There is nothing quite as simple or versatile as homemade vanilla sugar. Vanilla sugar can be utilized in a variety of desserts; from apple pies, snickerdoodles and crème brûlée to light and airy pavlova's. Vanilla sugar can even be used in savory recipes to give a slight sweetness to acidic foods such as barbecue sauce and vinaigrettes. Add to drinks such as coffee or tea - the possibilities are endless!
Panna Cotta is a sweet, creamy and tangy custard-like dessert, minus the eggs! Panna Cotta is a quintessential Northern Italian dessert, perfect for warm summer nights. Panna Cotta can be served with fresh fruit, berry coulis, homemade caramel sauce or simply drizzled with fresh honey. Tahitian vanilla beans enhance the tangy flavor of the cream and buttermilk while lending a slight floral flavor to the dessert. This is the perfect dessert to make ahead and impress your guests!
Do you have a special place from your childhood that your mind wanders to from time to time? I do! I come from a large family of six boys and me. I am the oldest, and the only girl. Lucky me, huh?! Needless to say, this made one-on-one time with our parents difficult at times. Some of my fondest memories were the one-on-one times I spent with my father. Small moments like learning more about who my parents were beyond the everyday moments of being parents stand out in my mind. My dad was a master fly fisherman, and he also was one of the few craftsmen left in America who completely hand crafted and sold custom bamboo fly rods as a hobby. These were truly labors of love from hand planing the large pieces of bamboo that would arrive at our home, to gluing and kiln-drying the entire finished product. There were many more steps to the process, but my favorite step was when he had completed a rod and tested it in our backyard...the fluid motion of his hand combined with the whooshing sound of the lines, so graceful and fluid. When he had finished testing the rod and was satisfied with the craftsmanship, he would treat us to ice cream. This was not just any ice cream shop. This was “dad’s special” ice cream place. The ice cream tasted better than any other place I knew--soft and creamy, full of flavor. The most important part of the memory for me was, and still is, is that I got to spend time with my dad.
I embrace technology whole heartedly. My iPad, iPhone and digital camera rarely stray far from my satchel. I love being connected to anyone and everyone far and near, but I simply can't embrace reading my favorite publications in digital form. There is something about the feel of flipping through my favorite food magazines and cookbooks, and the feel of the pages and the vibrancy of the photographs gracing the pictorials. I have a file of my favorite international food magazines that I often refer to when creating new recipes. The pages are worn and many are dog-eared waiting for future projects, but I wouldn't trade them for an e-reader or the simplicity of the iPad. I recently pulled one of them out looking for inspiration; a beautiful recipe for marinated raspberries and coconut granita caught my eye. Simple, unique and refreshing! I took the concept and adapted it to fit Beanilla and what I think you, the reader, will enjoy!
I get so excited this time of year! The trees are blooming, the birds are chirping, the sun is shining and the fruit is starting smell like fruit. If you don’t live on the west coast, you know what I’m talking about… There is a time in the dead of winter when you walk into the grocery store and the fruit and produce aisles smell like the floor cleaner they used earlier that morning. The strawberries are still red and ripe, but that intoxicating smell of fresh strawberries doesn’t overwhelm you. The raspberries don’t smell like raspberries, and if you’re lucky enough to find a peach, they smell like the packing material they arrived in. But… this time of year the produce aisles magically transform. The aroma of freshly picked fruit greets you the moment you step in. Finally! Fruit that tastes like fruit, and soon tomatoes that don’t taste like cardboard! If you live in the Midwest, celebrate this time (it is fleeting) with a fresh peach crumble. Simply slice the deliciously aromatic peach you can now find in the produce aisle and top it with a simple crumble. Bake to enhance the sweetness of the fruit, and store this memory away for next winter.
Classic blueberry pie is the quintessential summer dessert, and the perfect addition to any barbecue or backyard picnic that you may have planned this summer. This past weekend was the unofficial kickoff to barbecue season. Many of us celebrated the Memorial holiday weekend grilling out with friends and family, while others brought the RV out of storage or dusted off, and aired out their tents. I have beautiful memories of big family picnics packed up and hauled out to the Holland State Park. We would pick the perfect spot for everyone and set up camp. My grandmother always made her famous potato salad and perfectly cooked pasta salad with huge chunks of cheddar cheese. Aluminum foil would be brought out to line the community grills, and burgers and hotdogs would be cooked to perfection. There was never a lack of desserts -- homemade cookies and pies would magically appear from the picnic basket towards the end of the meal. Completely stuffed and happy to relax on our blankets in the sun, we would watch the boats slowly sail through the channel on their way out to bigger bodies of water. I feel very blessed to have such wonderful Michigan summer memories of my childhood. What is your favorite summer holiday memory?
Lemon Budino is delicious. It is a cross between tart and creamy lemon curd and a soft, light and airy genoise cake. I made this for the first time about seven years ago, fully expecting it not to turn out. Not only did it exceed my expectations in flavor, texture and appearance, but it was really simple to make! The first spoonful of Lemon Budino is a culinary delight. The dessert has two very distinct layers of creamy lemon custard and soft sponge like cake, and each spoonful is light airy and utterly delicious. Lemon Budino is the perfect dessert to make ahead of time for summer parties or to enjoy with a glass of white wine on the patio.
The new Grand Rapids Farmers market officially opened here in Michigan this past weekend! I love the farmers market; the sights, the smells and the people that gather to purchase fresh picked fruits and vegetables and baked goods. I love that small business owners, local farmers and the occasional home cook are given the opportunity to support themselves and grow their businesses. I even love the crowds.... But what I love most of all is the inspiration I gather from wandering the different vendors. It's magical.
Bread pudding and soufflés are two of the pastries that I have never made...can you believe that?! To be completely honest, I hadn’t even tried either one until a recent trip to New Orleans. I have a difficult time ordering desserts such as bread pudding when I am dining out because; a) I bake for a living, and b) If I am going to order dessert, it has to be unique and absolutely decadent. I have never really thought of bread soaked in a custard as either decadent or unique. Boy was I wrong! The bread pudding I had was creamy, sweet and absolutely decadent. I knew I had to put that on my checklist of desserts to recreate when I got back home. The recipe I chose is an adaptation of the recipe that is used at Bon Ton in New Orleans. I substituted the whiskey sauce for a creamy and delicious vanilla crème anglaise and omitted the raisins (I just don’t like raisins in pastries!). I also added chopped white chocolate (I like Callebaut chocolate), and I have to admit that it was absolutely divine!
My house is full of the aroma of baked goods; raspberry crumb bars, gooey caramel pecan bars and, my personal favorite, cinnamon pecan coffee cake. There is something very special and incredibly delicious about a really good coffee cake. The perfect way to start, or end, any day! This coffee cake is moist and rich, with sweet ribbons of cinnamon, and pecans enhancing the double-fold Madagascar vanilla extract that is used in this recipe.