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Every year in the restaurant and out in the field, I use a truckload of vanilla beans. To me, they are as important as flour, sugar, butter and eggs. I consider the vanilla bean the fifth essential ingredient.
So imagine gallons of ice cream flecked with pounds of vanilla beans. Yummers! And how about custards by the kilo with an equal amount of this decadent vanilla sprinkled through every last bite?
So what do you do with pods that served their duty, sometimes even double duty? I could throw them away, but that wouldn’t be prudent. They are extremely expensive and too special to sit in a landfill somewhere in Florida, never really enjoying the fruits of their labor.
A flashbulb went off in my brain. No, not the same magical 60 watt summoning to life the Easy-Bake Oven of my childhood, but a bigger and brighter new fangled one. I realized if I washed the used pods and dried them slowly in the oven on very low heat, I could grind them in a spice or coffee grinder and have the most wonderful vanilla dust.
I’ve been adding this dust to cookie dough and cake batter, and sprinkling it over hot chocolate and cappuccinos. If you mix the dust with sugar, the options are limitless. You could even rim a cocktail or martini glass with vanilla sugar.
Yes, Virginia, there is an afterlife for vanilla beans.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Place washed and dried vanilla bean pods on a baking sheet and bake for about one hour or until crisp. Once the beans have cooled, grind them in a coffee grinder and then pass them through a fine sifter. If you find any large pod pieces after sifting, grind them again.
Store the dust in an odor-free air tight container at room temperature.
Hedy Goldsmith, a 2012 James Beard Award finalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef, is the executive pastry chef for the Genuine Hospitality Group of restaurants including Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami and Grand Cayman, and Harry’s Pizzeria in Miami. Now in her second season of Cooking Channel’s Unique Sweets, Hedy has appeared on Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate and lauded in The New York Times, People, Wine Spectator, Bon Appétit, The Huffington Post and Food & Wine magazine. Hedy’s first cookbook, Baking Out Loud: Fun Desserts with Big Flavors (Clarkson Potter / Publishers), will be released October 2.