I get excited about all kinds of things…English muffins just happen to be one of them.
So I was making an English muffin for this morning. I was really looking forward to it (even more than I usually look forward to any and all food).
The reason I was so eager to get at an ordinary piece of toasted carb is because of which spread I was planning to use.
I’ll admit it right here—I have a problem.
It’s an irresistible need to possess copious varieties of jams, jellies and preserves. If it’s shiny, sweet, and in a jar, I’m in. I pick them up wherever I go, be it grocery store, garden center, or even somewhere unexpected like TJ Maxx.
There are 18 different jars in my fridge right now. And that’s not counting the various honies, golden syrup, and Goober Grape residing in cabinets.
About a month ago I was in Home Goods, at Brier Creek. I love them for their uncommon pasta shapes and jellies. That day I picked up short multi-colored ridged lasagna. And, I bought a jar of pineapple jam.
I’ve never thought of preserving the fruit. I love it fresh, and not much beats a piña colada made with pineapple juice, Coco Lopez, rum, and vanilla ice cream. Happily, it turned out to taste just like the fruit, and really good on the whole-grain toast and English muffins that I prefer.
As good as it is, that didn’t stop me from what I did to it a few days ago. I mixed in a heaping tablespoon of vanilla paste. I closed it up and put it back in the chill chest for a bit so the flavors could mingle.
So that’s why I was so looking forward to breakfast today.
While my bread was in the toaster I got to thinking about the four fantastic forms of vanilla: beans, extract, paste and powder. I always try to have some of each in my kitchen, and they are awesome for jacking up the flavor of all kinds of things.
Vanilla beans: Scrape out the beans with a paring knife and use like you would extract (one bean=one teaspoon). But when used in light colored foods the flecks of beans enhance the visual which in turn enhances the whole experience. I love putting them in flavored butter, pudding, and homemade marshmallows.
Don’t toss those empty pods, either, throw them in your sugar canister for vanilla sugar, or add 4 pods to a pint of rum or vodka for homemade extract.
Extract: The old baking standby is also terrific added to unexpected dishes. Try it in barbecue sauce, salad dressing and marinades. Use it to make vanilla coke and to give French toast and pancake batter extra zip.
But please, for the love of all that’s holy and healthy, only use pure vanilla. Although it’s no longer produced by milking the anal glands of beavers (yipes), it’s still made with eucalyptus oil, to which many people are allergic, pine tar, and the wood pulp left after making paper. Mmmm…pulpy goodness.
Paste: Terrific for adding to prepared foods, like honey and syrups. Paste also makes lemonade and iced tea into something really special. Whisk a teaspoon of it and a tablespoon of brown sugar into 1 cup of sour cream for fruit salad dressing or cheesecake topping. Paste works really well as a mix-in for instant hot cereals.
Powder: When baking, I always shake some into my dry ingredients. It supports and enhances the extract or beans that I add to the wet ingredients. For the best cinnamon toast you’ve ever had mix ¼ cup sugar, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1 tablespoon vanilla powder, 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg, and a pinch of salt. Try adding vanilla powder to coffee or sprinkling it on halved stone fruit before grilling.
I’ve also cooked down apple jelly with vanilla beans. The apple flavor fades, and I’m left with an intense vanilla jam to add to my vast spread collection.
And I know that they say admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, but I have absolutely no plans to address my affliction (although I have overheard whispered conversations between Petey and The Kid using phrases such as jelly intervention, and jam rehab).
Thanks for your time.