Vanilla Bean Archives - Parsley, Sage, and Sweet

Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Cinnamon Swirl Challah: A Guest Post for ‘Baking with Heritage’ at Food Wanderings

April 2, 2013 at 1:10 pm | Posted in Breads, Holiday, Yeastspotting | 39 Comments
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A few months ago, Shulie, from the beautiful blog, Food Wanderings, asked me to write a post for her Baking with Heritage series.  I couldn’t have been more flattered, not to mention excited, since this would allow me to journey back to my childhood in my grandmother’s kitchen, where she taught me to make challah from an old family recipe.  This recipe was taught to her by her mother, who in turn learned it from her mother in Russia, who learned it from her mother in Russia. and so on and so forth. A precious family heirloom that is dear to my heart, and to me, the most perfect challah.

I rarely sway from this recipe, but in this case, my creative side overruled my traditional side, so this round, Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Cinnamon Swirl Challah Twist was born.

Before I link you to my post, along with the recipe, a few things I need to touch on, totally unrelated to challah, but I wanted to update you and failed to do so in my last post.

Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Cinnamon Swirl Challah

First off, I finally moved to my own domain about a month ago.  See the URL on top?  I’m no longer, I’m just .com,  I haven’t decided where I’m going regarding a new design, but, for now, I’m just happy with my new digs.  I bought a a url auto-direct, so you don’t (I hope) have to change anything or subscribe again, but, if there’s any problems, please let me know.  I’ve installed a neat little contact form, which you can access from the page options below the header. where it says; CONTACT ME.

Continue Reading Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Cinnamon Swirl Challah: A Guest Post for ‘Baking with Heritage’ at Food Wanderings…

Fun with Risotto – The Sweet and The Savory

March 14, 2010 at 6:29 pm | Posted in Daring Cooks, Dessert, Dinner, Lunch, Puddings | 78 Comments
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Ahhh, Risotto..who doesn’t love a rich, creamy risotto?  Well, who doesn’t love a rich, creamy risotto outside the one who’s cooking it?   I think most agree that standing at the stove for 20 some odd minutes, adding simmering stock, stirring until the rice absorbs it, then adding more, ad infinitum, could be called tedious.  It’s like lather, rinse repeat over and over again until your head feels numb.

Let me make this clear..I’m not bashing risotto..I love it.  I just love when someone else cooks it for me.  It was fun the first 50 times I made it, but now it’s become somewhat of a ‘Ohhh..I really feel like risotto tonight, but the stock, the ladling, the aching feet!’ dilemma.  However. you have to..I repeat HAVE TO do this if you want a perfectly silky, creamy risotto.  All that stirring releases the lovely starch in the arborio rice (Or whatever rice the risotto experts that be decide is NOW BETTER for risotto, but I’ll get to that later), resulting in a creamy risotto.  You can add cream and/or butter at the end to achieve that (sort of a cheat), but if done properly, you won’t need either – although it”s not like it’s a bad thing outside of adding to your waistline.  Butter and cream are two of the most beautiful words in the culinary/pastry world..IMhumbleO.

The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.

I had a lot of fun with this challenge.  I went off the beaten path, then stepped back onto it using the challenge recipe.  The first vision I had was some kind of parfait layered with a sweet risotto.  Basically a rice pudding made with arborio rice accompanied by the tedious ladling of simmering milk in lieu of savory stock.  As I was surfing around..I came across a sweet risotto recipe at Food & Wine in which you add flour, eggs and baking powder to make risotto fritters!  I made a few changes to the recipe, including several additions and increasing the sugar a bit.  This is a unique way to use risotto, since many take the Arancini aka rice ball route.  Nothing like a light, crispy fritter..similar to a zeppole, but filled with sweet, creamy rice.  I could eat these once day..seriously.

My parfaits or verrines, rather, were also a success.  Not only did they turn out beautiful, albeit the mango gelee spilling out a few times while setting on an angle, but the taste and texture of this cup ‘o surprise with every bite, is a rave party on the palate.  When you first stick your spoon in..breaking through the crunchy pistachios, shaved white chocolate and sweet mango slides into creamy, white chocolate melty, silken, very slightly al dente risotto with crunchy, chopped pistachios – the tip of your spoon picking up the smooth mango gelee peppered with sweet mango cubes.  Each spoonful is an absolute delight.

After basking in luscious dessert risottos, I decided I really needed to make a nice, savory one..using the master recipe given to us, almost verbatim.  We were required to make our own stock from scratch, but I already had several quarts of homemade beef, chicken and roasted vegetable stock on hand.  I always have stock in the freezer…it’s almost become a must for me.  I usually spend one week in the Fall making stock to freeze and then repeat later on if necessary.  If there’s no homemade stock in my freezer – I sort of feel naked.  This is why there was no need to make a new stock for my risotto.  It was the simplest preparation – I just reached into the freezer and pulled out a quart of roasted veggie love.   Yay, part one – DONE.

I decided to keep it simple with a twist, even though while perusing through the Daring Cooks completed challenge forum, I nearly drowned in drool after seeing all the beautiful, creamy and sometimes very unique twists on savory risotto (You can check them out by clicking on the links to each Daring Cook’s blog, HERE).  The bell peppers at the supermarket were huge, vibrant, and well, calling to me.  I bought one of each color and then stood there stumped.  OK.. I could do a vegetarian risotto, maybe roasted tomato with these gorgeous peppers?  After mulling over that temporary decision, I stopped at an Italian market to pick up some fresh mozzarella.  Walking toward the cheese section, I was stopped in my tracks by a hunky looking log of sopressata that looked and smelled wonderful.  After the nice Italian mom and pop force fed (Ha..more like I kept begging for more)  me some of this beautiful dried sausage/salami..whichever you want to call it..the bells went off.  DING, DING, DING..why not a sausage and pepper risotto with a twist?  The twist being the sopressata.  I was set…well, after I threw in a couple handfuls of sweet petit peas, just because I happened to have them on hand.

Now to my risotto  ‘rice beef’.  I always use Arborio.  Arborio used to be (well, at least it seemed that way) THE rice you used for risotto.  It had the monopoly on risotto!  Then someone started telling me that Vialone Nano is even better – SO, I start using that.  Then someone else lets me know that Carnaroli rice is really the best rice for risotto, so I start using that.  OK, enough..Im going back to Arborio because Arborio is my old friend and it’s easier to find in the supermarket.  I fully expect a new ‘better for risotto’ rice to pop up any day now – but I’m not budging!  Hrmmph.

Well, that’s the end of my fun filled, month long love affair with risotto.  I just may call him again, but only if  he’s ok with someone else ladling and stirring up his starchy goodness.  Loved this challenge becasue it was so delicious.  For the Master risotto recipe and tips, click  HERE.

UPDATE:  I’ve received several inquiries as to how I got the cool design in my verrines.  It’s really simple.  Divide an even amount of gelee, about 1/3-1/2 cup in each of 4 glasses, then tilt each glass about 45 degrees in an egg carton and let set in the fridge.  When set, fill the empty space next to the gelee with the sweet risotto, even with the top of the gelee.  Pour another 1/3 – 1/2  cup of gelee and tilt again in the egg carton, in the opposite direction of the first layer of gelee, letting it set.  Take care to not let too much of the sweet risotto seep into the new gelee like mine did (notice the second layer of gelee is a little darker?).  When set, fill the rest of the glass with the sweet risotto and top with remaining gelee (just pour this layer over the top and let set upright) to seal everything in.  That’s it!

Creamy, Sweet Risotto with White Chocolate and Pistachios
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup orange muscat or Riesling
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of cinnamon
2 1/2 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 oz white chocolate, chopped and melted
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup roughly chopped pistachios

Special Equipment for Verrines – 4 6-8 oz clear glasses and 1 empty egg carton

1.Heat the olive oil in a heavy, medium saucepan. Add the rice and stir over moderate heat until coated with the oil.

2. Add the orange muscat, white wine or Riesling and cook, stirring, until it is completely absorbed. Add the nutmeg, cinnamon and 1/2 cup of the vanilla milk and cook, stirring constantly, until the milk is completely absorbed. Continue adding milk, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until it is absorbed before adding more. Cook until the risotto is creamy and porridgelike and the grains of rice are just tender.

3. Stir in the melted white chocolate, sugar, vanilla and orange zest.  Chill until ready to fill verrines or chill and serve as is.

Mango Gelee for Verrines – makes about 4 verrines
1 3/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin (from a 1/4-oz envelope)
1/4 cup water
2 cups mango nectar or puree
1 medium mango, peeled and cubed, reserving some for topping

1. Sprinkle gelatin over water in a small saucepan and let stand 1 minute to soften. Cook over low heat, stirring, until gelatin is dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in 1 tablespoon mango nectar at a time until gelatin mixture is cool, then whisk in remaining nectar. Stir in cubed mango.

2. Transfer to a metal bowl and set bowl into a larger bowl half-filled with ice and cold water. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until gelée is consistency of raw egg white, 15 to 25 minutes.

1. Put egg carton in a shallow baking pan and arrange glasses in carton, then tilt glasses to a 45-degree angle. Divide gelee among glasses. Carefully transfer pan with glasses to refrigerator and chill until gelée is set, at least 1 hour.

2. Spoon white chocolate-pistachio risotto into glasses along side the set gelee.  Top with any leftover gelee, cubed mango, chopped white chocolate and chopped pistachios.

Sweet Vanilla Bean Risotto Fritters
1 recipe Creamy, Sweet Risotto minus the melted white chocolate, pistachios and vanilla extract
1 plump vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 large egg, lightly beaten
7 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 large egg whites
Peanut oil, for frying

1. Make the Risotto above…splitting and scraping the vanilla bean into the milk..placing the scraped pods in with the vanilla beans (Be careful not to get any of the pod into the risotto as you add the milk in increments and stir)  Omit the melted white chocolate, pistachios and vanilla extract.   When all the milk is absorbed and the rice slightly al dente, transfer to a bowl and let cool.

2. Stir in the beaten egg, then stir in the flour and baking powder.

3.  In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Stir half of the beaten egg whites into the risotto, then fold in the rest.

4.  In a large, heavy saucepan, heat 2 inches of peanut oil to 350°. Position a wire rack on a baking sheet and cover the rack with paper towels. Scoop rounded tablespoons of the rice into the hot oil without crowding and fry until golden brown all over, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fritters to the rack to drain. Repeat to make the remaining fritters. Sprinkle the fritters with confectioners’ sugar and serve warm, with the strawberry compote and chocolate ganache.

Strawberry Compote
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups quartered strawberries (halved if small), divided
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon orange liqueur and/or orange zest (optional)

1. Heat 1 cup quartered strawberries, sugar and water in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Simmer about 10 minutes, then remove from heat. .Give it a whir in the food processor, blender or with a stick blender until smooth.

2. Stir in orange liqueur and/or zest, if using..let cool.  Stir in remaining 1/2 cup quartered strawberries.  Chill or serve at room temperature.

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By George, It’s a Bakewell Tart! (OR TWO)

June 27, 2009 at 12:43 am | Posted in Cakes, Daring Bakers, Dessert, Fruit, Pastry, Pies/Tarts, Puddings | 140 Comments
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Just to give you all a heads up, since this month’s Daring Bakers Challenge is a British treat, I’m officially British for this entry – spelling and all.  I’m sure my dialect will come from many different regions of England considering I’m just winging this – not to mention, I’ll probably be way, way, way off base with the slang, words etc..  This will be HIGHLY exaggerated, so to my British blogging pals, please feel free to correct and/or laugh at me!  Carry on, mates..and enjoy!

Oh, what an absolute joy it was to find out that this month’s DB challenge was something we’ve been enjoying here in the UK for centuries (I think).  The Bakewell Tart is such a favourite confection here, that many an argy-bargy will break out when one is down to the last slice!  I cannot even begin to tell you how many blokes have ended up on their arse for that slice!  Silly wankers, I tell you!


First off, I’d like to pass on my gratitude to the lovely hosts of this month’s challenge for coming up with a…oh dear, I completely forgot about that silly little paragraph we must post so that the computerized little biddy can detect our entries.  How funny would it be if I didn’t complete the challenge but pasted these words in a post by itself?  Would I still get credit?  Oh, mind my manners, I’m being quite a silly nutter!

The June Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart… er… pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800’s in England.

IMG_242611_edited copy

Now, a very popular question raised about this Bakewell Tart is, well..shall we refer to it as a tart or pudding?  In some preparations, it’s  a “pudding” where a layer of jam is covered by an almondy pastry cream and baked in puff pastry. In another preparation it’s a “tart” where a rich shortcrust pastry holds jam and an almondy sponge cake-like filling.

The version they are daring us to make is a combination of the two: a sweet almond-flavoured shortcrust pastry, frangipane and jam.  A crust, some jam, a rich, nutty frangipane, and Bob’s your uncle!  I absolutely adore this version, and I *stereotype alert #1000* couldn’t wait to sink my wonky British teeth into it!

Strawberry Vanilla Bean Almond Pudding Cake

Although optional, we were also challenged to make our own jam or preserves.  Bollocks, I say!  I was in no mood to purchase an abundance of jars, sterilize them, and so on and so forth.  Yes, yes, I know, a pan jam is easier, and you could always make a jam and use it immediately instead of processing a bunch of little jars that would end up in gift baskets to mates come Christmas, but I simply wasn’t in the mood to make my own jam. I had quite an array of lovely jams from Christmas baskets past, from many a mate or acquaintance, that had yet to be opened. so this was the perfect opportunity.

I decided to play it safe, since I wanted people to actually consume these tarts, using two basic flavours, strawberry and raspberry, for two different tarts, and fiddle with them a bit.  I added fresh vanilla bean to the strawberry jam, and OH my giddy aunt, was quite chuffed at the difference it made.  I then added a bit of freshly grated nutmeg to the raspberry, and after tasting, decided it was an absolutely brill pairing! *patting self on shoulder*

As you very well know, the key to a perfect pie pastry is that everything be cold, and I do mean COLD, as in cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey or make your jubblies stand up on end.  Also, the last thing you want to do is over mix the dough, as that would result in pie crust that would be akin to biting into a pillar of Stonehenge.  You want to see little bits of butter in the final dough prior to chilling it, and it should be raggedy in appearance, not uniform.  I do swear, on the Queen’s crown jewels, that it will come together while chilling in the fridge wrapped in clingfilm. You want a lovely, flaky, tender crust, so all of the above is extraordinarily key.

When it came to the frangipane, for tart #1, I remained true to the recipe, just adding a titch more vanilla bean to it, and poncing it up with strawberries glazed with some of the leftover jam which I reduced with some kirsch and the addition of bruleed, sliced almonds.  I ran out of butane half way through the brulee, hence the remaining bits of sugar around the almonds.  At first, I almost soiled my knickers out of frustration, but then realized the bits of sugar lent it a certain something – or as the French say –  je ne sais quoi.

Baking it in a rectangular tart pan lent even more of a je ne sais quoi to the tart, confusing my fellow limeys as to what it was at first glimpse.  I can be quite a daft bird when I want to be, or so they say!  I shall call this tart, quite simply, a Strawberry-Vanilla Bean Bakewell tart.  No fanciful moniker, as that’s all hoity toity rubbish.


For tart #2, I must say, I went a little off the beaten path, as you Americans say.  I still remained true to the basic frangipane recipe given to us, but suddenly an idea hit me.  How about a marble frangipane?  I know they go crazy in America for anything marbled with chocolate, so why not?  I split the frangipane batter in two, and added a bit of melted dark chocolate to one half, alternating and swirling layers of frangipane over the frozen jam and crust.

Freezing the crust and jam before the addition of the frangipane was recommended, to insure crisp, distinct layers, although, as you can see in the photographs, it did not work very well for me.  It seems the frangipane dominated the tart, covering most of the jam when baked, but that’s completely my fault since I only used about 1/4 to 1/3 cup jam per tart!  Apparently I missed the part where it states you could use up to 1 cup of jam.

Bloody hell..what a load of cack!  Next time I’ll remedy that and load it up with jam, but for now, you’ll just have to look at my measly, little strips of jam begging to get out from under the stampede of  frangipeople rushing the stage to get closer to the band.  I should have entitled this entry ‘Lisa lacks what it takes to JAM’.

Having said that, the marbled frangipane turned out quite nice, so again,  I was rather chuffed.  Usually, your basic Bakewell tart is topped with some sort of white icing, commonly made with icing sugar, and finished off with a sad looking little maraschino cherry.  I came to the conclusion that a chocolate topping would be tastier and much more appealing.

What better than a shiny, rich, chocolate ganache and fresh raspberries since this was well, the tart with the raspberry jam, and the tart does contain chocolate frangipane.  It’s always nice to showcase what’s inside the dessert, on the outside.  A rather exciting preview of what’s to come.   I decided to call this one my Raspberry Chocolate Marble Bakewell Tart. Not very original, but who needs fancy monikers?


To sum it all up, this was a wonderful recipe for the Bakewell, and everyone who tried both versions was utterly gobsmacked.  According to them, it went down a treat!  I must admit, it was quite scrummy!

Now, as always, don’t forget to check out the outstanding creations by my fellow Daring Bakers by clicking on their links at the Daring Bakers Blogroll!

Well, I must be on my way, so toodle pip, and have a delicious, lovely day!  Cheerio!

Bakewell Tart…er…pudding

Makes one 23cm (9” tart)
Prep time: less than 10 minutes (plus time for the individual elements)
Resting time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Equipment needed: 23cm (9”) tart pan or pie tin (preferably with ridged edges), rolling pin

One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)
Bench flour
250ml (1cup (8 US fl. oz)) jam or curd, warmed for spreadability
One quantity frangipane (recipe follows)
One handful blanched, flaked almonds

Assembling the tart
Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it’s overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking.

The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish.

When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

Jasmine’s notes:
• If you cannot have nuts, you can try substituting Victoria sponge for the frangipane. It’s a pretty popular popular cake, so you shouldn’t have any troubles finding one in one of your cookbooks or through a Google search. That said, our dear Natalie at Gluten a Go Go has sourced some recipes and linked to them in the related alt.db thread.
• You can use whichever jam you wish, but if you choose something with a lot of seeds, such as raspberry or blackberry, you should sieve them out.
• The jam quantity can be anywhere from 60ml (1/4 cup) to 250ml (1cup), depending upon how “damp” and strongly flavoured your preserves are. I made it with the lesser quantity of home made strawberry jam, while Annemarie made it with the greater quantity of cherry jam; we both had fabulous results. If in doubt, just split the difference and spread 150ml (2/3cup) on the crust.
Annemarie’s notes:
• The excess shortcrust can be rolled out and cut into cookie-shapes (heck, it’s pretty darned close to a shortbread dough).

Sweet shortcrust pastry
Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes (minimum)
Equipment needed: bowls, box grater, cling film

225g (8oz) all purpose flour
30g (1oz) sugar
2.5ml (½ tsp) salt
110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 (2) egg yolks
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional)
15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water

Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.

Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.

Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

Jasmine’s notes:
• I make this using vanilla salt and vanilla sugar.
• If you wish, you can substitute the seeds of one vanilla bean, one teaspoon of vanilla paste or one teaspoon of vanilla extract for the almond extract.

Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Equipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, rubber spatula

125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
125g (4.5oz) icing sugar
3 (3) eggs
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract
125g (4.5oz) ground almonds
30g (1oz) all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.

Annemarie’s notes:
• Add another five minutes or more if you’re grinding your own almonds or if you’re mixing by hand (Heaven help you).

OK..I’m American again, and I’ve abandoned Mary Poppins (which a reader perfectly pointed out).  I highly recommend you all try this tart because it’s pretty amazing.  Play with it, put your own take on it, make it your own —  (the notorious Paulaism, even though I stopped watching that show long ago).  *Opening umbrella and taking off while humming A Spoonful of Sugar*

RIP MJ, your music was woven into the fabric of my life – every thread in a quilt of so many emotions.  Although you became a kind of freakish shell of the superstar we all once knew, you never lost your gift.  I looped ‘Rock with You’ the night I heard you died…and cried.

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