vanilla bean macarons

berry macaron | wee eats

Macarons are probably the most finnicky cookie you will ever come across. So, in my laziness, I was overjoyed to learn that I could find them in freezer section of my local Trader Joe’s store. Of course, curiosity will always get the better of me, so I had to try to make them on my own.  Continue reading

homemade vanilla extract

vanilla extract 2

As a frequent baker, one thing I constantly go through is vanilla extract. And honey, let me tell you, that stuff ain’t cheap. At nearly $20 a bottle, it turns baking into quite an expensive hobby. But all that changed when I decided to take the leap and start making my own.

Vanilla beans are generally not too cheap on their own either, but a wonderful blog friend told me about a website called Beanilla that not only has great-priced vanilla beans, but they have lots of sales throughout the year too! I saved even more money by buying “Grade B” beans for the extract – they aren’t great for baking but they’re perfect for making extract.

To make your own extract, all you need is three things: vanilla beans, alcohol, and a container to put them in. It’s really that simple. I use Svedka vodka because it’s neutral, it’s relatively smooth (and it’s super cheap – about $16 for 1.75 liters), but you could use any type you like. You could also substitute bourbon, brandy,  whiskey, or rum in place of the vodka depending on what type of flavor you’re looking for. Vodka will produce the most neutral flavor for you, closer to what you’re probably used to using, where the others will give you more depth of flavor.

The ratio is simple So, let’s say I buy my 25 vanilla beans for $16, then I add my vodka. You can use from 4 to 7 vanilla beans per 8 oz of alcohol. I used 5 or 6 (depending on the batch) and they came out great. Assuming I use 5 beans per batch, I will get 5 servings from my 25 beans – about $5.36 per 8 oz of vanilla extract. Which beats the pants off of my usual go-to brand… and that’s assuming I only use the beans for that batch.

You see, I haven’t even told you the best part yet. The best part about all of this is that when my reserve gets low, I can just top it off with more vodka and give it a quick shake – and voila! More extract! That gives me an almost infinite supply* 100% pure vanilla bean extract, no additives or chemicals. All from the comfort of my own home. (Yes, I realize eventually the strength will diminish and I will have to get new beans eventually, but until then…)

homemade vanilla extract

Prep Time: 5 minutes


  • 4 to 7 vanilla beans
  • 8 oz vodka (or alcohol of your choice)
  • 1 non-reactive container (see notes)


  1. Wash & sanitize your container.
  2. Place vanilla beans into said container.
  3. Cover beans with alcohol.
  4. Close and give it a shimmy-shake.
  5. Yes, it's seriously that easy.
  6. Place container in a cool dark place (like your pantry?) and give it a shake about once a week for 6 to 8 weeks, until the alcohol turns a gorgeous dark brown color.
  7. At this point you can either a> strain the beans out using cheesecloth and transfer to another container or b> keep vanilla beans in the container and top off with additional alcohol as needed. Once your extract begins to lighten in color, you will need to add fresh vanilla beans to the mixture. I have not yet encountered this situation.
  8. Use in place of regular vanilla extract.


Mason jars work well for this, as do adorable swing-top bottles like the one pictured above.

To speed up the infusion process, you can chop your vanilla beans into smaller (1 to 2-inch) pieces.

irish soda bread pudding with vanilla bean creme anglaise

bread pudding 1047

Hello, friends.

Today is Sunday.

Also known as: March 16th.

Also known as: My Birthday! (/thunder claps)

But today’s post is not about my birthday, or the two cakes I made, or my new birthday toys. We can save that for Thursday.

Today, my friends, is about this:

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Bread Pudding.

With creme anglaise.

Made from your St. Patrick’s day leftovers.

No, not your corned beef and cabbage leftovers (although now I have a strange urge to create a savory corned beef bread pudding). This is made from your irish soda bread leftovers.

You know that bread we made last week? Well, chances are you didn’t eat the whole loaf, and if you haven’t tossed it by now it’s definitely stale.

Let’s not be wasteful, OK?  Not when there’s deliciousness to be had.

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This bread pudding was inspired by this beauty from Foodness Gracious, who is responsible for flipping the Irish soda bread switch in my head this year. Seeing that picture causing me to create last week’s tasty St. Patrick’s Day treat in the first place JUST so that I could use it to make bread pudding. The fact that the soda bread came out so tasty on its own was just a bonus.

So, transform your stale, old bread into sweet, creamy, deliciousness with the help of just a few eggs and cream. I bake mine uncovered because I enjoy the contrast of the creamy custard to the crunchy crust, but if you prefer a tender crumb through and through, cover yours with foil while baking.

Irish Soda Bread Pudding

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Yield: 1 11-inch (2 quart) casserole


    For the bread pudding
  • 5 to 6 cups bread cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 Tablespoon set aside
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • For the creme anglaise
  • 1 cup heavy cream or half and half
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract


    For the bread pudding
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 325F
  2. 2. Cut bread into 1-inch cubes and fill 2-quart casserole with bread. In a medium bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, milk, egg yolks, 1/3 cup sugar, vanilla, and salt. Pour over the bread cubes and let sit 20 minutes to allow the bread to absorb the milk mixture.
  3. 3. Sprinkle remaining tablespoon of sugar over the bread pudding and bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes, or until top is lightly browned and the center is set. When it is done baking, the outside should be set and pressing on the center should not release any liquid from the bread pudding. (Internal temperature should reach 165F degrees)
  4. For the creme anglaise
  5. 1. In a small saucepan, heat half and half over medium-low heat until bubbles form around the edges, about 6 minutes. You do not want the cream to full boil or simmer.
  6. 2. While the cream is heating, whisk egg yolks and sugar together in a small bowl until combined.
  7. 3. Once the cream is heated, whisk warm cream into the eggs a tablespoon at a time to temper the yolks.
  8. 4. Once about half the cream has been added to the yolks pour the entire egg yolk mixture into the pan with the cream and continue to heat over medium-low, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens.
  9. 5. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use. (Can be made 1 day ahead)
  10. Serve creme anglaise over warm bread pudding.


* You don't have to use irish soda bread, any cubed bread will do. I recommend challah or brioche.

* If your bread isn't quite stale yet, you can cube the bread and let it sit out for about an hour to dry out, or pop it in the oven and give it a quick light toasting.

* If using unflavored bread, I recommend adding some cinnamon to the bread pudding batter, because cinnamon makes everything better.

* Leftover slices of bread pudding can be stored, individually wrapped, in the freezer. Reheat in the microwave, covered, about 1 to 2 minutes on 50% power, checking periodically.

irish soda bread pudding |

mini vanilla bean scones

vanilla scone 6534

So, you may have noticed (or may  not have noticed, if you’re still searching for a new rss reader) that there was no Thursday Things yesterday.  I do apologize, I got back from vacation last week, but apparently not back from my “blog vacation” which lasted an entire week longer than the rest of my vacation.  You see, there’s this funny thing about going on vacation where I somehow come home to 234923842943 more things to do than there were before I left?

I am still doing laundry from vacation.   I thought I washed everything before we left but there is always more to do.  So much more…  It.  Never.  Stops.


In fact, I’m beginning to think that there’s a portal in the back of our washing machine that just throws the clothes back into the hamper.  Or Sophie is pulling them off of the hanger and just throwing them back into the hamper while I sleep.

sophie in the sheets

I’m not sure, but there is clearly some sort of mischief going on here.  After four days of doing laundry and cleaning I finally gave up and decided just to try again this weekend.

I had to clear my head, think about other things… like how we can get back to vacation land.  Or, since that’s not really the most attainable option, I decided to dream about my future career in a little bakery in a sea-side town like La Jolla, about having little elves to do all my cleaning and laundry, and about butter.

Lots and lots of butter.


Whenever you are feeling down, the cure is butter.  When you’re sad?  Butter.

Like 9 times out of 10 the answer is butter.

Except when you step on the scale after your week-long vacation of over-indulgence…  Nope, even then, when you realize that you have to return to real life and then you fall into a post-vacation depression, the answer is still butter.

I’ll just disguise this butter as breakfast, and put this glaze on top.  I won’t even know it’s there.


Yes, that should do just fine.

Plus, think of all the calories you will burn just working the dough, right?  Surely, that counts for something.

And we will make them “mini” because then they aren’t nearly as bad for you.  Mini makes it more cute and less bad for you.  Yup, sounds great.  A delightful breakfast, snack, or dessert for any day.

You know it’s a good sign when your breakfast can moonlight as dessert.

Oh, and we’ll talk more about the vacation later… Thursday, perhaps?  😉

Mini Vanilla Bean Scones

Makes: 12 mini scones, or 24 super mini (1-bite) scones

Printable Recipe

For the scones:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2/3 cups Sugar

  • 5 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt

  • 2 sticks (1/2 Pound) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled

  • 1 large egg

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste*

For the glaze

  • 5 cups powdered sugar, sifted

  • 1/2 cup milk

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste*

  • pinch (like 1/8 teaspoon) salt

Make the scones:

Preheat oven to 350˚F  degrees.  Stir 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste into 3/4 cup heavy cream and set aside.

In your food processor, pulse flour, 2/3 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Once mixed, add cubed cold butter and pulse with flour mixture until the mixture resembles crumbs.*

*If you prefer to do this by hand, sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together, then cut in the cubed butter with a pastry cutter or two knives until it resembles crumbs.

Mix vanilla cream with egg, then combine with flour mixture; stir (or pulse, if using processor) gently just until it comes together.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and gently pat it into the shape of a rectangle. (Mixture will be pretty crumbly.)  Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a rectangle about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick.

Use a knife to tidy the edges to make a pretty rectangle, then cut the rectangle into 12 equal-sized rectangles. Next, cut each rectangle in half diagonally, to form two triangles.

Carefully transfer triangles to a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 18 minutes, removing from the oven just before they start to turn golden. Allow to cool for 15 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Make the glaze:

Combine 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste with 1/2 cup milk, set aside for about 5 mintues.

In a medium bowl, put 3 cups of powdered sugar and whisk in the milk until thoroughly combined. Taste and add more powdered sugar to taste.  If the mixture thickens up too much on you, add milk as necessary 1 tablespoon at a time.

Carefully dip each cooled scone in the glaze, and place on a wire rack over a foil-lined baking sheet (to catch the drippies).  Alternatively you could drizzle the glaze in a pretty design, whatever you prefer.

Allow the glaze to set completely, about an hour. Scones will keep several days in an airtight container at room temperature, if glazed.

You can make them ahead by freezing the cooled (unglazed) scones, defrost at room temperature for several hours (depending on ambient temperature) and glaze once defrosted.

[ Adapted from The Pioneer Woman ]

cookie madness: nyo sugar cookies


On my quest to find the perfect cookie for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, I read a lot of recipes.  A lot.

So many recipes that I had to ban myself from reading anymore recipes.  And then I read more.  And banned myself again.  And again.

And then I was grabbing something from the pantry and noticed this recipe hanging inconspicuously from a bottle of vegetable oil.  I didn’t mean to read the recipe, it just happened.  All on its own.  Out of my control.

Next thing I knew all of the ingredients were on the counter and then… by then I was too far in.  There was no turning back.

These are like sugar cookies, but so much better.  So, so much better.  The secret?  Brown sugar.

Brown sugar cookies.  So simple.  So sweet.  So delicious.

Even Boyfriend who thinks that sugar cookies are “a waste of a cookie” loved these.  Amazing what a difference brown sugar makes.  Just look at how soft and chewy they are.


You’re drooling, I know.

It’s ok.  I won’t tell.  Just go into the kitchen and make these cookies.  Like, now.

Brown Sugar Cookies

[ Printable Recipe ]

  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Heat oven to 350ºF


  1. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and salt.  In a large mixing bowl, beat shortening and butter until creamy.  Add brown sugar, egg and  vanilla, continue to beat until light and fluffy.  Mix in flour, baking soda and salt.


  1. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart onto cookie sheet.  (I chilled my dough and then flattened it slightly before baking).


  1. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until golden brown (I kept mine closer to 12).  Cool on baking sheet on a wire rack 10 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack to finish cooling completely.


[ Adapted from the tag hanging on my bottle of Crisco ]