Vanilla extract is one of those staple ingredients that finds its way into nearly every baked good, especially chocolate. Someone once told me that one of the central flavors in chocolate actually is vanilla. Close your eyes and sniff the vanilla extract with chocolate in mind, and I think you’ll notice the similarity.
A popular variation on vanilla extract is vanilla crush, a blend of vanilla extract and vanilla beans. Alternately, you can make your own extract with a simple mixture of vanilla beans and vodka. If you buy your vanilla beans in bulk online (i.e. eBay), it ends up being cheaper than those tiny expensive bottles of extract, and although it takes about 8 weeks, it’s worth the wait.
So what do you do if you’re in the middle of a recipe and you realize you’ve run out of vanilla? You have a few options – you can substitute vanilla beans, which take some time to scrape and can get a bit messy (although it makes your fingers smell great) or you can run down to the store and pick up a tiny bottle of expensive vanilla extract – but if you’re in the middle of a recipe and you need it NOW, or you don’t have the time or energy to leave the house, that may not work so well.
There is a third option… a secret ingredient that can stand in for vanilla. If you happen to have some in the cupboard, it may save your life. Or at least your chocolate chip cookies.
The ingredient is…
Wait for it…
I happened to have some whiskey in the cupboard from a recipe I had a while back – I think it was for barbecue sauce? So when I ran out of vanilla and didn’t have time to go to the store and didn’t have any vanilla beans, I did a Google search and discovered that WHISKEY can stand in for vanilla extract! I’ve actually been using it ever since, mostly because I’m lazy and cheap and I think it’s ridiculous to spend $6 on 4 ounces of liquid that I can make myself. I actually do have the ingredients for vanilla extract now, both the vanilla beans and the vodka – it’s just a matter of remembering to put them together, which somehow has continued to slip my mind.
Plus the whiskey is working great, nobody has noticed any “off flavor” (real extract is made with alcohol anyway, so it’s not too different), and no, nobody has gotten drunk off my chocolate chip cookies.
I’m thinking now I may use whiskey as the base for my extract instead of vodka – it may give it a little extra flavor boost. Maybe I’ll try both and compare.