Review of Pure Vanilla recipe cookbook by Shauna Sever:
We've never really understood why it is used to describe something boring or bland tasting. Some of our favourite snacks and meals use this versatile flavour so we were delighted to review Pure Vanilla: Irresistible Recipes and Essential Techniques by food writer and dessert catering owner Shauna Sever.
She starts with a fascinating history of it from the discovery of the orchid and bean pods from Totonac Indians in Mexico where it soon entered their mythology. It then was popularised by the Aztecs and their vanilla recipes were taken to Spain by the Conquistador Hernan Cortes. From here it was introduced to Britain thanks to the sweet tooth of Queen Elizabeth I who loved cakes and puddings. It soon made its way to America from France when Thomas Jefferson was the Ambassador (there is more written about this in the crème brulee section on our French cookbook page). Other pages of background reading include the growing and cultivation of the beans and harvest of the pods.
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Chapters take place in modern day Aberdeen, at the Noose & Monkey bar and restaurant as well as His Majesty’s Theatre and Garthdee. Other scenes take place at Tidworth and during the Napoleonic War.
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From this introduction Shauna dives straight into how to get the best from whole beans, pure extract, paste, powder and ground vanilla.
Proving how versatile this flavour is she includes breakfast recipes like slow cooked spiced oatmeal and light crisp waffles in Pure Vanilla. The ingredients and instructions are easy to follow and sharp appetising photographs are included of most of the dishes by photographer Leigh Beisch whose pictures regularly appear in the Delicious Living Magazine.
Cakes like big mama cheesecake reveal the hearty treats that Shauna Sever includes in her vanilla book. She describes this as a show stopper.
There is a strong US theme throughout and this gives the UK some wonderful snacks and meals that they may not normally bake. One favourite example is the twinkie bundt cake which is a giant sized cream filled moist sponge.
Biscuits include Gramma's heirloom sugar cookies from an old family recipe and biscotti which are perfect with a cup of coffee.
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Like all of her books, which includes Marshmallow Madness, she provides some great tips to make the most of each vanilla recipe. For example for the creamy rice pudding recipe she suggests:
"Give this pudding a warm, boozy, glow by whisking in two large egg yolks and adding a shot of dark rum during the last 5 minutes of cooking."
Other desserts include bean semi freddo whilst Irresistible sweets include nougat candy bar bites, lollipops and coconut bean ice cream.
Her vanilla cookbook finishes with alcoholic drinks like martini, mojito and a refreshing fruity iced tea.
It is a one stop book full of creative ideas for this flavoursome ingredient. It was first published in 2012 by Quirk Books Philadelphia.
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Dips & Sauces