Tag Archives: vanilla

Homemade Fruit Leather

19 Oct

Fall in Southern California is a little hard to find sometimes, but I certainly found it while camping in Sequoia National Park this weekend!  It was just cool enough that I needed to wear a jacket while hiking and there were hints of snow on the mountain tops.  The trees there are mostly conifers, which meant we didn’t get beautiful orange and red Fall foliage, but it did smell just like Christmas was around the corner and that was good enough for me!

While preparing for the camping trip, I was considering different snacks to bring for the hike: homemade granola?  just hope that fruit stayed intact in our backpacks?  and then I came across homemade fruit leather on Pinterest and I was sold (especially because the Boyfriend was out of town and he LOVES fruit leather and I knew he’d love the surprise).

This recipe can be made to accommodate almost any fruit you can think of.  I was headed for strawberries but went with raspberries because they were on sale at the grocery store and my brain has already started thinking up crazy cool combinations (cinnamon-peach-blueberry would be fantastic!)  I must admit, I thought these were the sweetest raspberries I’d ever tasted and thus decided to forego the sugar…which turned out to be a poor decision because it meant that these leathers were EXTREMELY tart (I think I may have used extra lemon juice on accident as well…).  That said, plenty of people loved them, so it really will have to be up to your own judgement how sweet you want to make these–just taste the puree before drying and know that sweetness is concentrated once the leather is dry.  These are super simple to make and, while it SEEMS like they would be time consuming, it’s really hands-off for the most part, so I’m sticking by my “these are super easy” statement.

I can say for sure that these certainly didn’t take as long to dry as other people suggested, which surprised me a little, but I think if you just keep a close eye on it, you’ll be fine.  I just stacked the strips in a plastic baggie and threw them in my backpack and they didn’t stick together at all–no powder coating needed AND no sticky fingers after eating, so I was pretty delighted with how they turned out. 

Happy Hiking!  (or Happy School Lunches…or Happy Quick Snack Break at the Office…)

Homemade Cinnamon-Vanilla Raspberry Fruit Leather
Adapted from Tasty Kitchen
yields one 12″ x 16″ pan

  • 2 cups raspberries (or other chopped fruit)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 0 – 1/4 cup sugar (depending on your sweet tooth)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (adjust according to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (adjust according to taste)
  • vegetable oil
  1. Heat oven to lowest temperature setting possible.  My lowest setting is 180 degrees, so I just set the dial to about a 1/4″ short of the lowest temperature and hoped it would work (it did).
  2. Add fruit, water, and lemon juice to saucepan and stew for 10-15 minutes until softened.
  3. Add cinnamon and vanilla extract and let simmer for 5 more minutes.
  4. Using a stick blender or a food processor, blend fruit until smooth and let cool for a few minutes while you prepare the pan.
  5. Using a 12″x16″ rimmed baking sheet, line it with parchment paper (I used Martha Wrap, which I thought was perfect for the job) and brush prepared pan with a layer of vegetable oil.
  6. Pour the fruit puree through a sieve (it is definitely necessary for raspberries–those little seeds are tough!) over the prepared pan and spread it evenly over the pan with an offset spatula.  It’s like frosting a cake, only easier–the only goal is to make sure that you have a very thin, very even layer of fruit puree.  A bit of liquid separated out of the puree when I sieved it into the pan, but I was able to gently incorporated it back in with my offset spatula before spreading the layer even again.
  7. Carefully put the pan in the oven and walk away–it’s going to be in there for a number of hours.  Know that if you’re impatient and you poke it to see how it’s coming along, you’re likely to poke a hole in the leather, so I tested it by tilting up a corner of the parchment paper and seeing if the puree ran off the paper towards the center.
  8. I think my leather was in the oven for about 4-5 hours, but don’t quote me on that–all ovens are different and you really just need to keep an eye on things.  Many people who made fruit leather said they actually left the leather in their ovens on low all night, so I’m not sure why my oven was so fast.  About half way through the process I pulled out the leather and found it was getting a bit crispy and brittle on the edges.  Generously brush the leather with water and stick it back in the oven–this trick honestly works like a charm.  There was not a brittle edge to be found when I took the leather out for a second time, just chewy goodness!
  9. As I was about to go to bed, I decided the leather was done on top and that the underside was just a little sticky, but that all it needed was air-drying.  I carefully flipped the whole sheet of fruit leather over upside down and put it back in the pan, turned off the oven and put the leather back in to rest and dry in the oven so that it wasn’t taking up counter space.
  10. When you wake up in the morning, voila!  Homemade fruit roll-ups that you won’t cringe at when you put it in a lunchbox.  I used a pizza cutter to cut mine into strips with no problems.  Enjoy!
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Maple Vanilla Nut Clusters

12 Oct

I absolutely love recipes like this: easy to make, easy to clean up, perfect to whip up for a group of friends and DELICIOUS.  I already have a spiced nut recipe that I swear by, but this recipe is a game changer.  I will definitely be turning to this one when I want something a little sweeter.  I added extra pecans to the recipe since I find it hard to believe you can have too many pecans but left the amount of glaze the same and I think it turned out fantastic.

These will be great to throw together before any Fall parties you may have coming up!  And, if you’re like me and planning your Thanksgiving menu already, these would be wonderful to make a few days ahead and have sitting on the coffee table for your guests to munch on while waiting for the big event.

Maple Vanilla Nut Clusters
Slightly adapted from Pinch of Yum

  • 1 cup whole raw almonds
  • 3/4 cup chopped raw pecans
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbs water
  • 1/4 sugar
  1. Toast nuts in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes
  2. Combine water, vanilla, maple syrup and sugar
  3. Add butter and sugar mixture to toasted nuts. Continue to heat over medium, stirring constantly, until the mixture is sticky and no longer runny (about 3 minutes)
  4. Remove from heat and spread the nuts around in the skillet.  Let sit for at least 1 hour in the pan or until cool and hardened

Lindsay, of Pinch of Yum, points out that the flavors really develop overnight, so it’s best not to chow down on it all immediately…but chow down the next day, for sure!

Roasted Peaches with Oatmeal Streusel and Creme Anglaise

5 Aug


I don’t think I could have found a simpler, more delicious way to eat my favorite summer fruits (peaches and nectarines), aside from just directly biting into one.  The peaches and streusel alone are fantastic–the warm cinnamon and nutmeg flavors complement the fruit perfectly.  When you add the creme anglaise, though…I don’t know if words can even describe how much I LOVE creme anglaise.  This was my first attempt at making it and, while not perfect, I was eating it straight out of the bowl and had to stop to make sure I would have enough to spoon over the peaches.  The original streusel recipe called for chopped almonds for crunch, but I switched in oatmeal instead–I’m a BIG sucker for oatmeal streusel.  Best of all, the ingredients were all in my fridge and pantry already, so it was a quick treat to whip up.  It’s not overly sweet either, so I may be making it for brunch pretty soon here.  In fact, I’m not even going to talk any more, I just want t
o get right to the recipe:

Roasted Peaches with Oatmeal Streusel and Creme Anglaise
Peaches recipe adapted from Eat Well
Creme Anglaise recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated, Dec 2006
Serves 2 (Creme Anglaise recipe makes about 2 cups)

  • 2 firm peaches or nectarines
  • 1.5 tablespoons of butter, cut into pieces (plus extra for buttering dish)
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • 3 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • sprinkle of salt
  • 1/4 cup of oatmeal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla bean paste
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt

For the Peaches:

  1. Preheat an oven to 400°F. Lightly butter any baking dish that will accommodate the peaches (I used a glass pyrex).
  2. Cut the peaches in half and remove the pits.  On the round side of the peach, cut a thin slice off  to create a little flat space so that the peaches won’t roll around in the baking sheet.  Arrange them in the dish with the pit side up.
  3. In a food processor, combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Add the butter pieces and pulse about 5-10 times until the mixture is crumbles.  A word of warning: I over pulsed mine and accidentally made it into cookie dough.  If this happens, it’s no biggie; it will taste the same.
  4. Stir the oatmeal into the mixture.
  5. Press small handfuls of the mixture onto the tops of the peaches.  Like I said, mine was more like cookie dough, so pinched off bits and pressed them onto the peaches.
  6. Pop the peaches into the oven and bake 20 minutes.  Peaches will be tender and the streusel will be baked and browned.  In the meantime…

For the Creme Anglaise

  1. Warm the milk in a medium sauce pan over low heat until steaming.
  2. In the meantime, whisk yolks, sugar, and salt together in medium bowl about 1 minute until pale yellow in color.
  3. Measure out 1/2 cup of the steaming milk (leave the rest in the pan over the low heat) and, while constantly whisking, slowly pour the 1/2 cup of milk over the egg mixture. (This is called “tempering”, you’re warming up the eggs so they don’t freak out when poured into hot milk and turn immediately into scrambled eggs.)
  4. Pour the warmed egg mixture into the pan of milk and constantly stir the mixture for the next 8-10 minutes.  Using an instant-read thermometer (do you have one yet?  If not, they’re something like $12 at Bed Bath & Beyond; go get one!), keep stirring the milk until it registers 175-180 degrees.  Be patient.  If you turn the heat up, the milk will curdle.  Make sure to keep an eye on the bottom of the pan–be quick to break up any curdled milk that forms along the bottom of the pan because it will make the creme grainy.  I was disappointed, seeing that my creme was turning out super grainy and decided that I would eat it anyway and just not give you guys the recipe until I had figured out what I did wrong but it turns out I had no reason to panic because of the next step here…
  5. Once you reach 175-180 degrees, take the pan off the heat and pour it through a fine mesh strainer.  I was worried I wouldn’t have a strainer fine enough, but just your average mesh strainer will do–it got rid of all the little grains and I had a beautifully smooth Creme Anglaise!

The creme can be refrigerated until you want to use it (put a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the creme so that you don’t get a skin on it later), but I spooned it still warm over the warm peaches.  I thought I was in heaven.  I still have a lot of strawberries left (I’m eating them as fast as I can!) and can’t wait to eat them with some of the creme tonight after dinner.

Blueberry-Buttermilk Scones with Vanilla Butter

8 Jul

I can’t help it; I adore Will and Kate.  So in honor of British Royalty coming to my little corner of the world today, I decided we should celebrate with something distinctly British yet with an American  spin on it.  What better than Blueberry-Buttermilk Scones?

Scones are a traditional British accompaniment to tea time, although British scones are actually closer to a tender cream biscuit here in America.  American scones are more crumbly and rustic and tend to be more a breakfast food than a midday nibble with tea (and scones from places like Starbucks should not even be counted as scones…they could be used as bricks instead because they’re cloyingly sweet, hard as rocks and dry as sand).

Blueberries, of course, are native to North America and buttermilk…well, buttermilk just makes me think of good old fashioned Southern cooking–buttermilk pancakes, buttermilk biscuits, fried chicken first soaked in buttermilk…the list goes on.  Anyway, these scones are quick to throw together, quick to bake, and great for a last minute special breakfast item, especially when you add vanilla butter to the table to go with them!  Fit for a queen…

Blueberry-Buttermilk Scones with Vanilla Butter
Scones adapted from Martha Stewart Living June 2011
makes 8 large scones

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar + extra for sprinkling later
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 pint blueberries (your standard small supermarket container for blueberries)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg lightly beaten for egg wash
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 stick butter (salted or unsalted, your preference), softened to room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or more, depending on your preference)
  1. Pull out that 1/2 stick of butter now so that it can warm up to room temperature. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Now, there are two ways of doing this: the traditional way will require more muscle, the short-cut will require washing an extra bowl in the end.  Traditional way: Whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter, or two forks, until mixture has the texture of coarse cornmeal.  Personally, I am too impatient to cut butter into dry ingredients so I prefer the…Short-Cut: Pull out your food processor, add flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt to the processor bowl and pulse 5 times to mix the ingredients evenly.  Add the butter to the processor bowl and pulse about 10 times until the mixture has the texture of coarse cornmeal.
  3. If you used the food processor, dump the ingredients into a large mixing bowl (if you cut the butter in by hand, you can skip this step because, well, you’re already there).  Gently mix the blueberries in.
  4. Whisk together buttermilk, 1 egg, and the vanilla extract in a separate bowl. Drizzle over flour mixture, and stir lightly with a fork until dough comes together.  This will be a lumpy dough, so don’t worry about it being smooth.
  5. Turn out dough onto a work surface, and gently knead dough once or twice just to incorporate the left over flour. This will squish a few of the berries.  No big deal.  (Don’t over-knead or the scones will turn out tough!)
  6. Pat dough into a 1-inch-thick round.  With a big knife, cut the round of dough into 8 wedges.  Arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Brush with egg wash, and sprinkle with the extra sugar. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 22 minutes. Transfer scones to wire racks to cool just a bit.
  7. While the scones are baking, in a small bowl smoosh the softened butter around with a fork to make it creamy.  Work in the vanilla bean paste with the fork.  Transfer to a pretty little serving dish.  Yes, it is that simple.
  8. Serve the scones warm with the butter on a sunny summer breakfast table!

Vanilla Bean Salted Caramels

16 Jun


So after watching too many people suffer horrible sugar burns on Food Network Challenge, I came to the conclusion that candy making was too scary and too expensive should I end up in the emergency room.  And then, as always, I found a recipe that just looked too good to pass on–I lusted after it for months.  And then, the time came where they would work as a perfect gift.  The stars all aligned and I, Emily, became a candy maker.

As typical, I breezed through the recipe and wondered, really, what was I so afraid of?  This is nothing to say of my cooking skills–I have to read a recipe step 6 times in a row because I’ll miss a teeny part of a step that will ruin a whole dish–it’s more so a commentary on how we all just psyche ourselves out over things that seem difficult and scary but only because we’ve never tried it.  And look at what happens when you give things a whirl: homemade caramels!  Super impressive and much more delicious than the cheap cubes that have been sitting in the grocery store since last Halloween (even Rolo caramel filling isn’t as good as it used to be).  So without further ado….

Vanilla Bean Salted Caramels
slightly modified from Annie’s Eats
makes an 8×8 inch pan; actual count is based on how big you cut the pieces

Emily’s Notes:  You will need a candy thermometer; they’re about $5 at the grocery store.    I adore Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste.  It’s not so much a paste–it has the consistency of maple syrup and TOTALLY worth the $8 at Williams-Sonoma.  When it’s $10 for one single vanilla bean, why wouldn’t you buy this instead with similar results?  The bottle lasted me about a year.  I use it in place of regular vanilla when I want fancy little specks in whatever I’m making and when I want a stronger vanilla flavor than just extract (you’ll want a tiny spatula to make sure you get every drop of the paste out of the measuring spoon).  Furthermore, this blog was almost titled something with “Vanilla” in it because I. LOVE. VANILLA.  It is the finest of the flavors.  Whenever I make a recipe, I always fill the measuring spoon over the mixing bowl and let it spill over in a faux “whoops!” moment, hence the “and then some” in the ingredient list.  I’ll bet I get as much as twice the vanilla I’m supposed to sometimes…but it’s delicious.

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract (and then some)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (and then some)
  • 1¼ tsp. fleur de sel, or other fancy salt, plus more for garnish
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • ¼ cup water
  1. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper. Lightly butter the parchment.  (I recently discovered “Martha Wrap” at the grocery store: parchment paper on one side, foil on the other so you get the non-stick parchment benefits, but it’s stiff like foil so you can line a pan with it and it will actually STAY PUT! Genius!)
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the cream, butter, vanilla extract, vanilla bean paste, and fleur de sel.  Heat over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  Stir often, to keep the paste moving around in the mixture.  Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water.  Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved.  Boil, without stirring but gently swirling the pan occasionally, until the mixture is a light golden caramel color.  Keep an eye on it–I stayed in the kitchen and washed the dishes I’d dirtied while it boiled.  It was clearish for forever and then I turned away just as it was starting to brown slightly–when I turned back after cleaning a dish,  it was already approaching too dark!  At this point, I took a picture of the pot and sent it to my boyfriend saying “Look what I’m playing with!  The boiling contents of this pot will give you third degree burns!”.  Seriously, once you’re in the middle of the process you’ve already forgotten that this is supposedly scary and hard to do and you are instead confident enough to joke about it.
  4. Vigorously stir the cream mixture for a moment or two, to re-distribute the vanilla beans,  and carefully stir the cream mixture into the caramel –  pour slowly and stir constantly.  Continue simmering the mixture until it registers 248˚ F on a candy thermometer (I fashioned a little tin foil rope sling so that it stayed upright in the pot–don’t let the tip touch the bottom of the pot, make sure it’s floating somewhere in the middle of the sugar syrup).
  5. Immediately remove from the heat and pour into the prepared pan.  Tap the pan gently on the counter to get all the air bubbles rising towards the top.  Let cool for 30 minutes, then sprinkle lightly with additional fleur de sel–I have Balinese Sea Salt from Williams-Sonoma that I love (even got my roommate seeing the light on fancy salt!), but it’s huge pyramids.  I ground it up with a mortar and pestle so the grains were finer for sprinkling.
  6. Pop in the fridge and continue to let sit until completely set and cooled.  I used a buttered pizza cutter to slice them.  Wax paper is ideal for wrapping them–you can cut them into squares and wrap them like Christmas presents, or you can cut them into small rectangles and wrap them like Tootsie Rolls!  Personally, I like the smaller Tootsie Roll method: perfect bite size and easier to wrap.

These will make pretty soft caramels that will stretch when you try to pull pieces off (which is why I prefer the smaller Tootsie Roll size).  They will hold their shape for the most part, but are easy to roll up into the wrappers and then conform to the round shape.  I made them as a gift, and they were well received, thankfully, so I highly suggest it.  I actually made three recipes that night after I got home from work (and went to bed at a decent hour), which is a testament to how easy these are that I could squeeze them in.

I left the caramels out on the kitchen counter for a few days and during those few days the weather in Beach-town, USA turned cloudy and humid (humid, at least, for SoCal).  They got a little greasy and melty, which I hear is common caramel behavior for humidity, so all my friends in the South–hurry and make this before you start getting 100% humidity days.  Which also means…save this recipe and don’t forget these for Christmas time!

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