Which kind of vanilla to use in your recipe

Vanilla is one of those things I take very seriously.
I think I’m a little bit obsessed about it but that’s ok. I used to think about it as a very bland and a bit too safe flavour, something you give to a fussy eater but since a couple of years, I’ve been experimenting a lot and realised that it’s maybe a simple flavour that everybody knows but it can be a very complex one too.

Over the last few months, I’ve been experimenting with it more and more with different recipes and combinations with other flavours. I’m going to tell you what are the big differences between all the commercial forms of vanilla and what I think is the best for your usual recipes.

Vanilla extract

extract

It’s probably the most used form of vanilla in the UK and US. It’s mainly made from alcohol (so you can’t buy it if you’re under the legal age, I know, vanilla extract binge drinking…). I find that even the really good quality ones still tastes fake. I almost never use it but I think the best way to cook with it is to bake it in cookies, combined with other flavours like chocolate and brown sugar.

Vanilla paste

paste

This is the strongest form I’ve used so far. It’s highly concentrated and still has vanilla bean inside. The taste is quite similar to the vanilla extract but tastes a little bit more real. It’s great in cakes. I would use it with care as it can overpower other flavours.

Vanilla powder

powder

This is the form I use the most in my everyday cooking. It’s strong but not as much as the vanilla paste. It’s basically vanilla pods that have been grinded so it’s a mix of seeds and bits of vanilla pod. I put it almost everywhere.
It’s very good value as well, one little pot will last you ages.

Vanilla sugar

sugar

I make my own vanilla sugar with leftover pods that are already scraped, you only need to put them in a container with ordinary sugar. The vanilla will infuse the sugar and the leftover seeds you couldn’t srape properly are going to give loads of flavour too. It’s great sprinkled on pancakes or with my pain perdu recipe. You can use it to bake as well, it just doesn’t have the strength to stand out amongst other flavours.

Vanilla pod

vanilla

I kept the best for last. It is definetly the best form of vanilla to use. If you want a clean vanilla flavour, this is the one to use.
I don’t even combine it with another flavour, I love to put it in custard, ice cream, rice pudding… Something that will really show off the flavour.
I know it’s a luxury as it’s quite pricey but it’s 100% worth it. And don’t forget to make vanilla sugar with your leftovers.

Mylène

A really good vanilla custard

In France, we call runny custard “creme anglaise” (English cream) and I really understood why in the first year I lived here. You eat A LOT of it! You seem to have it with or in most puddings.
In France, most puddings and desserts are served as they are, no cream or custard required. There are some things like chocolate brownies or a very chocolatey and rich cake with which we do serve custard but it has to be very cold and is usually quite runny.
And then we have the creme patissière, a thick custard.

The other thing that surprises me is that everybody (I mean most people) use shop bought custard.
I think that english people have a very different approach to shop bought stuff. You would never think about serving a shop bought custard in France, some guests would be quite insulted if you didn’t make your own.

custard_mix

Home-made custard is simple and 100 times better.

If you make your own, I assure you, the people you are cooking for will know and will appreciate the fact that you spent the 5-10 extra minutes to make it from scratch (tip for come-dine-with-me contestants). For me, the 2 things you need for a very quick and quality custard are corn flour and vanilla – you can use any sort of vanilla (extract, pod, paste…) but I highly recommend a vanilla pod or the vanilla powder.

I love vanilla powder so much. I use it everywhere. I can’t bare the extract anymore. You can find vanilla powder in good supermarkets and it’s fairly cheap for the quantity and quality you get.

I’m sure you already know the recipe but I’ll put it anyway!

For 800g of vanilla custard, you’ll need:

– 500ml of milk
– 5 egg yolks
– 100g of sugar
– 10g of cornflour (optional, it’s just much quicker)
– Vanilla

Heat the milk and vanilla together.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour until fluffy and light yellow.

When the milk is boiling, add a little of it, a bit at a time, to the egg mixture without stopping whisking.

Bring it back to the hob and put on a medium heat. Stir constantly for about 5 minutes or until it reaches the constistency you’re looking for.

It will get thicker when it cools.

If your custard is lumpy, whisk it and if the lumps are still there, you can seive it.
You can adjust the quantity of cornflour you need. If you want it thicker, put more of it or if you like it thinner, put less.

If you want a stiffer custard, for a trifle or a vanilla slice, you need more cornflour (about 40g).

Mylène

Chocolat chaud Parisien

I really enjoy a good hot chocolate in the evening, when it’s cold and rainy outside.
I usually do my own, with real chocolate but I’ve never tried the really thick rich hot chocolate you see in Paris or in the film ‘le chocolat’.

I was dying to try it so I looked online for some inspiration.
A lot of the recipes I saw were made with cornflour to thicken it up but I thought it was cheating a bit so tried another one.
It needs only 3 ingredients and it’s dead simple.

You can choose the thickness of your hot chocolate by just cooking it for longer.

If you have never tried the real thing, you should do it tonight!!
It’s so rich that I couldn’t finish my cup but do not worry, it’s not fattening at all, it’s just very chocolatey.

For 2 large mugfulls, you’ll need:

– 550ml of wholemilk
– 150g of very good quality chocolate (I don’t like it too strong so I made it 80% dark and 20% milk chocolate)
– half of a vanilla pod, scraped
– 1 dessertspoon of sugar (only if you want to)

Boil the milk with the scraped vanilla pod. Leave it for 10min to infuse.

Take the pod out and whisk the chocolate in until melted.
At this stage, you can choose to serve it as it is but it will be a very thin hot chocolate.

Put it back on the hob, medium heat, and whisk constantly until you get the consistency you want – It can take 5 to 20min.

Serve it as you like, with whipped cream or not.

I personally love it as it is.

Enjoy

Mylene

French butter cream that will change your life…

I’ve never been a great fan of butter cream; I thought it was heavy and much too buttery and fatty. I came to England and noticed that the british style butter cream was basically sweet butter mix.

I didn’t like butter cream until I tried a recipe seen in one of my supergreat book. I promise you, It will change your birthday cakes into something really amazing.
The texture is light, fluffy, and you have a really delicate taste of butter… Heaven!

For a dose of butter cream, you’ll need:

– 3 egg yolks

– 75g of sugar

– 30ml of water

– 150g of soft butter

– A vanilla pod, or any flavor you want to give (melted chocolate, raspberry coulis,…)

Heat the sugar and water together, leave it to boil for about 3 min, my original recipe says 5 min but if you overdo it, the sugar is going to ruin your mix, so it’s better to underdo it a tiny bit.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks until they’re nearly white.

When the sugar’s ready, pour it slowly on the egg yolks, still whisking. Keep whisking until the mixture cools down. Put the soft butter in the mixture and whisk until you end up with a lovely buttery texture.

Add your flavor and mix!

It takes a tiny bit more time than British butter cream but it is totally worth it. My sister always hated butter cream until she tried mine so trust me and try that wonderful recipe as soon as you can.
I’m maybe a bit too passionate about it but if you want to change your (baking) life, French butter cream will do it for sure!!!!!!!

Mylene

Busy, busy, busy!!!

These last weeks have been absolutely full of work. Well, it’s normal because it’s nearly Christmas!! So I didn’t have much time to think about writing on the blog!

So mince pies, ginger biscuits and various Christmas goodies haven’t got any secrets for me anymore!!!!

So after this ultra busy time, a little holiday will be heaven, especially if it’s in Brittany!! I go to France for a few days to celebrate Christmas with my family. I’m really looking forward to see everybody and cook for them.

Like I’m in a frenchy mood and that it’s sooooo freezing outside, I’ll share a recipe that my mum used to make all the time and it was amazing everytime. It’s rice pudding but cooked on the hob and not in the oven.

Riz au lait

You’ll need

–          100g of rice

–          1L of milk

–          5 tablespoons of sugar

–          1 vanilla pod

First, like the rice doesn’t cook brilliantly in sweet milk, cook it for about 5 minutes in boiling water. Cut the vanilla pod in half and scrape it with a knife to remove the vanilla beans, put it in the milk. Remove it from the water and pour it into a pan with the milk and vanilla. Cook it until the rice is cooked, the milk should have reduced. Remove it from the hob, add the sugar and mix the whole mixture. Leave it for 15 minutes to cool down and enjoy!!

Merry Christmas!!                       

Mylène