Homemade Vanilla Extract: Winners!

I would like to start off by saying that I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. Amongst other things, I was the recipient of an Urban Cheesecraft kit, a shiny new immersion blender, and a handmade cherry pizza peel of the freakin’-gorgeous variety. Needless to say, I’m psyched.

Second, I cannot fully express how surprised and delighted I was by the feedback from everyone on my vanilla extract giveaway. After publishing the post last Tuesday, I spent the remainder of the evening in a mild panic, thinking, “What if no one cares? I’ll feel like such a fool!” But my paranoia quickly subsided when I was greeted by a dozen lovely comments in the a.m., and so many more over the next few days. Thank you all so much. If I could, I would give extracts to everyone! And though I cannot do that, what I can do is give away a few more! Six, to be exact. (Lucky for all of you, my friend set consists primarily of non-baking dudes, so I have plenty of homeless gifts!) And so, without further ado, the winners are . . .

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Mint & Raspberry Patties

I’ve been seeing recipes for homemade peppermint patties recently, which I find very exciting. But you know what I like better than peppermint? Regular ol’ mint. When I set out to make these candies, I envisioned something akin to an Andes mint, in patty form. And while I was at it, I figured I would make some raspberry ones as well.

I think candy is one of the best edible gifts to give. Cookies, breads, and cupcakes are all delicious, but candy is an entirely different level of impressive. And for good reason. It requires attention, patience, and a mild amount of anal-retentivity. Thank god I am extremely anal retentive, which cancels out my short attention span and lack of patience.

These candies turned out quite well. And despite the amount of cursing that occurred while I was trying to temper chocolate at 6:30 p.m. when I should have been focusing on dinner, I actually did have a lot of fun making these. When I begin to get a semi-tedious culinary technique down, that’s when the television narrator starts running in my head. “Notice how Carey places the candy on the very edge of the fork before dipping it into the chocolate . . . ” And in the end, the effort is worth it when you hear someone say, “Really? You made these?”

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Homemade Vanilla Extract: Giveaway!

Way back in mid-October, I’d already decided on the treat-trifecta I would be doling out to friends and family during the holidays: vanilla extract, handmade orecciette, and candied citrus peels. It is currently t-minus 3 days to christmas, and I have completed one of those items. Well, one and a half . . . ish. I made one gift bag of orecciette for a yankee swap; it took up three hours of my time and a majority of my counter space. Doing that again, for a dozen more gifts? Nuh uh. Not happening. And as for the citrus peels, watching a pot of boiling sugar water for several hours and cleaning stickiness off of everything in my kitchen is pretty much at the top of my list of Things I Don’t Want To Do right now. But in my world, where ambition is constantly pitted against laziness-fueled procrastination, one out of three ain’t bad.

Because I love the idea of homemade vanilla extract so much (which—to give credit where credit is due—I originally discovered here), I really wanted to post this in late November / early December, so that you too might have a chance to make your own and delight all of the bakers on your gift list. It’s hard to find a more perfect gift for a habitual baker. Not only is it practical, adorable, and easy to make (once you’ve collected all the components), it is also virtually endless. Every time I run out of vanilla extract, I wind up in the baking aisle, begrudgingly scanning the bottles and trying to convince myself that it really is ok to spend $7+ on a tiny amount of liquid, because I will only be using it a teaspoon at a time. But this will be a problem no more! Once you begin to run low, you just add a little more vodka.

Anyway, since I’m way too late to inspire any of you to make this yourselves (for this holiday season, at least), I would like to give a few away! It’s the least I can do. Please forgive me for being lazy. I’ve got three up for grabs. Just comment on this post by midnight on Sunday. I will choose the three people at random, and announce the winners early next week. Hurray for free things!

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Gingerbread & Lemon Cookie Sandwiches

Around this time last year, I discovered that lemon and gingerbread are quite the tasty combination. There’s something about the tangy citrus flavor that compliments the spiciness of the ginger perfectly. And while gingerbread men are pretty cute, so are cookie sandwiches (and they don’t require tedious icing).

Since I’d just made a batch of lemon curd, I decided to combine that with confectionery sugar to make the frosting. If you don’t have lemon curd on hand, any soft lemon frosting will do (just mix lemon juice, confectionery sugar, and a little bit of melted butter until the consistency is to your liking). I prefer my gingerbread soft, so this recipe will yield a chewy cookie . . . eventually. I’ve made these a few times and found that they come out of the oven more like snaps, then soften up after 24 hours. So if you too like your gingerbread soft, I would suggest making the cookies a day in advance, storing them in an airtight container, and frosting them the next day. (However, I find if frosted and eaten immediately, they taste surprisingly like animal crackers!)

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Lemon Curd

Last Sunday was a bit of a bake-a-thon for me, yielding, amongst other things, coconut macaroons and leaving me with a number of leftover egg yolks. The last time I made macaroons, I used the leftover yolks for pudding. This time, I wanted to do something different. I’d never had lemon curd before, much less made it. But I’d recently watched The Egg-Files episode of Good Eats in which Alton Brown whipped up a batch in a matter of minutes, so I thought I’d give it a try myself.

Let me start off by apologizing for the lack of in-process pictures. I made this in a bit of a rush when I was getting ready to leave town for a couple days and remembered I still had the yolks in the fridge. I was already running a little late, only to fall even more behind schedule when I stopped to taste the finished product and realized that I needed to take pictures of it, so that I might pass the deliciousness on to all of you. I mean wow, is this stuff good! But what does one do with it? Many things, I imagine, though I haven’t been able to get past eating it with gingerbread, or just straight off my fingers . . .

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