small-neck bottles) and place it in the back of a cool, dark cabinet for a while. Within a couple of months, it was wonderful. It only got better as it steeped further. As it gets low, we start another batch. You can see by the bottle on the left, we need to start some more vanilla soon.

Tip: Our grocer gave us a good hint when it comes to buying vanilla. It can be less expensive in the "ethnic foods" area. We got quality Madagascar vanilla beans for a song. It was about 3x the price in the baking aisle.

We didn't stop with vanilla, however. We also made cinnamon extract! This was the real prize hit. It was the same process, only we used cinnamon stick instead of the vanilla bean. Oh. My. Goodness. I love adding it to yogurt when I'm making a sweet dipping sauce for, say, baked sweet potato fries (amazing).

I don't know why it took me until yesterday, however, to realize its power in french toast. I remember as a kid trying to put cinnamon in the batter, only to have it float on top, so would only really work for a piece or two. Since then, I've always just given the toast a little sprinkle on each side once it's battered.

As I made french toast for breakfast yesterday, however, it hit me when I went to add the vanilla. Instead, I grabbed the cinnamon extract. I have to say, it was a pretty genius move. For more depth, you could add both, but I stuck with just the cinnamon.

I planned on doing spearmint last summer when it was growing on the side of our house, but for some reason never got around to it. I'm guessing it'll happen this year.

Have you made extracts? What's your favorite?


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