Browned Butter Vanilla Biscuits

I think I’m starting to develop a problem. I cannot stop making and finding uses for browned butter. Literally cannot do it. I’m addicted.

The way things are going, I think I’m going to have to add a completely separate category to the Recipe Index JUST for browned butter recipes.

If you’re new here, then there are probably two things that you should know for the purposes of this post: first, browned butter is a sauce. Butter gets melted over low-medium heat until it separates into butterfat and milk solids. The solids sink to the bottom of the pan and toast over the heat until golden brown; that is browned butter. It is one of the greatest culinary inventions, ever.

Second, I have been experimenting with it on and off on this blog for the past two and half years on this blog. Take practically any baking recipe you want that uses butter, and you can substitute the regular stuff for browned butter to kick up the flavor and taste 1000 notches. It works. Believe me, I’m on a personal mission to test and keep retesting the theory in as many different uses as I can and haven’t been disappointed yet.

Butter is truly the essence of a good biscuit. The quality of the butter, but more importantly, how you handle it, can literally be the difference between success or failure. I learned that lesson the hard way. I’ve also been pretty transparent on here about my journey with learning how to bake good biscuits and finally reaching a place where I felt confident in my abilities. I have a tried and true method that I know works. I don’t like messing with it.

But, because I had seen the wonders that browned butter had done for so many other recipes I’m comfortable with–and how it had actually improved them– I decided to make an exception and depart from my normal routine of biscuit making just enough to swap out regular butter for browned.

Spoiler alert, it went marvelously.

So what did I do differently?

Well, obviously there was an added step of browning the butter before doing anything else. If you’ve seen or used any of my previous biscuit recipes, you’ll know that I insist upon freezing butter for biscuits as well. So that kinda created 2 additional steps: making the browned butter, then placing it in the freezer to give it enough time to completely harden to be cold enough to use in the dough.

The second change I made was to use self rising flour rather than all purpose. This was a change that I had actually been meaning to test out for a while. Self rising flour is flour that already has leavening agents (baking powder and salt) sifted into it. I wanted to see if making the swap would result in a higher biscuit rise. After making those adjustments, I pretty much kept things the same.

I’m sitting here trying to adequately describe what that first bite was like. I’m really trying, y’all. But honestly, words just don’t do it justice. The depth of flavor that browning the butter gives to the biscuit is unbelievable. They taste like…warmth. Not the temperature. The flavor. Rich, golden, savory warmth. The texture is flakey and soft.

They make me want to dance. I really can’t be much more clear about it than that.

If you don’t bake with browned butter, please change that. Please.

Browned Butter Spice Cake

Browned Butter Spritz Cookies

Browned Butter Banana Bread

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Browned Butter Vanilla Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from Taste of the South

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 3 cups self rising flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar (light or dark, doesn’t matter)
  • 1 cup buttermilk (plus more if needed)
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

 

Directions

Melt the butter over medium heat in a 2 quart saucepan. Let it cook and watch it closely until 3-5 minutes until the butter begins to foam, forms a golden brown color and browned bits form on the bottom. (It will have a sweet, nutty smell). Immediately remove it from the heat. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then place butter in a small bowl, and freeze until solid, about 2 hours.

In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and brown sugar and stir together with a fork.

Tap the small bowl of butter on the counter to shake it out (it should be in one large block) Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk with the vanilla.

Use a large fork and a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add additional buttermilk until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or a clean smooth countertop with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)

Use a bench scraper or a large sharp knife to divide the dough in half. Roughly shape each half into a square. Stack one of the halves on top of the other and use a rolling pin to roll it together into one mass. Repeat this process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle. (This is a process of layering so that the biscuits will bake flaky).

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven.

Sprinkle your work surface with flour and unwrap the biscuit dough out onto it. Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to trim the edges of the rectangle. Use a square cookie cutter, or a knife to cut the remaining dough into squares, about 2″ each.

Remove the cut biscuits to the baking sheet you’ve lined with parchment paper, placing them rather close to each other (it will help them rise higher). Freeze until cold, about 15 minutes.

Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #280, cohosted this week by Ai @ Ai Made It For You and Angie@FiestaFriday.

Cardamom Cream Bundt Cake

Did you know that you don’t necessarily need butter to bake a cake? It’s true. The function of the butter (the fat) in the recipe can be substituted with several other ingredients.

Carrot cakes are usually made without butter, using some kind of oil (vegetable, olive, canola) as the fat. Jewish Honey Cake of course goes without butter, using honey or a combination of honey with oil as the substitute. I’ve also seen paleo cake recipes that make up for it with a combination of eggs, almond flour and tapioca.

Today’s recipe was the first time I’d ever seen or heard of heavy whipping cream being the entire substitution for butter in a cake recipe. I was curious to see how it would turn out, both because of the ingredient swap and the changes it would make to the methodology of putting the cake together. Because there’s no butter, there obviously wasn’t going to be a creaming step (where the butter and sugar is beaten together until fluffy).

However, one major plus side of the no-creaming method is that the cake then becomes one of those rare gems that don’t necessarily require a handheld or standing mixer to make. If you’ve got two hands, you can put it together very easily. The dry ingredients are combined first, then five eggs (yes, five) are added into the dry ingredients. This seemed weird to me too, as the cake batter at that stage resembled clumpy breadcrumbs. But it’s fine: keep going.

An important note: if you’re using a 10 cup Bundt pan, I do not recommend pouring in all of the batter–it’s a bit too much batter for the pan. Plus, with five eggs in a batter there’s definitely going to be some rise to the finished cake. I filled my pan up about 3/4 of the way, then divided the rest of the batter into muffin cups and made them into cupcakes. If you have a 16 cup Bundt pan, then you should be able to bake it all into one cake, no problem. But if not–don’t risk it. The last thing you want is a mess of spilled cake in your oven. I know from past personal experience that it is the WORST to try and clean up.

I was very pleased with this cake. Cardamom is one of my favorite spices because it can go both ways; sweet and savory. In this case, it gives the cake a sweet yet zesty kick that pairs well with the vanilla. The cake’s texture was one that I wasn’t used to; the heavy cream gives it a ribbon-y appearance that may make you worry that’s it’s not ‘done’ in certain areas, but don’t worry. So long as you got it up the correct temperature, (195-200F) I promise you that it is. The heavy cream substitution creates a very dense, moist texture. It was different, but I still really liked it and I think that you will too.

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Cardamom Cream Bundt Cake

Recipe Courtesy of NordicWare

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, or preferably vanilla bean paste

For Glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • A few tablespoons of milk

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 10 cup Bundt pan and set aside.

In a large bowl using a handheld mixer (or the bowl of a standing mixer with the flat beater head–OR, you can use a large wire whisk and stir with your hand) combine the first five ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, cardamom and salt).

Add eggs one at a time and blend until they become incorporated with the dry ingredients (it’ll start to look like clumpy breadcrumbs.)

Pour in the heavy cream into the mixture with a steady stream. Add the vanilla.

Pour batter into the bundt pan, making sure it’s only 3/4 full to prevent overflow and spillage. (You’ll have leftover batter. I made the excess into cupcakes.) Lift and tap it down on the counter a few times (this will prevent air bubbles from forming).

Place the cake pan on a sheet pan, then bake on the middle rack of the oven. Bake 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. (Cake is done once it reaches an inner temp of 195-200 degrees Fahrenheit).

Cool in pan for 20 minutes before inverting on a cooling rack to cool completely.

For glaze, combine the powdered sugar and cardamom with enough milk to form a smooth, thickish glaze. Use a fork to drizzle it over the cake. Allow to set up until hardened, about 15 minutes before serving.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #273, co-hosted this week by Mollie @ The Frugal Hausfrau and Angie@Fiesta Friday.

Vanilla-Red Pinwheels

Hey, everyone. If you’ve been following me for a while, then you’ll know that this is the time of year where I start the 12 Days of Christmas–an annual series of twelve baking recipes I post during the month of December that remind me of the holidays. Growing up, my mom and my grandmother baked a LOT of delicious things at Christmastime.

Apart from loving to eat it, I also just loved the overall atmosphere that all of their baking created in the house. Now that I’m an adult, I guess this series is my way of recreating that atmosphere for myself, and for the people who I love. I look forward to it every year, and I hope y’all enjoy it too. (Also, if you’re interested in viewing the series from past years, you can search the 12 Days of Christmas tag to find past recipes for the past few years.)

I knew even in the early days of planning this years series that I was going to make these. They’d been on my radar for a while for two reasons: first, I just can’t resist a butter cookie. Second, pinwheel cookies are so pretty, they’re nearly hypnotizing. I remember the first time I saw one. I just stared at it, becoming more and more determined with every passing minute that I was going to figure out how it was made asap and make a batch for myself.

I know that pinwheels look like they’re super elaborate, but the actual construction of them isn’t that difficult. Honestly, the ‘trickiest’ part is making sure the dough is at the right temperature for when it’s time to combine & roll the two different colored doughs together. Too cold and it will crack when you try to roll it. Too warm and it won’t hold the pinwheel design of the two colors. Don’t worry, though: because this is a basic butter cookie dough, it is very forgiving. If you think the dough is too cold, simply leave it out for a few extra minutes before you try to roll. It you think it’s too warm, leave it in the fridge for a little bit longer. You’re going to find that happy medium, I promise.

A lot of pinwheel recipes are either a vanilla-chocolate mix of doughs. Some are a single vanilla dough where one half has just been dyed with food coloring. For mine, I went with a vanilla dough and a red one that I flavored with a Red Velvet Emulsion from LorAnn oils. I also flipped the order of layering in my second log so that there is a vanilla wrapped cookie dough AND a Red Velvet flavored one. Also, don’t you dare throw away the scraps from when you trim the doughs! Those pretty tie-dye patterned cookies you see below are made solely from my scraps. I gently kneaded them together with my hands into a log, then wrapped it up with the others. When you cut it, you can see that the colors marble together and hold their design even after baking. Nothing wasted.

These cookies are excellent; like a classic butter cookie, they’re slightly crisp with a crumb that melts in your mouth. The two flavors work beautifully together. And (of course), they make one heck of an impression when presented on a plate. Not too shabby a start for the 12 Days of Christmas, eh?

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Vanilla-Red Pinwheels

Recipe Adapted from Simply Recipes

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups white granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of LorAnn Oils Red Velvet Emulsion (you can also use a strawberry or raspberry flavoring. A combination of 1 of these flavorings with Red food coloring will also work)

Directions

In a medium sized bowl combine the flour with the salt and baking powder. Stir together with a fork, then set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or using a handheld one), cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg, stirring just until combined.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in batches, stirring just until combined.

Scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto a plate. Divide it in half. Set one aside, and place the other back into the bowl. Add the the 1 teaspoon of Red Velvet emulsion and stir until it’s uniform in color. Remove the Red Dough from the Bowl.

Divide the Vanilla Dough into 2 portions. Divide the Red Dough into 2 portions. You should now have four balls of dough. Roughly shape each one into a rectangle, then wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate them for about 30 minutes, or until firm.

Remove one of the vanilla doughs from the fridge. Sprinkle a clean surface (like a pastry mat or a piece of wax or parchment paper you’ve taped to your counter) with powdered sugar. Lay a piece of parchment paper down, place the dough on top of the paper, then place a second piece of parchment on top of that. Roll out the dough until it’s about 6 x 12 in size. As your roll, occasionally move it around/flip it, just to make sure it doesn’t stick. When it’s the right size, (keeping it sandwiched between the parchment paper)transfer the rolled out dough to a baking sheet.

Repeat this process with the other doughs. Place the baking sheet with the doughs in the freezer for 15 minutes. It should be firm, but not stiff–too stiff and it won’t roll properly.

Remove one of the vanilla doughs and one of the red doughs. Peel away the top parchment paper from them both. Flip the red dough on top of the vanilla dough so that they are sandwiched together. Peel the bottom paper from the raspberry dough. Trim the edges so that the 2 doughs line up. Carefully and tightly roll from the long end into a log, peeling away the bottom layer of parchment as you go.

Repeat this sandwiching and rolling process, but this time put the red dough layer on the bottom so that when you roll the dough, the red dough is on the outside.

(There is an excellent step by step pictured process of this, located here.)

Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (Don’t throw away the scraps from the trimmings! I gently kneaded them together with my hands and formed a tie-dye patterned log that I also refrigerated with the pinwheel cookies.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a sharp knife or bench scraper to slice the cookies into slices 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Place them about 1 inch apart on the sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until they begin to just turn golden brown on the bottom & at the edges. Allow to set up for 60 seconds on the baking sheet before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

(Note: no one oven is the same, & different baking sheets bake cookies differently. Keeping this in mind, I will ALWAYS test bake one cookie before baking entire sheets of the whole batch, just to get a good idea of how long they should be in the oven and if I need to adjust the way I’ve cut, rolled them out, etc. I highly recommend that you do the same.)

I’ll be linking this post up to this week’s Fiesta Friday #252, co-hosted this week by Alex @ Turks Who Eat and Zeba @ Food For The Soul.

DAY 1: VANILLA RED PINWHEELS

French Vanilla Trifle Cake

Yesterday, I turned 29.

I am now in the last year of my twenties, and it feels odd. I’m not sure how old I feel exactly, but it isn’t one year shy of 30. But regardless of how I feel, this is where I’m at. My birthday usually passes without much celebration or fanfare and I’m fine with that. There is however, one celebratory act that since I learned to cook/bake, does happen every year without fail.

I bake myself a cake.

*Could* I just buy some cake from a bakery or a store? Sure. *Could* I ask a relative or friend to bake one for me? Of course.

But see, here’s the thing: nowhere I could buy it from and nobody I could ask (with the exception of my grandma) could bake me a better cake than the one that EYE would bake. I’m not even bragging. Those are just facts.

So, I do it myself. And I must say, I don’t disappoint.

These are some of the cakes I’ve made for my birthdays over the past few years on the blog: there’s this one. And this one. This one was *especially* good. And I still fantasize about this one.

I’m just good at birthday cakes. And this year was no exception.

The very first cake that I fell in love with as a kid was a plain old vanilla cake. When it’s done well, there’s just nothing like it in the world. I had a lot of options for this year, but ultimately I decided to just go with that: a really, really good grown up vanilla layer cake.

How do you guys think I did?

The cake itself is flavored with both vanilla AND almond extract. The almond may seem like a surprise addition, but trust me: that’s what’s going to give it that little extra ‘something’ that would make you swear it was made in a bakery and not your own kitchen.

To make the cake more ‘grown up’ and to cut down on the sweetness of the vanilla buttercream, I decided to include a tart fruit filling. I had a jar of ligonberry preserves from IKEA that I was itching to try and as ligonberries remind me of a very sweet cranberry, I thought they would pair very well with strawberries. I was right.

This cake was so good. It was a delicious birthday present to myself & I guarantee that it will make a delicious present to anyone you decide to make it for–yourself included.

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French Vanilla Trifle Cake

Recipe Adapted from Southern Living

Ingredients

For Cake

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoons almond extract
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk

For Filling

  • 1/2 cup ligonberry preserves (You can find them at IKEA. You can use strawberry or raspberry preserves as well.)
  • 2 quarts fresh strawberries, diced

For Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 48 oz. powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 to 5 tablespoons milk

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour four 2 inch cake pans and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour with the baking powder, and salt. Stir with a fork and set aside. In a small bowl combine the buttermilk with the vanilla extract and set aside.

Using the paddle attachment of a standing mixer (or a handheld one) cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Alternate between adding the dry ingredients to the butter mixture with the wet ingredients. Start and end with the flour mixture, and make sure you use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing.

Divide evenly between the two cake pans on the middle rack of the oven for 32 to 36 minutes. (Cake is done at an inner temp of 190-195 degrees Fahrenheit). Cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and to wire rack and cool completely (about 1 hour).

For Buttercream Frosting: Beat together the butter, vanilla and salt until creamy. Gradually add the powdered sugar, alternating with the milk 1 tablespoon at a time, beating at a low speed until blended and smooth after each addition until it reaches your desired consistency.

To assemble: Level the tops of each cake. Line the edges of a cake platter with strips of parchment paper to keep the platter clean while you assemble the cake. Place one cake layer on the platter. Pipe a border of frosting around the edges of the cake. Spread the layer with about 2/3 cup of buttercream. Top with first the sliced strawberries, then spread the preserves on top of that with the spatula. Top with the remaining cake layer. Spread entire cake with just enough frosting over the top and sides to make a crumb coat. (It should be thin).  Refrigerate cake for one hour until the crumb coat is firm. Finish spreading the remainder of the frosting on the cake. Refrigerate for an additional hour, just to let buttercream firm up. Remove the parchment strips from the platter before serving.

Linking to this week’s Fiesta Friday #243, co-hosted this week by Catherine @ Kunstkitchen’s Blog and Becky @ Bubbly Bee.

Vanilla Wafers

This week’s episode of the Cooking is My Sport show is entitled “But Jess…Is It Really Worth It, Though?”

Thank you for tuning in. It’s going to be a good one.

Over the past few years on the blog, I’ve shared recipes for things that many of us could, theoretically buy from elsewhere rather than make ourselves. It is easier and more convenient go to our local grocery store and buy something with little to no trouble.

I could buy quite a few of the things that I post here–if not from a grocery store, then from a bakery or something. And though even EYE I am not going to go to the trouble of making something like, puff pastry, for the most part, I really do cook or bake most of what we eat. Why do I do this?

Because I believe it’s worth it. I really do.

If you ask, “But Jess, is it REALLY worth it, though?” to bake Christmas cookies rather than just buying some in a store, I’m going to say yes. It’s worth it.

Ask “But Jess, is it REALLY worth it, though?” to bake your own cake from scratch, then go to the trouble of making your own buttercream and skip the store bought cake with that greasy, lardy crap, I’m going to say yes. It’s worth it.

Come to me with, “But Jess, is it REALLY worth it, though?” to make biscuits from scratch when they’re available at the local chicken joint, I am DEFINITELY gonna say, yes. It’s worth it.

(My biscuits are better than any others that you can buy anywhere else anyway. Including Popeyes. Yeah, I said it.)

I shared the recipe for my grandma’s banana pudding on the blog years ago. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever made–but up until recently I had always made it with store-bought vanilla wafers. I’ll be honest and admit that is the way that she makes it, and it tastes fantastic. But recently, I decided to see what it would be like if I went the extra mile and made the pudding with vanilla wafers that I made by myself. Any guesses on how it went? Anyone?

OHMYGODGAMECHANGER.

From the beginning, I had two major concerns for the recipe as a whole: the short, crisp texture of store-bought wafers and the intense vanilla flavor. If I wasn’t going to get a comparable or superior result to the store-bought version, it just wouldn’t be worth it in the long run to make them. I’m pleased to report that this recipe delivers on both. They are crisp, but the butter keeps them from being too crunchy or crumbly. They’re not too sweet, and that vanilla flavor is spot on. Even if I had no intention of making banana pudding at all, I still would’ve considered this time well spent–it’s that tasty a cookie.

Go ahead and ask me: “But Jess…is it REALLY worth it, though?”

Yes. It’s worth it.

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Vanilla Wafers

Recipe Adapted from Williams Sonoma

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

Directions

In a small bowl, combine the flour with the salt, stir together with a fork and set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer (or using a hand-held one) cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg yolks, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you mix. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Stir the flour into the butter mixture, just until blended. (If it’s a little dry, you can add a few tablespoons of milk, one at a time, just until it holds together.

Form the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Sprinkle a rolling pin and clean work surface (like a pastry mat, wax paper) with powdered sugar.

Divide the dough into 4 equal portions. Keep the other 3 in the fridge while you roll out the 1 portion to about 1/4 inch thick. Use a small (1 1/2 inch), round cookie cutter to cut out rounds. Place the rounds on the sheet pans.

Refrigerate the cookies on the pans for about 20 minutes. Sprinkle each one with white sugar, then bake the cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until the edges and bottoms are golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer them to wire racks and let cool completely.

(Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #242, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Jen @ Apply To Face Blog.)

Vanilla Wine Braised Beef

I remember a long time ago, way back before I could even cook at all, that I really liked vanilla extract. Whenever I saw my mom take it out, I knew that something delicious was going to get baked. You know how some little kids love the smell of permanent markers? When she wasn’t looking I would sneak into the kitchen, open her spice cabinet and just smell the vanilla extract. I’ve always loved what vanilla can do to sweet treats, and now that I bake a lot myself I absolutely will not do without it.

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I first saw savory applications of vanilla in recipes. I was intrigued and admittedly, a little unsure. I tried to envision what a savory vanilla dish would taste like, but couldn’t really get a grasp on it by thinking alone. The obvious concern is that it’s going to make the food taste too sweet, which then makes me nervous about wasting money on ingredients–if you bake with vanilla often, then you know it isn’t too cheap.

But y’know, as with most other things you’re afraid of trying, the best way to get over it is to just… try it out and see what happens. This was my first attempt to put vanilla into a savory dish, and I’m happy to say that it went pretty well.

It starts out with a spice rub that you’re going to let marinade on the meat overnight. It’s also got soy sauce (my go-to ingredient for just about ALL of my marinades by the way), and a splash of orange juice. After you sear the meat the next day, you put together the braising sauce that’s made of wine, tomatoes, and the vanilla extract. Don’t worry if it seems a little…’tomato-y’ at first. Once it gets time for the flavors to develop in the oven, they do balance out.

I think that this is a very, very good recipe to use for those of us who aren’t used to eating vanilla savory-style. It’s an easy braise with easy to find ingredients, and actually very little hands-on time. I paired this beef with the Sweet Potato Challah Buns I made a little while back and they made absolutely DELICIOUS sandwiches. Just saying.

Sharing this at this week’s Fiesta Friday #233.

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Vanilla Wine Braised Beef

Recipe Adapted from Nielsen Massey

Print

Ingredients

For Spice Rub:

  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Seasoned salt and black pepper
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Soy Sauce
  • About 4 lbs of chuck roast, London broil, or tri-tip steak cut into large cubes

For Braise:

  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 (28 fl. oz.) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15 fl. oz.) can tomato sauce
  • juice and zest of 1 orange
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • Seasoned Salt and pepper
  • A few dashes of soy sauce

Directions

Combine the dry spices together in a small bowl with a fork. Place the beef cubes into 2 freezer gallon size bags. Sprinkle soy sauce onto the surface of the beef and use your fingers to gently massage it in. Divide the spice mix evenly between the two bags. Seal the bags, then toss around until the meat is evenly coated. Place both bags into a bowl and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in the bottom of a Dutch oven over high heat. Sear the meat on all sides, 1-2 minutes per side until browned. Keep the seared meat in a bowl covered with foil, as you may need to do this in batches so as not to crowd the pan.

Deglaze the pan with about 1 cup of broth, then add the onions. Saute until the bits are loose and the onions are softened, about 5-7 minutes, then add the garlic. Continue to cook until most of the liquid is cooked off and the garlic is fragrant. Temporarily remove from the heat.

In a small saucepan combine the wine, sugar and the vanilla. Whisk together over medium heat and allow to reduce by half. Remove from heat.

Pour the rest of the broth, the dice tomatoes, tomato sauce, reduced wine, orange zest/juice, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, and the rest of the spices into the Dutch oven with the onions/garlic. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, allow to cook down for about 10-15 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning (But flavors will also further develop while braising).

Place the beef cubes back into the Dutch oven, cover then braise in the oven for 2– 2 1/2 hours until beef is fork tender.

Vanilla and Mocha Cookie Sandwiches

Okay, so look. I know what you’re thinking. What is the point in taking the time and effort to make your own sandwich cookies when there is a big name brand company that pretty much has the monopoly on sandwich cookies, and have gone out of their way to mass produce just about every possible flavor known to man and tried to jam it into a sandwich cookie you can run to the store and just buy?

I can think of several reasons.

First, when it comes to store-bought sandwich cookies, I feel like it’s a real hit or miss situation–there isn’t much space for ambiguity. They’re either really really good, or really bad. Both the cookie and the filling has to be right and that’s a harder thing to accomplish than you might think. That huge company has put out a LOT of different flavors of sandwich cookies, but in my opinion there are only a select few that have achieved that perfect sweet spot of delicious cookie and filling. The filling is where many mass produced sandwich cookies go terribly wrong–it either tastes too sweet, too artificial, or both.

I think that making your own sandwich cookies gives you the chance to correct the mistake of overly sweet and artificial filling, while also giving you the opportunity to get creative with your own taste buds and create something that you may not be able to find in stores. I’d be willing to bet that you’ll be able to pronounce every ingredient that’s in them.

And if none of the above are good enough reasons, then there’s always bragging rights–which, is more than enough for me.

I decided to make my own sandwich cookies, two ways. I knew going into it that I first wanted to make a perfect vanilla sandwich cookie. Most of the ones that are on the market now just don’t do it for me. (Yes, including the one from the huge name brand.) The cookie itself is usually okay, but that filling just kills it for me every time. I knew that what I was looking for was a cookie that was delicious enough all on its own, and a filling with a robust vanilla flavor and a smooth, non-pasty consistency.

The base is a butter cookie that I’ve made many times in the past. It’s quite simple, but you’d be surprised how the simply made baked goods will knock the fancy ones down from the pedestal. It has a buttery rich flavor and a tender crumb that melts in your mouth. For the filling I used a mixture of powdered sugar, butter, milk and vanilla. And listen guys. I want you to use REAL vanilla bean paste. I’m not above using extract but I insist that this time you go with the good stuff. You really can taste the difference and your taste buds will thank you for it.

The second flavor is where the coffee addict in me finessed its way into these cookie. I kept the same butter cookie for the base, but the filling gets a few teaspoons of instant espresso powder and liquid coffee in place of the vanilla and milk. Then, because coffee and chocolate flavors enhance one another, I decided to drizzle the top of the cookies with melted chocolate. What do you get when you combine coffee & chocolate? Mocha, that’s what. And there you have it.

I knew that these would be pretty good when I made them, but listen. They are REALLY good. They surpassed my expectations. They’re better than anything I’ve had from the store and I’m not trying to brag by saying that; I’m just being honest. I made these a while ago and I’m still giving myself a pat on the back for how they turned out, so if you’d like those kinds of bragging rights I’d suggest you give these a try yourself. Sharing at the Fiesta Friday #215, co-hosted by  Laurena @ Life Diet Health and Alex @ Turks Who Eat.

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Vanilla & Mocha Cookie Sandwiches

Recipe Adapted from Genius Kitchen

Ingredients

For Cookies

  • 2 cups unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla bean paste, or 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 4 cups all purpose flour

For Vanilla Filling

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • At least 1/4 cup of milk, divided

For Coffee Filling

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • At least 1/4 cup of your favorite flavor of coffee, divided
  • Melted chocolate, optional

 

Directions

In a medium bowl combine the flour and salt together in a bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld one, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg yolks one at a time, using a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla.

Gradually add the flour mixture in about 1 cup batches, stirring just until combined. (It may be a little dry and if so, you can add in a few tablespoons of milk at a time, just until it comes together.) Shape dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight,

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into quarters, keeping the other 3 in the fridge while you work. Dust a clean surface (like wax paper or a pastry mat) with flour. Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Using a 2- to 2 ½-inch round cookie cutter, cut the dough into rounds and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart. Using a ¾- to 1-inch round cookie cutter, cut out the centers from half of the cookies. Reroll and cut the scraps as necessary.  Note: Make sure you’re cutting a ‘top’ cookie and a ‘bottom’ cookie each time you stamp, just to make sure you have an even number of cookie sandwiches. Also, don’t throw away the centers: they make wonderful mini cookies. 

Place the sheet pans in the freezer for around 10 minutes. Sprinkle the tops with white sugar. Bake in the oven on the middle rack for 14-16 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Allow to cool on sheet pans for 60 seconds, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

For Fillings: In two separate bowls stir together the sugar, butter, and/or vanilla and/or espresso powder. Drizzle in the milk in the vanilla bowl 1 tablespoon at a time and the coffee in the other 1 tablespoon at a time until the filling reaches a smooth and desired consistency.

Divide the cookies in half (half for vanilla, half for coffee) Spread about a heaping 1/2 tablespoon of filling onto each bottom cookie (make sure the bottoms face up), then place on the tops (bottoms facing down). Gently press to make sandwiches. You may drizzle the coffee flavored sandwiches with melted chocolate if desired, then allow them to set for about 15 minutes until chocolate has hardened.

(Note: no one oven is the same, & different baking sheets bake cookies differently. Keeping this in mind, I will ALWAYS test bake one cookie before baking entire sheets of the whole batch, just to get a good idea of how long they should be in the oven and if I need to adjust the way I’ve cut, rolled them out, etc. I highly recommend that you do the same. )