I was testing a vanilla pots de creme recipe a few days ago and went to my cupboard for a vanilla bean from my hoard. I say “hoard” because that’s what I do with vanilla beans. The ones I’ve bought in the past came in packages of two beans that cost me dearly. So much, that I could never bring myself to actually use one.
So, here I was, finally, with a recipe that looked like it might be worthy of the sacrifice, and what did I find? The beans in my stash were so dried out that I couldn’t split them to get at the seeds. They just crumbled. I put some of the bits and pieces in the cream and hoped for the best. After the cream was steeped and strained, most of the minuscule, 25,000 seeds were still in the pod, and only a few (maybe 5 or 6 thousand?) wound up in the finished dessert. I doubt that I will ever overcome my innate frugality, even after such episodes of false economy, but I have found a solution to the vanilla bean problem.
My friend Carol Dearth, who owns Sizzleworks, a fabulous cooking school in Belleview, WA, gave me this tip: Costco! I shop at Costco frequently but it never occurred to me as a place to shop for vanilla beans. I found the aisle with baking ingredients and sure enough, there it was, just as she described it; a pretty card with a picture of an orchid on it, holding two glass vials with 5 vanilla beans each, for $11.99. That’s 10 vanilla beans for a little over a dollar each–and they were long, plump, moist, and gorgeous. The label said Kirkland Signature Rodelle.
The rest of my old, dried-out vanilla beans went into a bottle with some bourbon to become extract; my pots de creme, and all the cream and eggs it contained, went into the trash. The recipe was not a keeper anyway, but now I may be brave enough to try it again.
My former post about vanilla and the directions for making extract is here: http://carbwars.blogspot.com/2008/11/vanilla.html
(C) 2009, Judy Barnes Baker