How to make vanilla extract

I originally planned to post here once per week, but I am so excited, I am going to ignore that plan and post anyway. There are two reasons why. No. 1: Anna from the blog Teigliebe (German) asked today which was our favorite spice for baking. Which made me think. The answer is really simple: I have come to realize that vanilla extract does give a recipe a very nice flavor. I have often been forced to leave out vanilla extract because it is soooo hard to come by in Germany. But the baked goods taste so much better if you add it. And no. 2 is because, you know, I finally found out how to make my own vanilla extract. It is so simple and easy, I am a bit angry I didn’t know beforehand.

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I stumbled across the idea on the blog Handle the heat. If you want to understand the science behind food and how certain ingredients have an impact on the final result, this is your blog to go to. Tessa from Handle the heat likes to invite guests for guest posts. And the one that got my attention was on how to make your own vanilla extract by Kristin from Bake like a champ.

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If you have ever tried to make an American recipe calling for vanilla extract in Germany, you know why I got so excited. Vanilla extract is unheard of in Germany. We do produce vanilla sugar, which means that vanilla beans are put into sugar and then sold (that’s how I make my own vanilla sugar by the way, just place a few vanilla beans in some sugar), but the extract, forget it. Really hard to get, I have looked, believe me. Vanilla sugar is a joke in my opinion. Try a little bit and tell me if you taste any vanilla. I feel vanilla extract is much better if you are looking for real vanilla flavor. I either had people get me vanilla extract from other European countries (as far as I can tell Germany is almost the only one not selling it in Europe) or asked people visiting from North America to get me some. But that most certainly is over now.

Because, finally, after years and years of baking in Germany and pulling my hair when yet again an American recipe called for vanilla extract (I would usually take vanilla sugar), I finally know how to make vanilla extract. You need two things: vodka and vanilla beans. That’s it. Really, it is that simple. And yes, check your bought vanilla extract, you will be surprised to see that it has 35% of alcohol. Mine did. I had some French and some bought for a lot of money on German Amazon. All had 35% alcohol. You will also be shocked to see how much artifical aroma, sugar and other things are added. I didn’t like that at all. Homemade is much better and so simple, it really is annoying. I will never use bought one again.

This is how it works:

How to make vanilla extract

  • Servings: 1 bottle of 500ml
  • Time: 5min
  • Difficulty: very easy
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Ingredients

  • 500 ml of vodka without flavor (Wodka) (such as Absolut, Smirnoff, etc.)
  • 8 whole vanilla beans (Vanilleschoten)

Directions

  1. Cut each vanilla bean lengthwise and place in an empty and washed bottle, which has a lid (Deckel, guten Verschluss)
  2. Pour vodka carefully into the bottle with the vanilla beans and close
  3. Shake and let sit for at least two weeks until bottle starts to have a very strong amber (Rubinstein) color (see pictures). No need to put in the fridge, storing in cupboard is fine
  4. It’s now ready for use!

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This is how you keep homemade vanilla extract for years:

  • You simply use your bottle each time you need vanilla extract. It does not go bad or anything, you can use it for years.
  • If you run low, you can add fresh vodka. Every time you add vodka, add a vanilla bean. The ratio is more or less one vanilla bean per 100 milliliters.
  • No need to take out the vanilla beans, just keep the old ones inside.
  • My husband suggested to use rum instead of vodka. I think he might has a point there. I might do my next bottle with that combination.

Greetings from rainy Hamburg,
Jenny

Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am a huge fan of cookies. If you say chocolate chips, I am in. If you say chocolate chips plus Nutella, you get me excited. Think of a cookie full of chocolate chips plus a soft center plus a swirl of Nutella. I can’t resist that combination.

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I found these cookies on one of my favorite baking blog sites. Sally from www.sallysbakingaddiction.com is somebody you will hear from a lot on this blog. She is my personal heroine. I can only encourage you to check out her site. She got it figured out. Every single recipe I have tried from her always gets raving reviews. I even got one of her books for Christmas. She really is a pro.

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So when I tried these Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies from her blog the first time around, I knew they would be great. I didn’t twist the recipe that much. I only lowered the amount of sugar. American recipes are always too sweet for me. I have come to learn that usually you can cut the sugar amount in half and still feel it is sweet enough. In this instance I cut even to a third. Mainly because the Nutella already contains a lot of sugar, so I felt it was over the top and would be too sweet. But apart from that, I follow her recipe mostly.

As expected the first time I tried her recipe, the cookies were a success. I wasn’t really surprised when my husband requested them this weekend again. They are so simple, easy and delicious. And the best of it: you can enjoy the cookies after half an hour! This includes preparation and baking. So get your glass of milk ready!

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Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • Servings: about 20 cookies
  • Time: 20min preparation + 10min baking time
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A cookie filled with chocolate chips and a swirl of Nutella

Ingredients

  • 115 grams of unsalted butter, at room temperature (Süßrahmbutter)*
  • 50 grams of brown sugar (brauner Zucker)
  • 50 grams of regular sugar (weißer Zucker)
  • 1 egg, size L + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature (Ei, Eigelb)**
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (Vanilleextrakt), here you can see how to make it
  • 74 grams + 74 grams of Nutella
  • 295 grams of all-purpose flour (Mehl, Type 405)
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons of baking soda (Natron)
  • 1 teaspoon of cornstarch (Speisestärke)
  • a pinch of salt (Prise Salz)
  • 180 grams + 20 grams of semi-sweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate (Chocolate Cips, gehackte Schokolade oder Backschokolade)
  • sea salt (Meersalz) (optional)

*If you are in any way like me and forgot to take the butter out on time, simply take it out while you prepare everything and either leave it close to a heating system in winter or place it in a sunny place in summer. It gets soft surprisingly quickly.

**For eggs to quickly come to room temperature, fill a small bowl with warm water and place eggs inside. They take less than 5 minutes to reach desired temperature.

Directions

  1. Cream the butter  with a hand mixer in a large bowl for one minute. Add the sugars and cream for a few minutes until fluffy.
  2. Add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla extract, one at a time and cream further on high speed with the mixer.
  3. Add 74 grams of Nutella and mix until batter is evenly brown.
  4. Add the flour, baking soda, cornstarch and salt and mix on lowest speed until incooperated.
  5. Switch to a wooden spoon and add about 180 grams of chocolate chips to the mix by hand.
  6. Add the last 74 grams of Nutella and only slightly mix with the spoon. There should be streaks of Nutella visible.
  7. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Take about one tablespoon for each cookie and roll into the size of a golf ball with your hands. Place about 9-11 cookies on each baking sheet.
  9. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the edges are brown, the top shows cracks, but the center is still soft. Mine take 14 minutes exactly.
  10. Take cookies out of the oven and leave on the baking sheet for a few minutes. While they “bake” a little more, add to each cookie a few more chocolate chips. Optional: sprinkle with some sea salt.
  11. Enjoy with a glass of milk.

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Tips:

  • Chocolate Chips are hard to come by in Germany. Just chop up some semi-sweet chocolate and you will be fine.
  • If you don’t have vanilla extract, either add some “Vanillezucker“, one package will do, or make the extract yourself, see here.
  • Cookies can be kept up to a week in an airtight container and also freeze beautifully.

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Let me know how yours turned out!

Jenny

Lemon Tart/Tartelette au Citron

I have been encouraged by a lot of people to start yet another baking blog. I know that there are already a million out there. So why create another one? Baking, in my opinion, is about sharing, it is about inviting others to a special treat. It may sound a bit pathetic, but I bake to bring joy to others. If somebody comes to me after having eaten something I baked and asks for the recipe, I feel happy and grateful. Sharing recipes is what this blog is all about. Yes, there are a million baking blogs out there, I know. I simply want to share some of the recipes I have enjoyed and I know others might enjoy as much. As there are so many good recipes out there already, I usually don’t create my own, but modify the existing ones to my liking. I always ask for permission of the recipe creator first, if possible before posting it here.

For my first recipe I chose a Lemon Tart. I chose this recipe, because I am in need of some color. Winter has been dragging on and I would like to sprinkle my surroundings with some fresh yellow. If you have ever been to France and tried a real Tartelette au Citron, you never want to go back. So sour, so good! I especially like the little almond flour of the pastry dough, which complements the strong lemon flavor.

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I am sending you a lot of sun with this post and hope you enjoy it as much as I do (in fact, my husband is probably even more excited about it). Keep in mind: this recipe is really sour! You may want to increase the sugar amount to 200 grams, but let me warn you, it is still nothing compared to an American Lemon Meringue Pie, French people like it different!

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Lemon Tart/Tartelette au Citron

  • Servings: 4 tartelette dishes of ∅ 16cm
  • Time: 30min preparation + 20min baking time
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A fresh and very lemony tart with a hint of almond flavor

Credit: Ôdélices (in French)

Ingredients

For the pastry dough

  • 100 grams of unsalted butter (Süßrahmbutter)
  • 35 grams of icing sugar (Puderzucker)
  • 1 egg yolk (Eigelb)
  • 35 grams of ground almonds (geriebene Mandeln)
  • 170 grams of all-purpose flour (Mehl, Type 405)
  • 1-3 teaspoons of cold water

For the filling

  • 160 grams of brown sugar (warning: this is really sour, increase to 200 -250 grams if you want it sweeter, it is the jucie of one full lemon per tartelette!)
  • 4 eggs, size L (Eier)
  • 4 lemons (Zitronen)
  • 80 grams of unsalted butter (Süßrahmbutter)

Directions

  1. Cut the butter into cubes and mix as much as you can with the icing sugar and egg yolk. Add the flour and almonds and work into a dough. I usually need about 1-3 teaspoons of cold water in order to form a ball.
  2. Wrap ball in plastic and put in the fridge for half an hour or longer.
  3. Cut the dough into four equal parts and roll out first part a little bigger than your tartelette dish. Line your dish with the pastry dough and cut off any overhang. Prick prepared pastry dough with a fork and repeat for the other three.
  4. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and cut out parchment paper (Backpapier) the size of your tartelette dish. Crumple the parchment paper and place it on top of the tartelette form. Place uncooked beans or rice on the parchment paper (this is called blind-baking to ensure the crust retains its shape while baking). Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for about 18-20 minutes on middle rack or until golden. Remove parchment paper and beans/rice and let cool. I usually have my “baking rice” stored in some jar and keep it all the time to pre-bake pies, tarts, etc.
  5. While the dough cools offs, cream the four eggs with the sugar until volume has doubled and color has become much lighter (a few minutes). Add the juice of the four lemons. Melt butter on low heat in a saucepan (please don’t burn the butter!) and pour in egg mix. Whisk constantly while waiting for the lemon curd to thicken (between 3-5 minutes), heat remaining on medium low. Pour the lemon filling into the tartelette forms and cool in the fridge for a few hours (no cover wrap needed).
  6. Serve out of the fridge with either some mint leaves or honey.

Tips:

  • Use the best lemons you can find and the freshest eggs. You will taste all of it.
  • The pastry dough is a bit tricky to handle, I know. Use flour generously when rolling it out.
  • When transferring the rolled-out dough to the dish, a lot can go wrong. I highly recommend to roll out the dough to the desired size and then fold it like you would fold a piece of clothing. Only after you have done that, you may lift it from the surface and transfer it to the dish. Now you can unfold the dough and arrange it the way you like.
  • If you crumple (zerknüllen) the parchment paper (Backpapier) before you blind-bake the dough, it is a lot easier to handle.

I am sending you very yellow greetings,

Jenny