17 November 2012

Weekend Cooking: Pure Vanilla by Shauna Sever

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Stand aside you deeper, darker, more loved chocolate. Vanilla is tired of being in the shadows and is ready to take center stage. Its current starring role is in Shauna Sever's beautiful, mouth-watering Pure Vanilla: Irresistible Recipes and Essential Techniques.

In a word, Sever's new cookbook is simply gorgeous. I love the cool, soothing lavender and cream theme; easy-to-read, yet playful fonts; and the stunning photography (by Leigh Beisch). But Pure Vanilla isn't just another pretty face; it contains both useful and fascinating information and doable, delicious recipes.

First of all, this cookbook isn't about skipping the chocolate. Instead it's a celebration of vanilla. Whether waffles, baked goods, candy, or drink, Sever's dishes showcase the bean in its many forms. And some, like the recipe I share below, offer up double and triple vanilla heaven.

For many home cooks, Pure Vanilla will be an eye-opener and the gateway to new kitchen adventures. Did you know that vanilla comes in many forms? My pantry holds pure vanilla extract, vanilla paste, and whole vanilla beans. Vanilla also comes powdered and ground. Furthermore, not all vanilla extracts are the same, and some people swear by Madagascar Bourbon vanilla, whereas others are interested in vanillas from Mexico, India, Africa, or someplace else. Yes, vanilla can be just as complex as chocolate.

There are so many fantastic recipes in Pure Vanilla, I really couldn't decide what to try first. Here are some I've flagged:
  • Vanilla Bean Bread Pudding
  • Vanilla-Stewed Fruit
  • Triple Vanilla Pound Cake
  • Vanilla Biscotti
  • Salted Vanilla Chip Oatmeal Cookies
  • Frosted Vanilla Almonds
  • White Hot Fudge (for ice cream)
  • Vanilla Martini
Frankly, I could have listed almost every recipe: doughnuts, iced tea, ice cream, cookies, cheesecake . . . you get the picture. The recipes are very straightforward, and Sever offers tips when needed. She also includes instructions on how to make your own extract, vanilla sugar, vanilla coffee creamer, and other useful mini recipes.

You may think that you'd never give up your chocolate, but that's only because you haven't yet seen Shauna Sever's vanilla creations. Pure Vanilla may just change your life.

Lemon-Vanilla Dream Bars
1 dozen
  • 10 ounces white chocolate, chopped divided
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla bean paste
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • ½ cup store-bought lemon curd
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat an 8-by-8-inch pan with cooking spray and line it with a strip of parchment paper that's 8 inches wide and 14 inches long, so there is an overhang on two sides of the pan; this will make it easier to remove the bars from the pan after baking.

Melt 8 ounces of the white chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring. Remove bowl from heat and stir in sugar and salt.

Whisk in eggs 1 at a time and then whisk in vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste. With a spatula, gently fold in flour; when just a few streaks of flour remain, fold in the remaining 2 ounces of white chocolate. Scrape batter into prepared pan.

Dollop lemon curd onto batter in 5 to 6 equal portions. With a knife, swirl curd into batter with a figure-8 motion. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean but not dry, 25 to 28 minutes.

Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Grasping the parchment overhang, lift out the entire block and cut into 12 bars.

Note: Sever suggests other flavors and types of spreads that would work well with these bars.

For more information about the cookbook, Shauna Sever, and vanilla, visit the Pure Vanilla page at Quirk Books. For recipes, photographs, and more, visit Sever's super blog, Piece of Cake.

Buy Pure Vanilla at an Indie or at a bookstore near you (link leads to an affiliate program).
Published by Quirk Books, 2012
ISBN-13: 9781594745966

Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: B+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).


rhapsodyinbooks 11/17/12, 6:09 AM  

Even though I will follow chocolate anywhere, it's more a thing of *needing* chocolate, whereas I *love* vanilla! Sounds like a great cookbook!

Uniflame 11/17/12, 6:13 AM  

I am so in! I would love to have a vanilla cookbook :)

Marg 11/17/12, 6:21 AM  

Lemon and vanilla! Yum!

Pierce 11/17/12, 6:46 AM  

I love both....and strawberry too (when it comes to ice cream)...but if I bring home one more cookbook....yikes!

Thanks for putting that recipe up. Very appealing.

jama 11/17/12, 7:20 AM  

I am swooning at the mere mention of vanilla! Love the scent -- I feel like a junkie sniffing whenever I open my bottle of vanilla extract.

Didn't know about the different forms of vanilla available. Thanks for the recipe and yummy review. Must find this book!

caite 11/17/12, 7:42 AM  

I love the taste of vanilla..and since I found out vanilla extract will last almost forever, I have a BIG bottle now, of really good stuff.

That bread pudding has my attention.

Alex 11/17/12, 8:01 AM  

I have a friend who would love this. I'll have to try it next time he visit. The Vanilla part of this book appeals to me.

bermudaonion 11/17/12, 9:08 AM  

I haven't tried this cookbook yet but I've looked through it more than once and agree that it is gorgeous!

Beth Hoffman 11/17/12, 9:56 AM  

Vanilla-stewed fruit? Yes, please!

Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez 11/17/12, 10:19 AM  

Now, I like chocolate. A lot. But there's times when I like vanilla even more! This sounds like a book I need to search out...I want to try everything you listed. Those bars...mmmm....

softdrink 11/17/12, 11:42 AM  

Triple Vanilla Pound cake?!? Yum! Of course I'd go straight to the really fattening stuff!

Esme 11/17/12, 12:01 PM  

wow-you have great participation this weekend. A vanilla cookbook sounds delicious.

Carole 11/17/12, 1:46 PM  

Now Vanilla in my view is much better than Chocolate - sounds like a great cookbook. Have a super week.

Vasilly 11/17/12, 2:32 PM  

I add graphic novels to your reading list and you add cookbooks to mine! :-)

Heather @ Book Addiction 11/17/12, 4:12 PM  

I'm not a huge chocolate person so this cookbook sounds perfect for me! YUM!

Christine 11/17/12, 4:19 PM  

SWOON! So glad you reviewed this cookbook. I adore vanilla. Adore it. I'm hoping my library gets this cookbook, but honestly, it looks like one I might like to own. Not only do I love vanilla, but I also love cookbooks that focus on one ingredient like this. I don't know why.. they just seem so special to me. :)

Julie P. 11/17/12, 6:32 PM  

I would take vanilla any day over chocolate so this cookbook is perfect for me!

Amber 11/17/12, 7:50 PM  

Those look good.

Peaceful Reader 11/17/12, 8:55 PM  

The cookbook looks beautiful and I love vanilla-I always add more than the recipe calls for so I think I would have fun with these recipes.

Joy Weese Moll 11/17/12, 10:48 PM  

Those look like lovely bars with some amazing flavors.

Joanna 11/18/12, 9:05 AM  

What a gorgeous book! I don't like white chocolate but some of the other recipes you mentioned sound lovely. Vanilla adds so much!

JoAnn 11/18/12, 9:07 AM  

I am a chocolate girl at heart, but this cookbook still appeals to me.

Laurie C 11/18/12, 9:47 AM  

I just bought my second big bottle of Madagasgar vanilla. Such a delicious aroma when you open the bottle! I definitely don't need another baking cookbook, but this one sounds great!

Amanda 11/18/12, 10:16 AM  

I love vanilla, but it has to be the right kind. I won't use the sorts of vanilla available in the US. Only vanilla from Mexico or other countries, which of course is technically illegal, but there is WAY TOO MUCH alcohol content in American vanilla. Vanilla beans are good, though. :)

SprungAtLast 11/18/12, 11:03 AM  

White Chocolate is my favorite :-) I'm late to the party this week but at least I made it!

Cecelia 11/18/12, 11:28 AM  

I need this cookbook - too many of my desserts are one-note chocolate something-or-others. Vanilla sounds like it's my next playground. *grin* Those bars look delicious!

booklineandsinker 11/18/12, 2:14 PM  

When it comes to flavors, less is more for me and vanilla is my go-to for ice cream flavors, cake batter, and even perfume (from the Body Shop!). I have purchased the really 'good' vanilla for baking but didn't realize vanilla paste was even a thing! Love this Weekend Cooking feature, Candace.

(Diane) bookchickdi 11/18/12, 2:53 PM  

I'm a vanilla girl myself. I always get vanilla ice cream. The Salted Vanilla Chip Oatmeal Cookies sounds wonderful!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 11/18/12, 4:45 PM  

I prefer vanilla to chocolate in cakes at least. I'd love to take a look at this book (off to see if the library has it).

Sue Jackson 11/18/12, 5:05 PM  

Mmmm...sounds interesting and yummy! I must admit...vanilla probably doesn't get enough respect at my house becaue I am such a chocolate lover (the darker, the better) - I've never really seen the POINT of so-called white chocolate! But my husband likes it, and lemon desserts, too, so I may try this recipe for him.

And, despite all my cooking and baking, I have never tried whole vanilla beans - nothing but plain old grocery store extract at my house. You have inspired me to broaden my vanilla horizons!


Book By Book

Tasha B. 11/19/12, 12:19 AM  

What's in the vanilla martini??

Trish 11/19/12, 8:52 AM  

I haven't had much time to play with this book yet but I agree that it's absolutely gorgeous and nicely laid out. I'm a big fan of vanilla--I prefer it over chocolate--so I have several flagged as well. But I think first up will be that twinkie recipe in the BUNDT. ;)

I hadn't had a chance to seek out Shauna's website, so thanks for providing the link. Looks equally as delicious!

Daryl 11/19/12, 10:54 AM  

my mouth is watering ...

Robin McCormack 11/19/12, 5:04 PM  

Okay, I'm hungry now. *grin* Adding this one to my christmas wish list.

carol 11/21/12, 10:51 AM  

I love vanilla! The cover alone drew my attention and then your list makes me feel I need this cookbook.

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