I am a creme brulee fiend.  If its on the menu for dessert–you can bet I’ll order it.  I love the stuff.  I love the tapping noise before you break into the sugar shell…I know, but sometimes you just have to find joy in the simple things.

Creme brulee is simply one of the easiest desserts to put together. Just a few short steps–and you’re on your way.  I had a few recipes bookmarked–and decided to use Alton Brown’s methodology while varying up the proportions just a tad.  Not because Alton Brown isn’t awesome–but because I simply didn’t have enough cream on hand.

End result?  Sooooooo good.  Creamy and rich custard with great hints of vanilla.  Mike was very happy. So happy–that he had three.


Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee

Makes 5 Servings

2 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4  cup vanilla sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (I added a tad more vanilla since my vanilla bean was on the punier side)
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
2 quarts hot water
additional sugar for browning (a little under a tbsp per ramekin)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp, and salt into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside.  Allow cream to sit for 15 minutes to maximize the the vanilla flavor.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color.  About 5 minutes.  Add vanilla extract and whisk until blended.  Now,  add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually. Pour the liquid into ramekins. Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake just until the creme brulee is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.

Alton’s recipe suggests you remove the creme brulee from the fridge at least 30 minutes before torching the sugar on top.  I imagine this is to allow the custard to warm up a bit…but i did not do this.  We just couldn’t wait a second longer.  Top each ramekin evenly with a little under a tbsp of sugar.  Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top. Allow creme brulee to sit for a minute or 2 before eating (allows shell to harden).

Enjoy!

Adapted from Alton Brown and Allrecipes.com
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Sprinkles make me happy

Look, sometimes you just need a simple vanilla cupcake.  No, it’s not terribly exciting and no, I don’t think its ever going to be anyone’s first choice–but it’s still a necessity.  Keep in mind, that just because it’s simple, doesn’t mean it’s easy.  No friends, vanilla cupcakes are serious business.  You’re probably wondering how can an everyday flavor be this difficult or complex.  Well, the simpler the cupcake, the more apparent the flaws.  Do your cupcakes have enough flavor?  Are they moist?  What kind of crumb does your cupcake give?

Sprinkles just make me happy

Unique cupcakes always have one thing going for them–people don’t really know what to expect.  But if you’re going to produce a cupcake everyone is familiar with, you’re going to have to meet their expectations.  So..I am on a quest for the perfect vanilla cupcake.  I have a few different recipes I want to try, and I’ll keep you guys updated.  Trust me, a HUGE part of me is tempted to make a vanilla cupcake every week until I find “The One,” but it’s simply too cruel of a thing to do to my arteries.  Oh, butter, you crazy fattening thing, you!

Okay.  So review for Cupcakes #1 (recipe can be found here).  Boy did these cupcakes hit the flavor dead-on.  These cupcakes really transformed the room!  So aromatic…they made me salivate.  But I would expect nothing less from a recipe that demands 1 tbsp of vanilla extract and a whole vanilla bean.  To be honest, if this cupcake didn’t taste the way they did, I would have been a tad upset about wasting all of that vanilla goodness!  The best part about this recipe?  The cupcakes are covered in vanilla flakes–they’re stunning!  These were definitely very tasty!

But is this the perfect vanilla cupcake? I’m afraid I’m going to have to say no–but they are indeed very impressive!  Where did this cupcake fall short?  I found them to be a bit dry, which left me feeling a bit suckerpunched. Haha.  Well, actually…let me take 2 steps back.  They were a tad dry, but to no fault of this recipe, I think.  If my memory serves me right, my butter wasn’t exactly room temperature (though it was very close) since I was in a mega rush to finish these before guests arrived.  That being the case, I’m sure ultimately that lead to the overbeating of the batter.  And if you know cupcakes, you know that once the flour is added, that’s a bit time no-no.  In this case, I’m going to say that the extra 30 seconds may have made all the difference.   You should know that I’m giving this recipe the benefit of the doubt, but aside from the moisture, I wasn’t super super happy with the crumb either.  These cupcakes weren’t tough, they just didn’t have a satisfying bite to them.

I think I would definitely give this recipe another go–with some minor adjustments.  I’ll be making some vanilla cupcakes for the 4th of July using a hybrid of different recipes I’ve come across while doing my research, so I’ll make sure to update you!

I just topped off these pretty things with traditional buttercream.

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

( I can’t really tell you how many cupcakes this makes since I did a combo of regular and mini-sized cupcakes!)

3 cups cake flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
16 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1¼ cups buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt.  Whisk together and set aside.  Add the butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the bowl of the mixer with the butter and reserve the pod to make vanilla sugar.  Beat on medium-high speed for a few minutes, until light and creamy.  Make sure to scrape down the side of the bowl and mix for an additional minute to make sure batter has been thoroughly mixed.

Add the sugar to the butter mixture, ¼ cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition.  Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Combine the buttermilk and the vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.

Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners, filling each about 2/3 of the way full.  Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pans 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Once cool, frost with desired frosting.

You can't really see the glaze, but it's there.

You can actually see bits of the vanilla!

I hate scones. I know, how can you not be a fan of dry, thirst inducing lumps of wasted butter and flour?  Maybe scones are an acquired taste.  Maybe they’re meant to be dry in order to properly accompany tea or coffee.  I love the idea of it all, so believe me, I’ve tried scones a handful of times only to pass of the bitten scone to a friend.  That is, until I had the petite glazed vanilla scones from Starbucks (of all places!).  I had to order them.  They were so tiny and perfectly glazed.  The disdain for scones side-stepped briefly thankfully, and a minute later, I was a believer.  I thoroughly enjoyed them.  They were more moist than the typical scone, but moreover, they were iced with a vanilla glaze.  Truly, how can you go wrong? Fast forward a year, and I stumble across a recipe that models itself after that Starbucks scone that opened my eyes (I guess that’s not 100% true.  I still hate scones).

These vanilla bean “scones” are delicious.  Moist and flavorful–so much so, I refuse to recognize them as true scones.  Keep them stored in an air tight container, and they keep for a few days without losing the overall quality.  Thank goodness, considering you’re going to have to use two vanilla beans to make these.  I wasn’t thrilled about how much vanilla this recipe asked for (vanilla beans aren’t exactly wallet friendly), it certainly was well worth it in the end.  The aroma that enveloped my apartment alone, was well worth it!

The original recipe calls for a thicker, sweeter glaze.  I chose to lighten it up, considering the scone itself is plenty sweet.  Either way, outside of the occasional donut, I’m not big on super sweet breakfasts’ during the work weak.  While my scones lacked the thick white glaze that makes the scone oh-so-pretty, I wouldn’t change a thing.  A lighter glaze really allows the butter and vanilla shine through.

Two butter knives to sub the pastry blender--very time consuming 😦

All the caviar scraped out of the vanilla bean

Glaze

Vanilla Bean Scones

SCONES
3 cups All-purpose Flour
⅔ cups vanilla sugar (if you don’t have this on hand, use regular sugar and use 2 vanilla beans instead of the 1 listed below)
5 teaspoons Baking Powder
½ teaspoons Salt
2 sticks (1/2 Pound) unsalted butter, Chilled
1 whole Large Egg
¾ cups Heavy Cream (more If Needed)
1 whole Vanilla Bean

GLAZE
1¾- 2 cups Powdered Sugar, Sifted
½ cup Whole Milk
1 whole Vanilla Bean
Dash Of Salt

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Split the vanilla beans down the middle lengthwise and scrape out all the vanilla “caviar” inside. Stir caviar into cream. Set aside for 15 minutes.

Sift together flour, 2/3 cup vanilla sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Cut cold butter into pats, then use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into the flour. Keep going until mixture resembles crumbs. Even with a pastry cutter, this will take you close to 10 minutes.

Mix vanilla cream with egg, then combine with flour mixture; stir gently with a fork just until it comes together.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and lightly press it together until it forms a rough rectangle. (Mixture will be pretty crumbly.) Dust rolling pin with flour and roll into a rectangle about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick. Use your hands to help with the forming if necessary.

Use a knife to trim into a symmetrical rectangle, then cut the rectangle into 12 symmetrical squares/rectangles. Next, cut each square/rectangle in half diagonally, to form two triangles.

Transfer to a parchment or baking mat-lined cookie sheet and bake for 18 minutes, removing from the oven just before they start to turn golden. Allow to cool for 15 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

VANILLA GLAZE

To make the icing, split one vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the caviar. Stir caviar into milk; allow to sit for a while. Add salt and mix powdered sugar with the vanilla milk, adding more powdered sugar or milk if necessary to get the consistency the right thickness. Stir or whisk until completely smooth.

One at a time, carefully dunk each cooled scone in the glaze.  I only glazed one side, but you can certainly douse the entire scone in the glaze.   Transfer to parchment paper or the cooling rack. Allow the glaze to set completely, about an hour.

Adapted from Pioneer Woman
(Petite) Vanilla Bean Scones

Yields: 12 large scones/ 24 petite scones

Original recipe can be found here.


For the scones:

3 cups flour

2/3 cup sugar

5 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

2 sticks (1/2 lb.) unsalted butter, chilled

1 large egg

3/4 heavy cream, more if needed

2 whole vanilla beans


For the glaze:

3 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1/2 cup whole milk

1 whole vanilla bean

dash of salt


Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside. Split the vanilla beans down the middle and scrape out all the “caviar” inside. Stir into the cream, add the bean halves and set aside for 15 minutes. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut the cold butter into small pieces, toss into the flour, and use a pastry cutter or fork to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles crumbs.


Mix the vanilla cream with the egg, then combine with the flour mixture. Stir gently with a fork until the mixture comes together, using more heavy cream if needed. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and lightly press together until it forms a rough rectangle (mixture will be pretty crumbly). Use a rolling pin to roll into a rectangle about 1/2 – 3/4 inch thick. Using your hands to help form them if necessary. Use a knife to cut into 6 even squares. If you want large scones, cut these squares diagonally to make triangles. If you want petite scones, cut each square cross wise twice to make 4 pieces each (24 total). Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 – 18 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool for 15 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.


For the glaze. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the caviar. Stir the caviar into the milk and allow to sit for a while. Mix the powdered sugar with the vanilla milk, adding more powdered sugar or milk if necessary to get the consistency the right thickness. Stir or whisk until completely smooth.