For some months now I have been meaning to have a go at making my own vanilla bean paste. I usually use Nielsen-Massey, but after its recent price hike for the giant bottle it was just bugging me how much I was spending on the stuff. Don’t get me wrong, it’s delicious and besides the price tag I love everything else about it. I even enquired about opening a trade account direct, but the savings really weren’t that beneficial.
(For a bit of background have a read of this post I wrote some time ago explaining the differences and benefits between extracts, essences and pastes.)
So, like vanilla extract this paste is made using the whole vanilla pod. Vanilla bean-paste has a delicious smell, taste and look (the tiny little flecks look so pretty). I use in all of my baking, whether its cakes, cupcakes, brownies, biscuits… even my buttercream. It’s as important to me as the eggs.. honestly, if you ask me it should be every bakers secret weapon!
If I don’t have some on my ingredients shelf I literally have a mini-panic – I know I know… #firstworldproblems 😉
It’s also worth noting that vanilla bean paste can be used as a direct substitute for vanilla extract:
1 tsp bean paste = 1 tsp extract
So, with pretty much no idea of what I was doing I did some research. I was so excited and felt positive that this was going to work. I’ve always been very keen on not using anything artificial, using organic where possible and basically just finding really good quality products, so this was important to me in my research. After reading up about what works and what doesn’t I have come up with this recipe. The paste isn’t quite as thick and gooey as Neilsens but the flavour and the taste are just as perfect. If you want a thicker paste then you will need to add a thickening agent and I didn’t want to do that. I would suggest adding a teaspoon of Gum-Trag to your sugar at the very beginning if you did want it thicker. (If you add near the end it will clump.)
Anyway, before I lose you to my ramblings (told you I was excited) here is the recipe:
Vanilla bean-paste recipe
20 vanilla pods
180g soft brown sugar
3tsp fresh lemon juice (this prevents crystallisation)
4tsp of honey
2tsp of home-made vanilla extract (shop bought will be fine too)
Weighing scales, a pan, a whisk, measuring jug, 2 x teaspoons, sieve, storage jar (airtight)
1. Weigh your sugar directly in the pan & measure your water in the jug
2. Have your lemon sliced in half ready, your honey open and ready to go and score down the middle of all of your pods ready to scrape
3. Add the water to your sugar on a medium heat and whisk. At this point do nothing else until the sugar is all dissolved with no lumps then turn down to lowest heat.
4. Whilst the mixture is simmering scrape down the inside of your vanilla pods with a teaspoon (as shown) and let all the seeds drop into the pan. (This will take you a good 5-10 mins, so make sure the heat is low)
5. Add your lemon, vanilla extract, honey and empty vanilla pods (the skins also have a deep flavour) and turn up the heat until the mixture begins to boil. Can you smell it now? Amazzzing
6. Once boiling, leave for 2 minutes then turn down the heat again to a low simmer and leave to do its thing for 10 minutes stirring ever couple of minutes.
7. You will see it starting to thicken and become gloopy. If it doesn’t, let it simmer another minute or so (you do need a little bit of that bakers intuition here.) When you turn the heat off, pour through the sieve into your chosen jar and leave to cool completely before sealing. It will thicken when cooling too, so don’t worry it’s still got some work to do.
Last night I baked a 10 egg vanilla cake mix and I used 3 teaspoons of my home-made bean-paste. Lets just say I ate a lot of cut-offs last night. It was honestly delicious and I don’t think I’ll be buying again.
This recipe filled a small mason jar so I reckon there is around 400ml altogether. I worked out this cost me around £8.60 to make and if I was to buy 350ml of Neilson’s it would cost around £18/20, which is a pretty good saving if you ask me. I paid £7.50 for the pods but you can shop around and get cheaper ones too. It just depends what you prefer.
Let me know how you get on and if you have any questions please do comment below or email.