I'm amazed at how superior your vanilla is!
- Des, The Grommet
I opened the bottle of your vanilla extract last weekend to bake some cookies and the difference in taste is extraordinary." – Judy

Gianduja — Homemade Nutella

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The first time I had Nutella was in a very unlikely place — on the island of Tahiti! Tahiti, being a French Protectorate, means that all kinds of delicious European treats are readily available in markets except on some of the smaller islands. Also, fresh baguettes are delivered several times a day to even lowly gas station convenience stores! It was crazy wonderful.

At any rate, I was staying at a pension where they provided natural alarm clocks for everyone in the form of a band of semi-wild chickens. Fortunately, they also served breakfast, which included the aforementioned baguettes along with a variety of jams and Nutella.

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Chestnut Jam Tart

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Excerpted from Flavor Flours by Alice Medrich (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Leigh Beisch.

Chestnut Jam Tart
Makes 10 servings

Alice says, “A jam tart seems like a relaxed, simpler-to-make linzer torte, with an Italian accent instead of a German one. A jam tart is called fregolata in Italian, and it’s pretty and festive and giftable, too. I thought it fitting (and extra delicious) to swap the usual shortbread crust for a chestnut crust. The dough is quick to make by hand and is then pressed flat into a tart pan with no worries about the sides since the dough forms its own edge as it bakes. Any jam will do for the topping, but the prettiest and most flavorful are red fruits like cherry, plum, raspberry, blackberry, or even strawberry. The jam is topped with crumbled bits of dough and sliced almonds and pushed into the oven to do its own thing.”

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Book Review: Flavor Flours

 

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Flavor Flours by Alice Medrich (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Leigh Beisch

Whenever I need inspiration for a special dessert or a good cookie recipe, I reach for one of Alice Medrich’s books. When Flavor Flours came out I was excited to review it, but I had no idea how much I wanted and needed this book until I recently received a copy.

Alice Medrich is truly a culinary visionary and trend setter. As a young woman she lived in Paris and was given some chocolate truffles. Intrigued by the flavor and uniqueness of the confection, which was essentially unknown in the US at that time, she returned to Berkeley, California and made truffles for sale. The truffles she designed became known as “California Truffles.”

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Oat Flour Fruit Basket Cake

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 Excerpted from Flavor Flours by Alice Medrich (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Leigh Beisch.

Alice says, “Too simple for words: soft, tender layers of oat flour génoise are filled with preserves, whipped cream, and fresh berries. Team strawberry preserves with fresh strawberries, or pair them with apricot or peach preserves instead. In winter, swap the berries for diced bananas. It will be hard not to eat leftovers for breakfast—but there’s nothing wrong with oats and fruit for breakfast.”

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Oat Flour Sponge Cake

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Excerpted from Flavor Flours by Alice Medrich (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Leigh Beisch.

Oat Flour Sponge Cake
Serves 8 to 10

Alice says, “Oat flour turns a plain-Jane sponge cake into something elegant with the subtle but distinct flavors of butterscotch or toffee. The crusty edges I picked off my first oat flour sponge cake were delicious with my coffee.”

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Chocolate Oblivion Tart

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 Long before the California food revolution began, my mother was given one of these dazzling tarts as a gift. It was a predecessor of the exceptional chocolate desserts that emerged in the 1980s. We were impressed by the simplicity of ingredients and the deep, rich, creaminess of the tart.

At some point in the 1990s, the recipe was featured in Gourmet magazine, complete with raspberry coulis and a glaze, both of which are optional. It became a regular in my repertoire for special events, and when I launched my online business I featured it in my chocolate section.

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The Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

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 Whether you are a seasoned home baker, a beginner or a professional, when a new book by Rose Levy Beranbaum comes out, pay attention! Rose is the undisputed Diva of Desserts, with ten exceptional books on baking, and a very popular blog, Real Baking with Rose. 

Her newest book, The Baking Bible, shines a welcoming beam of light on the best in the world of baking: Bread, cakes, pies, tarts, pastries, and confections.

Rose is known throughout the culinary industry for her meticulous attention to detail, her extensive research and testing of ingredients, and her precise instructions for each recipe she creates. She has raised the bar by encouraging home bakers to measure ingredients carefully by weighing them. She lists both the US standard system of ounces and pounds, and the International metric system, the preferred standard of most professional bakers, in each of her recipes, and she tests her recipes extensively so you don’t have to. Followed properly, her recipes are a no-fail proposition. This alone is reason for a standing ovation!

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Top Ten Foolproof Baking Tips from Rose

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Rose Levy Beranbaum is the undisputed Diva of Desserts. In her latest book, The Baking Bible, Rose shares her experience and expertise on baking, including The Golden Rules of Cake Baking. Here are her Top Ten Foolproof Baking Tips from Rose. There are many reason why I recommend The Baking Bible, but all of the tips and advice she offers are reason enough if you are a serious baker.

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Vanilla: Cooking with one of the World’s Finest Ingredients

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My friend Janet Sawyer is an exceptional woman who magically makes a 24-hour day stretch exponentially. She claims she has always been project-oriented, but my assessment is that she’s in love with the world and embraces ideas and opportunities that speak to her as remarkable and warrant further consideration. Once she commits to something new, she’s in 110%!! Having just spent three weeks with Janet in England, I have experienced firsthand her joie de vivre and how nothing pleases her more than an exciting challenge.

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Grismelli – Vanilla Scented Cornmeal Cookies

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Years ago Earl Darny was the pastry chef at Bay Wolf Restaurant in Oakland, one of my favorites in an area filled with amazing restaurants. Earl gave me this recipe saying, “This is one of my favorite cookies.” He later went on to open his own bakery.

I finally made them for the first time this afternoon; they’re fairly addictive.

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How to Make Perfect Cheesecakes

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 It’s hard to imagine anyone who doesn’t like cheesecake. There are several camps, however, regarding  which type of cheesecake is best.  Some of us like thick, satiny super creamy cakes; others like  drier, fluffier cakes. A third camp loves the savory version — no sugar but lots of delicious cheese — and yet another faction especially likes flavored cheesecakes — pumpkin, chocolate, blueberry — the list is endless. Finally, there’s a really big camp  filled with those devotees who love any version.  Just bring it on!!

Although cheesecake’s a snap to assemble, things can easily go south during the baking process. Cracked top anyone? Leaks dripped on the oven floor? Lopsided? Oh well…

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I Scream Sandwiches

I Scream Sandwiches by Jennie Schacht (Stewart, Tabori & Chang; May, 2013)

Nothing screams SUMMER! louder to any kid than the ice cream truck bell or a trip to an ice cream shop.  For kids lucky enough to have a mom who makes homemade ice cream, it’s summer heaven, but even a dive into a store freezer for an ice cream sandwich will do in a pinch. You may remember, however, that unless you score an “It’s It,” most ice cream sandwiches have soggy cookies and artificially flavored ice cream.  We tolerated them — and kids still do — because they are cold and sweet.

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Desserts in Jars

By Shaina Olmanson; Harvard Common Press; May, 2012

Looking for a creative, playful cookbook as a gift for a friend? One that doesn’t break the bank but is filled with great ideas? If so, I recommend Desserts in Jars!

When I first learned about this totally fun book, my
assumption was that it would be filled with gift ideas to make and then  give to friends. The gifts would then be baked or prepared by the recipient.. While one chapter in the book is dedicated to just that, the majority of the book
is about creating delicious and fanciful desserts and either serving them in any of a large variety of Mason (or other) jars or baking or freezing the desserts in jars as gifts.

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Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts

By Alice Medrich (Artisan Books, 2012)

Dessert: Who doesn’t love it? Even those of us who have sworn off of sugar or beg-off to hold at-bay another pound, secretly have illicit thoughts of a rich, warm morsel from the oven in deep winter, or an icy granita or a cone filled with buttery, creamy ice cream on a blistering day.

Okay, maybe I’m projecting a little too much. Truth is, I love dessert! Years ago I had a conversation with a five-year-old boy, and we admitted to each other that we didn’t have a sweet tooth; we had sweet teeth – a mouth full of them! My grandsons would agree that they too would walk a mile in the snow for something chocolate.

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Things To Do With Vanilla Ice Cream

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Courtesy of Alice Medrich, Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts

This is a selection from Alice’s book that directs readers to different recipes she has in the book. You will need to read the book for the recipes that are highlighted, but this will give you good ideas for adorning vanilla — or other– ice creams. First, how about a recipe for Vanilla Ice Cream?  And if you’re not up for making your own, buy the best quality vanilla ice cream you can afford as many don’t actually contain pure vanilla extract!

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125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes

Working, as I do, in a health-oriented organic market, I encounter people with food allergies and gluten sensitivities on a daily basis. Further, I’m allergic to wheat and the majority of my family is gluten-sensitive. As a result, I’m very aware of the challenges faced by all of us who want to eat with friends and go to restaurants in a culture where wheat or gluten is in most processed foods and ubiquitous on menus.

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Why do our customers love Rain's Choice vanilla?

  • You get MORE FLAVOR because we use 20% more beans in our extracts than is required by law!
  • 99% of all vanilla products are imitation. Ours are 100% PURE!
  • We carefully choose all products to assure best QUALITY & FLAVOR!
  • Our farmers are paid a FAIR PRICE.
  • Our vanilla beans are SUSTAINABLY grown.
  • Everything we sell is ORGANICALLY grown.
  • Your purchase here supports our HUMANITARIAN efforts.

Thank you for supporting The Vanilla Company and our farmers! BUY HERE now.

For an update on the 2016 vanilla shortage, please see "Why is Vanilla so Expensive?"

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