Toasted Vanilla Bean Powder
I love vanilla, and today I’m taking it to the level of sensational.
Through a combination of briefly toasting and then grinding whole vanilla beans, you concentrate and amplify aroma and flavor. This toasted vanilla bean powder offers warmth, subtle sweetness, and a slight smoky nuance in the background, plus those sweet little flecks I so enjoy.
Vanilla marries well with a wide variety of flavors, particularly other warming spices. Think cinnamon and cloves, nutmeg, cardamom and ginger, allspice. Chocolate, nuts, cream, coffee, custards and yogurt, coconut, stone fruit, berries, pumpkin and apples are also traditional matches.
While we typically associate vanilla with sweet recipes, its distinctive flavor adds depth and complexity to savory dishes incorporating winter squashes like acorn or butternut (up the ante by adding ham, prosciutto or bacon — so good), a tender mix of veg with a French persuasion, grilled pork or coffee-rubbed steak, and sweet summer tomatoes. Unlikely kitchen friends, perhaps, but don’t be afraid to expand your horizons.
Because of its concentrated intensity just a light touch in place of vanilla extract elevates your favorite recipes. Lately I’m sprinkling it over broiled grapefruit halves and porridge, dusting the tops of my creamy Americanos and cocoa, and mixing it into all manner of smoothies, batters, doughs… and this chipotle salmon has weekend supper written all over it.
With the holidays approaching this high-impact ingredient is a good one to keep in your back pocket. Upgrade your family’s favorites, wrap it up as a unique gift, or mix a small amount with sugar to give the rims of your cocktail glasses some festive sparkle! It’s well worth a splurge on vanilla beans. Trust me.
Tell me… What’s your ultimate vanilla flavor pairing?
- 4 whole vanilla bean pods, washed and dried (see HGN Notes)
- With a sharp paring knife carefully split each vanilla bean pod into two halves, then chop the halves into 1" segments. Place the pieces into a small skillet over medium-low heat. Cook, shaking the pan every so often, until fragrant and crisp, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Carefully transfer the warm pieces into a spice/coffee grinder, and let cool a few minutes. Once cooled, run the grinder until the vanilla is a fine powder. (You can also use a mortar and pestle, if you feel like an arm workout.) Sift the powder through a fine mesh strainer to remove any larger pieces of vanilla bean -- grind these again.
- Transfer the toasted vanilla powder to an airtight container. The powder will keep at room temperature in the pantry for 1 to 2 months or the refrigerator for 5 to 6 months before the flavor and aroma fade.
Regarded as the "standard" or "classic" vanilla flavor, Madagascar beans are sweet, smooth and mellow. These are often the cheapest. Mexican beans have a darker, more robust flavor, and may be slightly more expensive than Madagascar due to smaller production quantities. Tahitian vanilla beans are more plump and have many more seeds per bean, with a rich yet soft, almost flowery aroma and taste. Because it's a highly limited crop, expect to pay a substantially higher price.
Recipe adapted from Top with Cinnamon.
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