My friend, Jacob, was devastated when Mexican customs confiscated two giant bottles of pure Mexican vanilla extract on his way home from Nuevo Vallarta. Every serious baker knows that quality vanilla adds an amazing dimension to desserts. The good stuff is cherished like liquid gold. So when Beanilla generously sent me two packs of Indian beans, he was the first person I thought of. We would both try our hand at homemade vanilla extract for the first time
Making our own extract was unbelievably easy - it only required only three ingredients: vanilla beans, alcohol, and time. Jacob made rum and tequila extracts, where I opted for the more traditional bourbon and vodka.
We split the beans, added the liquor, and patiently shook our bottles for 2 months. 8 weeks later it was ready for a taste– it was satisfyingly rich and intense. I needed to make something that highlighted the flavor of my homemade vanilla, so I rode my bike to my local grocery store, Little House Green Grocery, for some inspiration.
The local donut peaches were calling my name, so I snatched up about half a dozen. I took the simple route by searing the peaches and served them with a vanilla brown-butter sauce and vanilla ice cream. This dish showcased the vanilla beautifully - the peach’s sweetness was concentrated by the sear, and the brown butter sauce had a warm smokiness from the vanilla. From start to finish the peaches only took about 10 minutes to whip together and was something I would easily serve at a dinner party to impress.
When I checked to see how Jacob's vanilla was coming along, he said he was going to wait until Christmas to try it. I commend him for his patience and can only imagine how concentrated his vanilla will be. I can't wait to try his holiday desserts.
Here are two recipes for your enjoyment: homemade vanilla, and a simple seared donut peach with a vanilla brown butter sauce.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
- 5 vanilla pods (split in half)
- 8 ounces alcohol (80 proof)
Place the split vanilla pods in a small bottle. Cover the beans with 8 ounces of alcohol of your choice. Vodka is the most neutral but you can use anything from rum and bourbon to scotch and tequila. This is an opportunity to get creative and make it your own.
Seal the bottle and wait at least 8 weeks. Be sure to shake the bottle every few days. The longer you let it sit, the stronger the vanilla flavor will be. You can let it steep for up to a year, but be sure that the beans are completely submerged in the alcohol.
Seared Peaches with Vanilla Brown Butter Sauce
- 2 donut (aka Saturn) peaches
- 5 tablespoons of salted butter
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 cup quality vanilla ice cream
Slice the donut peaches in half horizontally and remove the pit (you can also use regular peaches). Melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium high heat in a non-stick skillet. Sear the 4 peach halves, cut side down, for about 2 minutes, or until they develop a nice brown color. Set the peaches aside.
In a small sauce pan melt the remaining butter over medium heat until the butter has turned a golden brown color and has a slightly toasted aroma (be careful not to burn it). Add the honey and vanilla extract. Mix until thoroughly incorporated and until the sauce has a syrupy consistency. Remove from the heat.
To serve, place a seared peach on a plate and drizzle about a tablespoon of sauce over it. Top with ¼ cup of vanilla ice-cream.