Spring weather is so fickle. Balmy and beautiful one day, windy and wild the next. But here on the California Coast, the organic strawberries are being picked on our local farms and are oh, so welcome, and begging to be included in dessert.
When I think spring and summer cakes, I think angel food, sponge or chiffon. Light, airy, the perfect foil for berries and other summer fruits. I decided on chiffon.
My friend and colleague Shirley Corriher, has this to say about chiffon cakes in her book, BakeWise :
We’ll tell you, plus share with you our favorite vanilla paste recipes!
In 1967 I saw my first vanilla bean. I was already 24 years old. This shouldn’t sound remarkable but it actually is because even finding a vanilla bean in San Francisco in 1967 took some effort.
I had a friend who had lived in Italy and traveled a great deal in Europe. He and I were in a coffee and spice store and he bought me a vanilla bean. I was enchanted by the aroma but completely puzzled about how to use it. He told me to put it in my container of coffee beans and the vanilla would perfume the coffee. So I did. It wasn’t until 1985 that I learned how to use vanilla beans in any other way. Once I knew how, I never stopped using them but I’ve expanded my vanilla repertoire considerably since then.
There’s a reason why I share this story. Before the Food Network became so popular, most people had no clue about how to use vanilla beans. Probably had never seen them either. Once they became a regular on the Network, everyone had to use vanilla beans in their baking and dessert making.
Who doesn’t love the divine, inimitable flavor of pure vanilla ice cream? While it goes with everything – pies, cakes, tarts, cobblers and more – it’s perfect just by itself or with so many other possibilities such as a lovely caramel or fudge sauce. Yummm!
Unfortunately, finding pure vanilla ice cream in the marketplace is a big challenge. Ever since the beginning of the 21st century there have been high-end pure vanilla substitutes called Natural Flavors. These substitutes are made with vanillin from plant sources other than vanilla beans. While they may smell and taste a lot like pure vanilla, natural vanillin, found in many plants besides vanilla, only contains part of the flavor profile of pure vanilla. So while they are a reasonable substitute, if you want to make certain that the vanilla ice cream you eat is made with pure vanilla and has all the amazing flavor notes contained in pure vanilla, purchase small-batch, artisan vanilla ice cream. Or, make your own.
Trouble sleeping? Overstressed? Feeling Chilled? You don’t want tea or coffee because of the caffeine and the alkaloids in hot chocolate will wire you. Instead, make yourself a cup of hot vanilla!