On the FOURTH day of Christmas The Spice Trader gave to me:

VANILLA EXTRACT

Real vanilla extract has an addictive aroma that leaves one's mouth watering.

Vanilla is a member of the orchid family and  is a native of South and Central America and the Caribbean; and the first people to have cultivated it seem to have been the Totonacs of Mexico's east coast. Outside of it's native environment it has to be hand pollinated. Edmond Albius (1829 – 9 August 1880) was a horticulturalist from Réunion. Born as an enslaved person, Albius became an important figure in the cultivation of vanilla. At the age of 12, he invented a technique for pollinating vanilla orchids quickly and profitably.

It is still hand pollinated today and is why vanilla is one of the most expensive spices.

Even though vanilla is associated with sweets it can be used in savoury dishes and in drinks.

Here are a few suggested uses that you can include this morning or for dinner!

Fairy Milk - a drop or two in foamy milk makes a warm, special drink for everyone.

Vanilla Mayonnaise - a drop or two in mayonnaise makes a great dip for artichokes.

 Recipe for Strawberry Cardamom Pie

Dough:

  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 2 cups very cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • ¾ cup ice water (approx.)

Filling:

  • 8 cups fresh strawberries, hulled (about 4 lb)*
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp salt

Topping:

  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp cold water
  • 2 tbsp cardamom sugar or corse sugar, such as turbinado

Dough: 

In the bowl of a large food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse flour, sugar and salt until combined. Add butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal with pieces no larger than the size of a pea. With the motor running, slowly pour in the ice water (not the ice) until the dough begins to form a ball, adding more water, a little at a time, if necessary. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and divide into two equal portions. Shape into two 1-inch thick rectangles and wrap well with plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour or up to two days. (This recipe makes enough dough for two, double crust, 9-inch pies.) 

Filling: 

Leave any small berries whole, cut medium strawberries in half and quarter any large berries. Toss strawberries with granulated sugar, brown sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, lime juice, cardamom, vanilla, ginger and salt. Let stand at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes or until a bit saucy. 

Assembly:

Preheat oven to 350F degrees.

Unwrap one portion of dough and place on a lightly floured surface. Lightly dust the top of the pastry and the rolling pin with flour. Roll from the centre, outwards, rotating and making quarter turns often. Be sure to re-dust the surface, pastry and pin, as needed to prevent sticking. Roll out into a rectangle large enough to cover the bottom, and come up over the sides of a 15x10-inch baking pan. Place in the fridge until needed.  

Roll out the second portion of dough to the same size as the first. Using a pastry cutter or a sharp knife, cut the dough into ½-inch thick diagonal strips. Or do circle cutouts , or stars, or flowers!!

Stir the strawberry mixture and pour into the chilled crust. Spread filling evenly and brush egg wash over the edges of the crust. 

Place half the strips of dough diagonally over the filling. Weave the remaining strips, one at a time, in the opposite direction, under and over the first set of strips. Lightly press the ends of each strip into the edge of the crust to seal. Trim excess dough to just beyond the edge of the baking pan. Or overlap your dough creations to form a crust.

Crimp edges with fingers or tines of a fork to create a decorative border. Brush the lattice topping and edges with egg wash; sprinkle with coarse sugar. 

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbling. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for at least one hour. Pie can be stored at room temperature, loosely covered, for up to 3 days. 

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