Weekly Mix: Vanilla

I trust you’ve all made it through Valentine’s Day with happy hearts, pretty flowers, and devoured chocolate.

Last week when I shared some of my favorite Valentine’s Day recipes, I unabashedly confessed that my recommendations mostly involved chocolate. As we all may be ready for a little break from chocolate, it’s a good opportunity to talk about vanilla.

Vanilla really has an unfair reputation. That word gets thrown around as if vanilla were boring and nothing to be excited about. I beg to differ. Think of the role vanilla plays in almost every dessert we bake. I know I very rarely bake without it, whether it be extract, paste, or beans.

Extract is an absolute baking pantry staple. Use the good stuff. I routinely use Neilsen-Massey’s vanilla extract. I also like Rodelle, although it can be a little harder to find, at least for me. There are many other brands out there, too. If you have a favorite, please let me know below in a comment.

Beyond extract, don’t forget about vanilla beans and vanilla bean paste. I use beans on occasion, but I use paste quite often. In a recent BoB email, I explained why I love vanilla bean paste so much. The gist is that you get lots of vanilla bean flavor in a more shelf-stable, less expensive way.

While the vanilla used in most baking won’t stand up and grab your attention, there are some desserts that really let vanilla shine. These are a few of my favorites.

Vanilla Bean Mini Cheesecakes with Blueberry Sauce | Bake or Break

Cheesecake is perhaps my favorite way to enjoy a good dose of vanilla. These Vanilla Bean Mini Cheesecakes also feature toasted coconut crusts and a simple blueberry sauce. You can easily change these up according to your tastes, too, with a different crust or topping.

Salted Vanilla Chip Oatmeal Cookies | Bake or Break

These Salted Vanilla Chip Oatmeal Cookies combine lots of vanilla with white chocolate. Of course, you know I love the added salt.

Cherry-Vanilla Yogurt Cake | Bake or Break

Vanilla and cherries are one of my favorite flavor pairings. Perhaps my favorite example of that combination is this Cherry-Vanilla Yogurt Cake. It’s a fantastic summer cake, although frozen cherries make it possible for any time of year.

Chocolate Pound Cake with Vanilla Bean Glaze | Bake or Break

If you still want a little (or more than a little!) chocolate with your vanilla, don’t forget about this Chocolate Pound Cake with Vanilla Bean Glaze.

What’s your favorite vanilla dessert?

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6 Comments

  1. Phoebe February 15, 2013 Reply

    I have never used vanilla bean paste before (though I’m a HUGE fan of using vanilla beans in baking). If a recipe calls for, say, 1 teaspoon vanilla, what would be the equivalent of vanilla bean paste, if one were to substitute?

  2. jennifer February 15, 2013 Reply

    Good question, Phoebe! You can use the same measurement of paste as extract.

  3. Holiday Baker Man February 16, 2013 Reply

    Running low after VD myself….

  4. April February 17, 2013 Reply

    Just have to let you know what a hit your Chocolate Cobbler is in our house! My son and his girlfriend have prepared this dessert 3 times since Tuesday. This is absolutely scrumptious and as they found extremely easy to prepare. Look forward to many more delicious days. :)

  5. Mari @ Oh, Sweet & Savory February 19, 2013 Reply

    Thank you for this post! I agree — vanilla (in any form) is so often overlooked as an essential baking ingredient. I haven’t baked with vanilla bean paste before and I’m looking forward to trying it.
    My favorite vanilla dessert is the vanilla cream cheese frosting that I top my carrot cakes with!

  6. Yosef - This American Bite February 21, 2013 Reply

    There’s such a purity to vanilla. Thanks for this post.

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