Any pastry chef or passionate home baker knows that using the best ingredients results in the best baked goods.That's why there's no comparison when it comes to homemade vanilla extract versus what's available at the store. Sure, the store-bought stuff is OK in a pinch, but once you taste the difference in those gooey chocolate chip cookies when using homemade extract, you'll never go back.
A homemade batch of extract calls for only two ingredients: vanilla beans and alcohol. You'll also need a bottle to store it in and a little bit of patience, since the liquid needs to sit for at least a month. But once your batch is ready to go, it should last you for months.
The first step is to purchase the vanilla beans. You can find high-quality beans online or at speciality stores. Pastry chef and cookbook author David Lebovitz also provides a great explainer on what to look for when buying vanilla beans; read it here.
Next, identify the type of alcohol you want to infuse; vodka (70 or 80 proof) is the most common, but you can also use rum, brandy or bourbon for more unique extracts. For the best results, select a middle-tier alcohol, something that's not cheap but also not super expensive. Lastly, you'll need a serialized bottle with a top.
The bean-to-booze ratio can vary depending on how strong you want the extract to be. Ina Garten's recipe calls for putting 12 vanilla beans in a tall jar and filling it with vodka to cover the beans. She recommends storing it in a cool, dry place for at least a month, but it can also stay for up to six. Play around with it until you find the ratio that's just right for you.
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