Vanilla Extract

Are you a baker? Have you noticed how expensive vanilla extract has gotten? The vanilla crop in Madagascar failed causing a shortage of vanilla beans. The price of vanilla is now ten times what it was a few years ago.

I recently ran out of vanilla and picked some up at my local spice shop. An ingredient that I never considered the cost of now makes me gasp. I used over half of this bottle in two batches of cookies this morning.20180628_1112443852065551983353752.jpg

I am not going to switch to intimation vanilla extract. You can tell the difference in the final product. I was planning to buy the now $40 bottle of vanilla the next time I’m at Costco. It is a large bottle and should get me through a year of baking. I may still buy a bottle, but it is no longer immediately needed.

I remembered I had vanilla beans from Costco that I bought last fall. I also have vodka. Those two items are all you need to make your own vanilla extract.

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It couldn’t be easier. Slice some vanilla beans open (I also cut them in half so they would fit in a jelly jar). Put the open beans in a jar. 20180628_1111202140349684719578520.jpg

Cover the beans with vodka.

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Put a lid on the jar. Put it in your cupboard. Shake it a couple of times a day for two weeks. after that it should be ready to use. I’ll add vodka a few times, as there will be enough vanilla to infuse two or three times the amount of vodka in the jar.

After a few hours you can already see the change in the vodka.

Hopefully the vanilla crop recovers soon. Until then, I hope you find some forgotten vanilla beans in a drawer and vodka in your freezer and make some of your own extract.

Butterscotch Revel Bars

I have a problem. A baking problem. I can’t get enough of it. It is a problem because most recipes make 12-24 servings and there are only 4 of us in our home. That means we are stuck eating all of whatever I make. I suppose I could freeze some of the treats, but the truth is neither John nor I are good at moderation when it comes to sweets.

After weeks of looking at a recipe for Chocolate Revel Bars I had pulled out of my latest issue of Cooks Country I decided it was time to make them. I opted for the butterscotch version, as we are big butterscotch fans in our house.

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Oh my wow. These suckers are delicious. Imagine using the topping for apple crisp (oatmeal, brown sugar, flour, almonds, and a shameful amount of butter)  as a cookie bottom layer. Now imagine that is topped with a mixture of butter, butterscotch chips, and sweetened condensed milk. The top layer is even more of the crumb topping.

Are you drooling yet? You should be. These heavenly bars are almost gone. I brought some to my book club this afternoon to help us get through them. John is in charge of eating the rest. They are amazing but incredibly unhealthy (337 calories each!).

These are now my go to pot luck dessert recipe. I can only be trusted to make them when I can get them out of my house. I really want to make them again, so please invite me to a party at your house. I promise to bring delicious treats.

These are from Cooks Country magazine. The website is a subscription, so it doesn’t work for me to post a link to it. I am able to e-mail the recipe from the site however, so if you are interested in the recipe leave me a comment with your e mail address and I’ll get it to you. If you don’t feel like leaving your e mail address out in a public space, you could send me a message on Instagram (I’m mildly_granola over there).

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to eat the crumbs John has left behind. I said I was done with the bars, but I didn’t say I was done with bar remnants.

John Cookies

When John and I got married we had M&Ms on the tables for people to snack on. I like to be overly prepared, so I bought extra M&Ms just in case. Well, we didn’t need the extra M&Ms. We ended up with about a gallon of M&Ms. John took it upon himself to eat the extras.

He created the “deconstructed candy bar” and had it for dessert every night. It is a very fancy name for a simple treat. First you put a glob of peanut butter in a bowl. Then you put M&Ms in the bowl. Then you dip pretzel sticks in the peanut butter and scoop up a nice sized blob. Then you dip the peanut butter pretzels into the M&Ms. Then you eat it. If you get tired of using the pretzel sticks you can use a spoon and place pretzels directly on the glob.

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Deconstructed Candy Bar, circa 2011

Today I looked at the remaining Easter M&Ms and knew that they had to go. I don’t like to have temptations like M&Ms in the house. I got to thinking about John’s deconstructed candy bar, and decided to take those flavors and put them in a monster cookie.

I started with the Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Monster Cookies. I made a few changes to the recipe. I reduced the brown sugar by about 1/3 and added about 1 1/2 cups of peanut butter. I also added pretzel bits, as I was trying to recapture the magic of the deconstructed candy bar for John.img_20180409_170952_263570686803.jpg

The cookies turned out OK. If I make them again I would reduce the salt from the original recipe. I should have thought about that when adding the pretzels and the peanut butter, but I didn’t. John likes the cookies that he inspired, but he isn’t sold on pretzels in cookies, as they lose a bit of their crunch. I liked their crunchy texture and peanut butter flavor, but I think there were too many chips. I absolutely loved the rice krispies and I think I’ll be adding them to cookies again.

I’ve been trying to mix up my baking by not following recipes to the letter. I am an experienced enough baker it is unlikely that I will royally screw cookies up. Even if the cookies are bad at least I will have tried something new.