Ever since I began writing about food almost twenty years ago, the kitchen and pantry have provided my family members with a reason to bring home great souvenirs (for me!) from their wanderings all around the world.
When my husband Ted travels, whether far away or close to home, he brings cookbooks, food, spoons and occasional yard-sale props for my photography.
When my sister-in-law travels, she brings wooden spoons and kitchen tools for my collection. Sometimes they're not even meant for the kitchen; a recent plier-like wooden contraption turns out to be an antique glove-stretcher, but it works just like an elegant pair of tongs.
When my favorite cousin travels, he brings vanilla extract and vanilla beans, and other goodies for my pantry. This week he's returning from Tahiti, where he was able to view the recent solar eclipse.
Tahiti is a long way to go for an eclipse, but not so far to travel for some of the world's best vanilla. I'm already thinking of delicious ways to use it. Thanks, Cousin M!
What is vanilla extract?
A strong-flavored liquid made by macerating vanilla pods in ethyl alcohol. You can make it at home, or buy my favorite online, or go to Tahiti, Mexico or Madagascar, which produce almost all of the world's vanilla extract.
How/where to store:
In the cupboard, at room temperature, indefinitely.
More facts about vanilla extract, and ingredient photos, in The Perfect Pantry:
Vanilla extract (Recipe: ice cream chocolate chip cookies)
Whole wheat lemon-lime yogurt cupcakes
Adapted from Baking from My Home to Yours and imafoodblog.com, this version (adapted a bit more) substitutes King Arthur's white whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour, and lime for some of the lemon (you can make it all lemon). If you can't find white whole wheat, use all-purpose white flour; don't substitute regular whole wheat. Makes 36 mini cupcakes.
2/3 cup sugar
Zest and juice of 1 small lemon
Zest and juice of 1 small lime
2 cups white whole wheat flour (or unbleached all-purpose flour, or half and half)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup canola oil
2 Tbsp poppy seeds (optional; I omitted them)
For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners sugar
2-3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare a mini muffin tin with paper liners, or spray with baking spray (I prefer the spray for these tiny cupcakes).
In a large bowl, with a rubber spatula, rub together the sugar and lemon and lime zests until the sugar is moist and you can smell the fruit. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In another bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, lime juice, yogurt, eggs, vanilla and canola oil. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry, and with a rubber spatula gently and quickly stir to blend. Do not overmix. Stir in the poppy seeds, if you're using them.
Divide the batter evenly into the muffin cups.
Bake for 13 minutes or until the tops are light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool for 5 minutes, then remove from the tin and let cool to room temperature on a wire rack.
Place the rack with the cupcakes over a plate or platter, or over a sheet of wax paper.
In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners sugar with 2 Tbsp lemon juice. Add more lemon juice if needed to get it to a drizzling consistency. Use a spoon to drizzle the glaze over the cupcakes.
Other recipes that use vanilla extract:
Vanilla ice cream, from David Lebovitz
Vegan vanilla cupcakes with mocha icing, from Gluten-Free Goddess
Vanilla zucchini muffins, from Amanda's Cookin
Whole wheat vanilla pancakes, from Cooking with Amy
Scallop salad with sweet vanilla chili dressing, from Steamy Kitchen
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