Adding a splash of vanilla extract might be an easy flavor boost, but this pantry staple can never beat the fresh, warm flavor of an actual vanilla bean. Next time you want to impress dinner guests (or just treat yourself!), try infusing your desserts with real vanilla bean seeds. Those tiny black specks will add old-fashioned flare to ice cream, cake, or pudding, and you’ll have a whole new appreciation for real vanilla flavor.
Here’s how to deseed that vanilla bean: With a paring knife, split the vanilla pod in half lengthwise. Using the back end of your knife, simply scrape the vanilla seeds from each half of the pod. That’s it! The seeds will have a paste-like consistency, and you can scrape them into a small bowl until you’re ready to add them to the recipe.
Not making a fancy cake? That’s okay—fresh vanilla bean seeds add luxury to even the simplest dishes. Use homemade vanilla sugar to garnish fresh fruit or stir into coffee or tea at brunch. Simply mix the seeds from one vanilla pod with two cups of sugar. Vanilla seeds enhance sweetness, so you’ll be able to add fantastic flavor while using way less sugar—that means fewer calories! Oh, and homemade vanilla sugar makes a great gift, too. Put it in a clean glass jar, tie a ribbon around it, and share it with your favorite foodie.
If you want something a bit less sweet, try making homemade vanilla extract. Combine the seeds from three or four vanilla beans and eight ounces of vodka or bourbon in a clean glass jar. Let it infuse for at least a full month (so plan ahead if you’re looking for a birthday gift). This DIY vanilla extract will add great, fresh vanilla flavor to any dish, like this cherry cashew yogurt or homemade almond milk.