Tag Archives: Vanilla

Orange vanilla sherbet

This is my favorite thing I’ve made in an ice cream machine so far. Hands down.

Seriously, y’all. This stuff is phenomenal. It’s creamy and indulgent, but not heavy, and it floats on a spoon like ice cream. The flavor is intensely, almost explosively orange, with a wallop of brightness in each bite. It’s reminiscent of a Creamsicle, or rather, of what a Creamsicle wishes it could taste like: sweet but not babyish, lush but not dense. And it’s even pretty too, with pinpricks of vanilla and tiny shreds of orange zest scattered throughout.

This is about as decadent as sherbet gets: a whole cup of cream, a whole vanilla bean’s worth of seeds, and a full shot of triple sec. That’s not an apology, mind you. I love how this is the kind of dessert you could imagine kids going nuts for (minus the booze), but also the kind of thing you can happily pamper yourself with as a grown-up. It’s refreshing and luxurious, and–dare I say it–even a little sexy.

The secret weapon here is fresh orange juice. And by fresh, I do mean squeezed. It takes a fair number of oranges to make enough juice for a batch of sherbet, but there really is no comparison. I’m lucky, and have a friend with an incredibly prolific orange tree; if you don’t, just go for the juiciest oranges you can find, the ones you would be happy eating out of hand. I can imagine this working gorgeously with tangerines, too, if you can get those more easily. Oh, and orange juice freezes beautifully, so if oranges are cheap and juicy in winter, just buy ’em, juice ’em, and store the juice till the weather heats up. I made my sherbet with frozen thawed juice, and it still blew my mind.

This sherbet is so flavorful and dreamy that just a small scoop is enough to satisfy (yes, really). On a hot-and-sticky summer afternoon, with the windows open and the fan droning, there’s absolutely nothing better.

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Bourbon vanilla barbecue sauce

Just in time for Fourth of July, I’ve checked another from-scratch food attempt off the list: barbecue sauce.

I’ve been obsessed for a while with making a barbecue sauce based on bourbon and vanilla bean. I like bourbon in barbecue sauce quite a lot, for the smoky-woody kick it provides. The vanilla is vastly less traditional, but there’s some method to my madness: “bourbon vanilla” is so-called, after all, because it smells an awful lot like bourbon. So I figured that the vanilla would bring out the sweet-and-mellow of the bourbon, and vice versa. If nothing else, it would be an odd little deviation from the barbecue sauce norm.

I also knew I wanted to do a sauce that wasn’t ketchup-based. Nothing against ketchup–a burger’s not a burger without it–but I wanted to play with cleaner, less-processed flavors, the better to show off the flavors of whiskey and vanilla. So I decided to base my sauce on tomato paste instead. I opted for honey over molasses or brown sugar as a sweetener, to keep the flavor profile light and unmuddied. And though I was tempted to toss in a mess of spices, to make up for the complexity lost by not using ketchup, in the end I decided to keep things simple: smoked paprika, cumin, salt.

The result of all this experimentation is a thick, bright, brick-red sauce. This one is more on the sweet-and-tangy side than the smoky-spicy side. I chickened out and only used a little vanilla, so that the flavor got a bit lost in the final sauce; I’ve adjusted the recipe to call for a whole bean. I’ve also been waffling back and forth about whether this sauce is too tomato-y–one taste and it’s fine, the next and it’s a little off. I may play around with that proportion next time.

So for a first try? Not bad. Room for improvement? Yes. Bourbon and vanilla playing well together in barbecue sauce? Seems that way.

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Vanilla pudding cakes

It’s not often that I’m led astray by a recipe. This one was delicious, but misleading as all get-out.

The idea was so neat: for the vanilla-loving boyfriend’s birthday, make him a white version of a chocolate lava cake. The New York Times even had a recipe waiting to be tried–the accompanying article promised “a puddinglike center, weeping white chocolate.” But somewhere along the line, something went cattywompus.

The cake was delicious, all right–wobbling and bourbon-fragrant and almost flan-like in the middle–but it took weird turns at several points down the line. The batter was stretchy–like, bread dough stretchy–and there was way more than would yield the 10 mini-cakes the recipe said I would get. I fit it all into 12 cups in a muffin tin, but just barely, and even then they puffed unattractively over the edge. I suspect the intended effect was for the center to be more goo than flan, but I didn’t end up getting there, and for once I don’t think my incompetence was to blame.

I think I’ve figured out part of what went wrong: the batter was chilled too long, the recipe lied about the number of servings it made, and the baking time overshot the gushy-center sweet spot. I’ve tried to remedy some of this in the written recipe below. Whatever the case, these cakes are tasty: sweet and soft and unmistakably vanilla. Just don’t expect a lava cake, because this (sadly) isn’t one.

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Sour cream pound cake, and Bloggers Unplugged

I promised you cake, and I keep my promises.  Today, the cake is not a lie.

I got the recipe for today’s cake from Daisy, who blogs over at Daisy’s World.  Daisy has a culinary degree and a prolific garden; much of the food she writes about is inspired by her freshest pickings.  (As a young apartment-dweller, this makes me green with envy.)  But on top of that, she’s also a fabulous photographer, who makes everything she posts look vibrant and bursting with flavor.  For a taste of her mad skillz (yes, with a z), check out her year-end post and see what she has to say about her Santa hat brownies.  It’s impressive, to say the least.

So when Sam asked me to make him a pound cake for Christmas, I knew just where to look.

(Stay tuned for a little rockstar interview goodness after the jump!)

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Tarting it up

Okay, yes, I disappeared for another week.  But I have an excuse.  A really damn good excuse.  An outrageously decadent, completely indulgent, fussy-fussy fancy-fancy excuse.  An I-stayed-up-until-one-in-the-morning-on-a-Thursday-night-up-to-my-elbows-in-butter excuse.

I made you a tart.  But I eated it.

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