Today I’m thinking about one of the deep mysteries of being a cook – what the heck does vanilla add to the mix? Particularly at Christmas, vanilla seems to be in everything but the bath (and there too sometimes!) – but it remains a cooking mystery to me. The amount in any given recipe is usually nominal, and in the volume of some recipes it seems against the odds that it could possibly add anything – but, based on experimenting when there was a shopping malfunction and we ran out of vanilla, the taste always seems wrong without it. No doubt someone out there in googleville can enlighten me, but in any case, experience says don’t leave it out!
So those thoughts led me back to vanilla everything – choux pastry flavoured with vanilla, filled with vanilla flavoured whipped cream and dusted with a vanillan sugar chaser. Here’s one I prepared earlier, and you can too – choux pastry is really a good place to start with pastry, and – lacking patience – pretty much where I end with pastry through most of the year! This stack looked lovely, while it lasted, on a rather nice seasonal serving plate that was a present from my sister Roslyn.