Last time I made vanilla cupcakes, I tossed in so much extract as to get an aftertaste from it. Dean said it reminded him faintly of lemon. This time, I’m armed with vanilla beans and some of that flavorful organic sugar.
Super-Vanilla Cupcakes, Take 2
1 1/4 cups milk
1 vanilla bean
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cups white granulated sugar
3/4 cups light tan granulated organic sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 1/2 cups flour
A few hours before starting the rest, carefully slit open the vanilla bean and scoop out all the itty bitty seeds. Combine the seeds, pod, and milk in a small saucepan on very low heat. Cover and let it sit for a few hours. (I let mine sit for about 3 and a half hours. The heat should stay low to keep the milk burning or boiling off. I left it as long as possible to allow the milk to take some flavor from the pod as well. )
Later, preheat oven to 375°F.
Cream together butter and sugars. (Why the two sugars? The organic sugar is great for the extra flavor it packs, but because the grains are a wee bit bigger than the white sugar, I didn’t want to use only that.)
Mix in eggs, vanilla, salt, and baking powder. The alcohol in the vanilla extract has some chemical effects on the batter, so we need to keep at least a bit of that, despite the addition of the actual bean.
Strain the pod out of the milk. Try to keep as many of those little black specks as possible. Gradually add flour and milk, alternating between small amounts of each.
Bake cupcakes for 18-20 minutes.
These turned out about as vanilla-ey as the last batch, but I think I want to go further – a lot further. I want these cupcakes to taste like vanilla bean ice cream. Next time, I think I’ll go for two or three beans.
One thing I found interesting was that the cupcakes behaved very differently when baked in a clean cupcake tin with paper liners vs. a buttered metal cupcake tin. The paper liner cupcakes rose normally into dainty, evenly rounded cupcakes. The sides of the buttered tin cupcakes rose very high, then eventually folded over as the middle rose, resulting in cupcakes that looked like corn muffins.