Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Buying good quality vanilla extract can be outrageously expensive. Every time I walk through the baking aisle of the grocery store I stop at the vanilla shelf in hopes of finding some on sale. Do they ever put it on sale?! Looking down at my already full cart and knowing I'm probably over budget forces me to grab that cheap little bottle of imitation vanilla. No. Thank. You. So, while I was in Costa Rica I bought some incredibly vibrant smelling vanilla beans so that I could make homemade vanilla extract which is not only EASY... but it also cuts the cost down majorly. 


5 vanilla beans (at least 6 inches in length)
1 bottle good quality vodka*

With a sharp knife split the beans open from the top and leave about 1/2 inch together at the bottom. Place split beans in bottle (I used a 1 liter bottle) and pour vodka over beans to fill the bottle. Place bottle in cool, dark place. Let sit for at least 8 weeks. Every week give the bottle a good shake. 

Whenever you use some vanilla you can replace what you used with more vodka. 

*Don't go too cheap when buying the vodka. It will taste too much like alcohol. The higher the quality of vodka the smoother and better it will turn out. I went with a middle-ground quality since I didn't want to spend too much.

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Tart

I have a little obsession with dark chocolate. If you love dark chocolate then you will die over this divine dark chocolate tart with a creamy ganache filled center and topped with plump raspberries and powdered sugar. It is not only heavenly to your taste buds but also very fun to put together and an aesthetically pleasing finished product sure to "wow" your friends!


1/2 cup softened butter (unsalted)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1 cup all purpose flour
3 T. dark cocoa powder

1/2 cup raspberry jam (preferably home made)
1 cup any type of chocolate chips (I used dark)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
6 oz. fresh raspberries
confectioners sugar for sprinkling

Beat butter and sugar on medium speed for 3 minutes (until fluffy) pausing every 30 seconds to scrape sides of bowl. Add egg yolk. Beat well also scraping sides to make sure egg is completely mixed in. Add flour and cocoa. Mix by hand just until incorporated. Do not over mix or the gluten in the flour will develop too much and your crust will be tough.

Press mixture into a 9 in. tart pan. Trim top edge to make a perfectly shaped tart. Chill for 30 minutes. 

Bake at 350ยบ F for 12 minutes. Use the back of a spoon to press dough back down in the tart pan. Bake for an additional 8-10 minutes until crust is baked all the way through. Cool on cooling rack.

Remove frame of tart pan and place cooled tart on serving plate. Spread jam all over the inside of the tart. 

Heat cream in heavy saucepan until it begins to boil. Remove from heat, add chocolate and whisk until smooth. Pour over jam and chill until firm- about 1 hour. 

Arrange raspberries on top of the tart. Just before serving dust with confectioners sugar.