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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Who says Vanilla isn't sexy? Pure Vanilla - A review


Pure Vanilla by Shauna Sever with photographs by Leigh Beisch

It says something that  a whole book can be devoted to one flavouring ingredient .  Vanilla is the world’s most universally loved flavour and for good reason.  No flavour is more widely recognised, used and enjoyed across the globe.

This book aims to show the versatility of vanilla and tell the story of vanilla from its start as a green pod nestled inside a tropical flower to its transformation into the fragrant beans we all recognise and love.

The comprehensive Introduction starts with a  brief history of vanilla tracing the history of vanilla from 1519 up to the present day.  The history is told in a very accessible way in short ‘bites’ of readable story.
In From Orchid to Extract, Shauna explains how Vanilla is produced and why it is so expensive.
There is also information about vanilla in all its forms.  An exploration of the different forms of vanilla you can use in your cooking and baking.
I had no idea there were different varieties of vanilla with different subtle tastes, but all is explained in the section: Vanilla origins, Varieties and Tasting notes . The introduction concludes with ‘Vanilla FAQs’ to answer any remaining questions. 

Salted Vanilla Chip Oatmeal Cookies 


Makes 3 dozen cookies (I reduced the ingredients by a 1/3 to make 1 dozen)

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/14 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
 8oz white chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp Vanilla Fleur de Sel (make it like vanilla sugar, but with flaky sea salt) for sprinkling

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat oven to 350F, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

In a large bowl, whisk oats, flour, baking soda, and slat to blend well.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and vanilla extract on medium high speed until blended and creamy. Add sugars and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. I don't have a stand mixer so used an electric hand mixer.

Beat in the eggs 1 at a time.  Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add oat mixture, then white chocolate.

Scoop batter, 2 tbsp at a time, onto prepared baking sheets, about 8 cookies to a sheet, Sprinkle a bit of vanilla fleur de sel onto each cookie.

Bake until cookies are golden around the edges but still a bit soft in a centres, 12 to 14 minutes, rotating sheets from front to back and top to bottom half way through baking. Do not over bake. Let cookies cool on sheets for 2 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

I'm not a huge fan of salted with sweet, so didn't bother with the Vanilla Fleur de Sel, the cookies went down well with my visitors and were the first to be chosen.  They have a nice texture, slightly soft and chewy.  I realise I have chosen two recipes with oats in as well as vanilla, not deliberate just what appealed to me!  There are lots more recipes with different ingredients, I've given you a taster of some of the titles below.

The Recipes

There are 80 recipes in the book divided into the following chapters:

Breakfasts including Vanilla Brown Sugar and Black Pepper Bacon, Slow Cooked Vanilla Spice Oatmeal* and Buttery Baked Vanilla Bean French Toast.

Cakes and Pies Including Vanilla Cloud Cake, Twinkie Bundt Cake and Vanilla Cream Pie

Cookies and Bars including Vanilla Latte Cookies, Mini Vanilla Eclairs and Salted Vanilla Chip Oatmeal Cookies*

Candies and Confections including Vanilla Bean Marshmallows, Golden Pear-Vanilla Jam and Vanilla Lollipops

Custards and Creams including Warm Vanilla-Rum Rice Pudding, Australian Vanilla Slice and Favourite Vanilla Ice Cream

Drinks including Vanilla Mojito, Fruity Vanilla Iced Tea and Melted White Hot Chocolate

Unfortunately, as this is an American book, the speciality stores are all in the US. 

Conversion Chart
I was pleased to see there was a conversion chart in the back of the book and I used it to reduce the ingredients for the Vanilla Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Who is it for?
This book is for anyone who loves vanilla. The recipes are all cakes and desserts, but the two that I tried were not over-sweet, with much of the sweetness coming from the vanilla itself.  There are a number of interesting and different recipes, the drinks chapter was a bit of a revelation and there are lots of interesting new ideas to try in the Candies and Confections chapter.

Pros and Cons
If you read all the information in the introduction you will be much better informed about vanilla and how to use it to full advantage. The quantities for some of the recipes are huge, I don't usually make 3 dozen cookies at a time.

Ease of use
The recipes are varied, some very simple and others more challenging.  The recipes are well laid out and I found them easy to follow.

Slow Cooked Vanilla Spice Oatmeal


 Serves 4

 1 cup steel-cut oats
1/2 vanilla bean , split length ways
2 tablespoons light brown sugar (optional) plus more for serving
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
single or double cream for serving

 Coat the sleeve of a 5 quart slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray.  Place sleeve in slow cooker and combine all ingredients in it; add 3 1/2 cups water and stir to blend.  Set slow cooker to low and cook for 8 hours. Remove vanilla bean and scrape any remaining caviar into oatmeal.  Stir well and serve with brown sugar to taste and a drizzle of cream.

I don't have a slow cooker, but wanted to try this, so this is what I did:
I only used half the quantity and cooked the oatmeal with the water in the microwave for 1 minute until hot, add the other ingredients,except the cream, and pour into a wide mouthed vacuum flask Leave overnight and serve with Greek yogurt or creme fraiche.

 It worked brilliantly, the oatmeal could have been a little warmer but had absorbed all the vanilla and spice flavours and had a lovely texture.  I would definitely make this again.

Worth buying?
It’s a surprising book, with so many different ways to use vanilla.  However, I am not sure that I would buy a book that focused on one flavour, but if you really love vanilla then I’m sure you would have a lot of fun making these recipes.

Published by Quirk Books
Available at On line bookshop from £10.71

I received  a copy of Pure Vanilla to review, I was not paid to review this book and all opinions are my own.

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At 20 November 2012 at 21:38 , Blogger Susan said...

Looks good, the cover photo of the cupcake is a killer but the oatmeal looks great too. I've seen this book on Amazon and was taking a peek. Can the bookcase withstand anther one? then there is always Santa. LOL

At 21 November 2012 at 20:38 , Anonymous thelittleloaf said...

Sounds like a wonderful book and those cookies look fab. I really like Shauna's recipes on her blog so can imagine they are all as delicious!

At 21 November 2012 at 23:08 , Blogger fiona maclean said...

I love the smell of vanilla - I DO think it's a sexy smell. OK, maybe I'm odd!

The oatmeal in a vacuum flask is interesting, I was talking to Karen about how I used to slow cook stews that way when I was a student. I might just try again, now I have some idea how to cook!

At 22 November 2012 at 09:34 , Blogger Galina Varese said...

I love vanilla and tend to add it to almost any cake I bake.

At 22 November 2012 at 13:09 , Blogger Caroline Taylor said...

Sounds like an interesting book. I like the idea of the oatmeal. I love vanilla and Christmas is coming...

At 22 November 2012 at 16:44 , Blogger Karen S Booth said...

I LOVE vanilla and think it is quite sexy actually Janice! :-) Great review and I remember talking to Fiona about the oatmeal and soups in a flask idea recently!

At 24 November 2012 at 08:10 , Blogger Chele said...

I've heard mixed reviews about this book ... but I am still hoping Santa has some room on his sleigh for it ;0)


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I love to read your comments and try to reply when I can. I have had to enable comment moderation due to high levels of spam, so it may take a little time before your comment is visible. Please let me know if you make one of my recipes or if you have any questions I will try to answer them. Janice

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