Several recipes for cakes and other desserts require vanilla sugar. I have already made one of the two vanilla sugars in the book and this is the second. The best thing about this one is that not only is it concentrated, but it is also instant.
Whenever you are baking do try to use real vanilla pods, or at the very least the Madagascan vanilla extract. Don’t ever use the essence. If you do, I’ll come over to your house and smack your arse. Although Madagascar is the main producer of vanilla these days, it is actually a Mexican plant; an orchid in fact. Mexico had the monopoly on vanilla production because, although it is easy to grow the plants, fertilization of the flowers was only possible in Mexico itself. This is due to the symbiotic relationship between the vanilla plant and its pollinator; the Melipona bees of the area. It wasn’t until a 12 year-old slave discovered a way of artificially pollinating the flowers with a bamboo stick could vanilla farming leave Mexico. I wonder if the lad got a handsome reward. I doubt it….
Anyway, I have prattled on enough….
To make this vanilla sugar, cut two vanilla pods into one centimetre bits and put them into a blender along with four ounces of caster sugar. Whiz the mixture so that you get a grey-looking powder. Cut your vanilla sugar with eight ounces of caster sugar and keep it in an air-tight container. You’ll probably need to cut it further when you come to use it for recipes – this all depends on how much vanilla flavour you like. FYI it was thought of as an aphrodisiac, so don’t go crazy, unless you want your dinner party to turn into a scene from Eyes Wide Shut.
#266 Concentrated Vanilla Sugar. It’s hard to give this a mark really as it’s an ingredient rather than an actual food. We shall see when I come to use it in future recipes…
Sorry for the lax attitude towards the blog everyone, but I have an excuse! I have now moved into my apartment in Midtown Houston, and I have been getting it filled with furniture. Unfortunately I have no table and chairs yet, so I can’t really get people round for dinner parties just yet. Plus I have pretty basic kitchen equipment at the minute – though everyone at work has been brilliant giving me kitchen stuff, so hopefully all will be up and running as normal pretty soon.
There are still several easy recipes to do in the meantime and this one couldn’t be simpler and is another recipe from Robert May (see this post). Cinnamon toast has been a staple sweet snack in England for a good few hundred years and the recipe hasn’t really changed much, and makes a very good substitute for cinnamon Danish pastry, should you get a midnight craving, as they are actually very similar – especially if May’s method is used because it uses a paste of sugar, cinnamon and claret.
I managed to get a bottle of Texan claret from the most amazing off-license (liquor store) called Spec’s, which is apparently the largest one in the whole of the United States and I actually got lost in the red wine section! It deserves an entry to itself. It is just a good job I don’t have alcoholic tendencies. Anyways, for those of you who know nothing about wine (this includes me, by the way), claret is usually red wine made in the Bordeaux region of France, so technically there’s no such thing as Texan Claret. Funnily enough, the Frenchies don’t recognise claret as a term itself; it’s a very British term used generally from May’s time to describe deep red wines such as Bordeaux and before that in medieval times for spiced wines, such as hippocras. As an aside, there is no recipe for hippocras or even mulled wine in English Food, so I shall try and hunt one out for the blog closer to Christmas.
Anyway, enough of my blabbering, here’s the old recipe that is not simply buttered toast sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar like these days:
Begin by making the topping by simply making a paste from sugar and cinnamon in the proportions of one tablespoon of sugar to one teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Use the claret to make a nice spreadable paste. Butter some slices of toast, lay them on a baking sheet and spread the paste over them. Warm through briefly in a hot oven for about 5 minutes and serve it forth!
#257 Cinnamon Toast. Forever an English Classic that is much improved by going back to the original way of doing things, although I can’t imagine people going out and buying claret just for the recipe (myself excluded, natch). However, I’m sure if you ever have any red wine knocking around you can use it to make this very simple and delectable sweetmeat. The important thing is to make a paste – it melds together and forms a slight crust, so if you have no wine, use anything else, even water or milk would do, I reckon. I ate four slices, what a pig. 7/10.