Chef Time!

Chef Time!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Secret and A Confession

Recently, several people have came to me, wondering what they are doing wrong with the desserts that they have made. They would tell me that they don’t taste like the ones that I have made. Well, there is a secret to what I do, and now I must make a confession.
I have been a very naughty Chef, for I never included any of my secrets in any of my recipes. That is until now. When I write the recipes and hand them out, as well as post them on this blogsite, I would go and not include my tiny little secret.
I make my own extracts, and I don’t use just any type of sugar. When my recipe calls for sugar, I will use vanilla sugar (I make my own, it’s cheaper than the store bought). So in this blog, I will show you how to make your own extracts and vanilla sugar.
So please forgive me and I hope we will all continue to cook and bake together.
I use these extracts and sugar for all my cookies,cakes, pies and cheesecakes.
How to make Orange Extract
If you often use orange extract to add a strong citrus flavor to baked goods, you may find the small bottles you purchase at the grocery store to be expensive. For the price of one orange and a little vodka, you can make a whole cup of orange extract at home. Commercial orange extract contains alcohol, water and orange oil, but you can use orange zest in place of the oil to make homemade orange extract.   
Zest an orange thoroughly, but avoid removing the white part of the peel. If you don't have a zester, use a vegetable peeler or a small sharp knife to carefully remove the orange part of the peel.
Measure ½ cup vodka and ½ cup water into a glass jar and add the orange zest. Screw the lid on the jar and gently shake to mix the contents.
Allow the mixture to steep for at least three days, and for as long as five days, before using it. Place cheesecloth or a coffee filter over another jar and pour the extract through if you want to strain out the zest.
Store the orange extract for up to a year in a sealed jar.

How to Make Lemon Extract
Lemon extract is one of those groceries that is so easy to make at home and so much cheaper! But for some reason no one does it. In these economic times, it's time to start making more things from scratch!   
1 large Lemon
½ c. Vodka
Vegetable peeler
Use your peeler to peel only the yellow part. Do not peel any of the white pithy part of the peel as this would make it bitter. Place in a jar.
Pour ½ cup vodka over the lemon peels in the jar. Screw on lid and shake.
Store in a dark place for two or more weeks. This will allow as much of the intense flavor of the lemon peel to be absorbed by the vodka. Every day or three shake the jar.
Remove the peels and use as you would commercially available lemon extract!
How to Make Peppermint Extract
You can make a peppermint extract from leaves of the peppermint plant. Peppermint extract is best when made from dried leaves rather than fresh leaves. Always choose the best quality organic peppermint leaves available. An extract can never be better than the plant material used to make it.
Chop, or macerate, ¼ cup of dried peppermint leaves. This can be accomplished using a food processor, grinder, or mortar and pestle.
Place the chopped peppermint leaves in a sterile glass jar. Cover the peppermint leaves ½ cup vodka, apple cider vinegar, or glycerin. Any of these three liquids can be used with adequate results. Add ½ cup of filtered water. Cover with a tight fitting lid.
Allow the peppermint to extract into the liquid for 2 weeks. Shake the mixture daily to aid in the extraction.
Strain the peppermint leaves from the liquid with a strainer, or cheese cloth. Discard the spent peppermint leaves. The components of the peppermint have now been extracted into the liquid and you can use this peppermint extraction alone or as a base for preparation of herbal syrups and honeys.
How to Make Vanilla Extract
Why make your own vanilla extract? Well let’s see. It’s easy to make. You’ll never run out of vanilla again. It might even be economical, given that you’ll never run out of it. It’s fun to watch the extract change colors? I don’t know. Sometimes we just make things for the heck of it.
Did you know that each vanilla bean comes from an orchid that has been pollinated by hand? Once the vanilla seed pod has developed, it must be hand picked as well. After picking the curing process takes several months. So if you’ve ever wondered why vanilla extract, and especially vanilla beans, can be so expensive, this is why.
3 vanilla beans
1 cup vodka
glass jar with tight fitting lid
Use kitchen scissors or a sharp paring knife to cut lengthwise down each vanilla bean, splitting them in half, leaving an inch at the end connected.
Put vanilla beans in a glass jar or bottle with a tight fitting lid (mason jars work well). Cover completely with the vodka.
Give the bottle a good shake every once in a while. Store in a dark, cool place for 2 months or longer.
Lasts for years. You can keep topping it off with vodka once in a while as you use it, just remember to give it a good shake.
How to Make Vanilla Sugar
Inexpensive white sugar infused with a single vanilla bean or pod can produce endless rich rewards—from cakes to ice cream.
There are some ingredients that are worth the extra pesos you have to plunk down for them, and vanilla is one of them. Not the extract-y liquid that comes in tiny dark brown bottles at your local grocery, but rather the pure, unadulterated bean plucked from the exotic orchids that produce the pricey, fragrant spice.
One way to stretch your pennies on pure vanilla—while still reaping all that glorious flavor—is making your own vanilla-infused sugar. The resulting sweetener can be used in everything from a cup of tea or coffee to baked goods to morning oatmeal.
To make vanilla sugar, using the back of a knife, scrape the seeds of a 1 whole vanilla bean into 2 cups of sugar. Pour half of the sugar mixture into an airtight container; add the vanilla bean and pour the remaining sugar over. Seal with a lid and let the mixture sit in the pantry for two weeks or so before using.
How to Make Vanilla Sugar Without the Vanilla Beans
To make Vanilla Sugar without having to use Vanilla Beans (Which are rare and expensive in Grocery Stores) just use Vanilla Extract and Sugar in a ratio of one teaspoon of Vanilla Extract to every two cups of regular granulated sugar. Then spread the well mixed vanilla sugar on a baking pan lined with wax paper to dry.
Chef’s Note: You can also make many other flavored sugar, by substituting the vanilla with either zests from lemons or oranges, as well as any other citrus fruit. You can also do this using peppermint leaves, by macerating the leaves first and then placing them in a sealed container of sugar. But remember to allow the zests or leaves to sit with the sugar for awhile like maybe two weeks or so before using.

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