The price of natural vanilla extra is climbing, and with higher demand and lower production, it's likely this trend will continue for many years. If you want to know why the prices are increasing, click on our previous post here.
We went looking for other options to see how bakers who use a lot of vanilla can get creative to save money. Here are our ideas and reviews of these options.
1. Buy at warehouse clubs. This is not earth-shatteringly creative, but it's actually the best and most practical option that we found if you must use real vanilla in your recipes. We found the best price per ounce from our local Costco, but Sam's Club also has a good price.
2. Use artificial vanilla in baked recipes. According to experts and our own tests, almost nobody can tell the difference between real and artificial vanilla in baked goods, especially when the vanilla is not the predominant flavor in the dessert - like chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies, recipes featuring cinnamon, molasses, ginger, lemon, almond and orange.
3. Save real vanilla for non-cooked recipes, like frosting and ice cream. You may also want to use real vanilla for baked goods where vanilla is the star flavor.
4. Skip the vanilla in recipes where you don't really taste it. Again, just leave it out of recipes for chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies, and recipes featuring cinnamon, molasses, ginger, lemon, almond and orange. Vanilla extract is typically 35 percent alcohol, which evaporates, so the amount of liquid you will be eliminating from recipes should not effect the baked results.
5. Don't bother with vanilla powder. We tried the powder made from dried and ground vanilla beans, and found that their flavor was not very strong. It looks pretty, especially in something like ice cream, but it was not a cost-effective way to add vanilla flavor to baked goods.
6. Make your own extract from vanilla beans. We are making our own extract right now and the recipe is below. It is definitely cheaper to make your own, but that doesn't figure in the time element. It takes about 6 months to achieve the same vanilla flavor using the conservative recipe below. You can get extract sooner, but you'll need to double the number of beans. Don't believe people who post that they had great extract in 6 weeks!
MAKE YOUR OWN VANILLA COSTS
$18.....750ml (approx 25 ounce) bottle of cheap vodka
$24.....10 Grade B vanilla beans (prices vary)
$42 for 25 ounces = $1.68 per ounce
Costco's 16-ounce bottle costs about $33, which is $2.06 per ounce. If you want faster results and/or plan to dilute your vodka to achieve an industry-standard vanilla extract alcohol level*, your will need to add more beans, thus adding to your total cost.
7. Make your own vanilla using "used" Grade A vanilla beans. This is the most cost effective way to make your own extract. If you use vanilla beans in a recipe, throw your discarded bean pods into some vodka and let them soak. You'll need patience for this option, as it, too takes many months for the extract to be ready. But the real cost to you is just the cost of the vodka, as you were planning to use the beans anyway.
8. Make vanilla sugar using spent vanilla pods. This is one of the easiest ways to add some vanilla essence to your desserts. It's best for when vanilla is the star of the dessert, but can be used in any recipe. Simply store your spent, dried vanilla pods in a tightly sealed container of granulated sugar. Your sugar will take on the vanilla scent and flavor.
RECIPE FOR inexpensive HOMEMADE VANILLA
TIPS & BUYING INFORMATION
Several methods are used to make imitation vanillin, including the most popular, which involves synthesizing the petrochemical guaiacol. Other methods, used more in the past, have included synthesizing vanillin from the eugenol found in clove oil, and synthesizing the lignin byproduct of a process used to make wood pulp.
Although the idea of a synthetic flavoring may not sound so appealing, you may prefer it to another (extremely expensive) vanilla imitator – castoreum. Extracted from the scent glands (situated next to the anal glands) of the North American Beaver, castoreum is sometimes found in very high-end vanilla-, raspberry-, and strawberry- flavored items, and is usually included on food labels in the United States as “natural flavoring.” Don't worry though, this natural flavoring is probably used in your perfume, not your extracts!
Is your cookie press stashed away until the holidays? Pull that baby out and make these adorable, portable and delicious cookies for Valentine's Day, a girl's baby shower or birthday, or any day.
Our classic spritz cookies are flavored with strawberry jam and dipped in 72 percent cacao chocolate for a not-too-sweet adult treat. But you can bump up the sugar content and use milk or semi-sweet chocolate for your little ones. The jam lends a slight pink to the dough. We added a baby pea-size amount of burgundy gel food coloring to get the pink in the photos.
This recipe, adapted from one from Bake, Love, Give makes 4 dozen cookies, depending on how hard you press. We didn't count as we ate a bunch of the "ugly" ones. You'll probably end up with more!
These are a great choice if you want to ship a gift to someone, as they are still tasty after a week if you keep them tightly sealed. To extend their life, you can also store in the fridge for an extra few days or the freezer for up to a month.
NOTE: Remember that the cookies will stick to the paper/silicone liner, so you should hold the press vertically, touch the rim to the pan, press quickly and then lift vertically for the best shape. You can place them fairly close together - about 1-2 inches between - as they do not expand very much.
Cream cheese frosting is our favorite for just about any cake. It's a little bit tangy, a smidge salty and not too sweet. Plus, it's a breeze to whip up in your stand mixer with SideSwipe. Only about a minute with room temperature ingredients. Why would you want to use that canned stuff from the store?
We frequently halve this recipe for a small size cake, as shown on the heart-shaped cake at the bottom of this post. It's the equivalent of a single, 9-inch layer.
The full recipe yields 2 cups of cream cheese frosting. You can use this recipe to lightly frost a double layer cake, lightly frost 24 cupcakes, generously frost 12-14 cupcakes, or frost a 9x13 cake. If you like sky-high frosting, you may also want to add a bit more powdered sugar for more definition and stability in your piping.
Once frosted, keep your cake in the fridge until ready to serve.
Recipes and mixing tips
Simple recipes for home cooks using SideSwipe + your mixer. Tips for using + caring for your mixer. Our goal = Helping you get a perfect mix + great taste.