Foodie Friday: Vanilla Dutch Babies
Servings: About 8
-3 tbsp butter
-¾ cup all-purpose flour
-¾ cup warm milk
-1 tbsp sugar
-2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
-pinch fresh ground nutmeg
-confectioners’ sugar for dusting
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (Fahrenheit)
2. Put butter in a large ovenproof, non-stick saute pan and place in the oven.
3. Meanwhile, combine the eggs and milk until the mixture is light yellow and no longer stringy, then gradually whisk in the flour, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt until you have a smooth batter.
4. Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven. The butter should be completely melted. Swirl it around to coat the inside of the pan completely (in the picture above, you can see that my pancake has a slight tear on the right side… this would have been prevented had I ensured that the pan was completely coated), then pour the remaining butter into the batter and whisk to blend. Pour the batter into the hot pan and return the pan to the oven. Bake until the pancake is puffed in the center and golden brown along the edges, 20-25 minutes.
5. Using a spatula, remove the entire Dutch baby from the pan and place on a cooling rack for a few minutes (this will allow the pancake to cool while still allowing steam to escape, preventing sogginess).
6. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and add toppings (fresh fruit, preserves, honey, syrup, whipped cream… the possibilities are endless) and slice into wedges to serve!
From ice cream to cookies to chocolate and scented candles, it’s difficult to imagine life without the presence of vanilla. It is without a doubt, everywhere in our lives, and it has become one of those ingredients that we sort of take for granted. But it may be surprising to note that at one point, vanilla was so difficult and expensive to obtain that the primary flavorings of choice in the western world were nutmeg and rose water.
Vanilla extract (when pure) is the flavoring pulled from the vanilla bean, a fruit of the orchid of the same name, which is native to Central and South America. One of the ingredients introduced as a result of the Columbian Exchange, it was greatly popular with the wealthy and nobility, though virtually inaccessible to those of lower station due to the difficulty in cultivating it outside of the Americas. This problem would be solved in the mid-19th century when it was discovered that the plant could be hand-pollinated in the absence of the symbiotic bee species of the native plant.
Today, vanilla is still cultivated by hand and is the second most expensive spice on the market (saffron being the most expensive) due to the intense labor and import costs (the majority of today’s vanilla being cultivated in Madagascar).
The uses of vanilla even after being introduced to Europe by Hernan Cortez were not limited to cuisine. The oils of the pods could be used as an aphrodisiac, dabbed behind the ear to encourage attracting a lover.
As a magical ingredient, we’d have to look at the Totonac legend regarding its creation. According to the legend, the Princess Xanat was prevented by her father from marrying a mortal man. But love ultimately won out and she fled into the forests with her lover. Both she and her lover were then hunted and beheaded, and where their blood mingled on the ground, the first vanilla orchid sprouted. Though rather depressing in its beauty, it gives natural vanilla an interesting place in magical use.
In general, vanilla (from here on out, I’ll simply be saying “vanilla” as opposed to “natural vanilla” because it’s clearly what I’m focused on… I’ll get to talking about artificial vanilla in a bit) is considered to be an excellent ingredient for love, lust, healing, and luck spells. The scent helps to calm the senses and open one up to romantic suggestion, while also serving to heighten libido both in men and women. In healing, the scent and flavor tends to promote calm and relaxation (there’s a reason why it’s the main flavor of many comfort foods), and on top of that, the oils were once believed to help treat stomach ailments.
Because the vanilla pods were used in tributes to the Aztecs after the Totonacs were invaded, the spice has come to also be associated with luck and money, and is often uses in sachets and food spells that encourage both in one’s life.
But say we take it a little bit further. Keep in mind that at this point, I’m focusing on some of the ways I use it in my practice, as vanilla is easily unique from witch to witch in its usefulness. In addition to love and healing, I also associate vanilla with cleansing and beauty. The calming properties of vanilla are excellent in helping to reach the state of mind needed to help dispel negativity, and the plant itself is rather beautiful (though I may be biased due to my love of orchids). Vanilla cosmetics therefore are excellent for glamour spells!
The majority of products today that are labelled as “vanilla” are artificially flavored, using a chemical called vanillin, and at this point, the witchy community is often a bit divided. Many, including authors such as Scott Cunningham, consider the artificial extract to be magically inert and encouraged acquiring natural extract and pods. On my end, however, I see it as a more or less decent substitute for the frugal, thrifty, or budget-oriented witch. This is because of the flavor and scent associations. They help trigger the memories, emotions, and mental states that we associate with vanilla, and therefore serve much the same purpose as the natural thing. So if you’re reading this article thinking “how the hell am I supposed to afford that,” know that you’re not required to buy natural vanilla.
That said, those who have access to the natural thing have much more versatility in how it can be used. Place the seeds or the pods in sachets, jars, bottles, and bags; use vanilla oils and extract for offerings, consecrations, candle dressing, or as an aphrodisiac; bake or cook to your heart’s content, taking advantage of the flavor, properties, and even vanilla’s ability to enhance and lift other flavors!
So when looking at that vanilla Dutch baby during breakfast, consider how amazing vanilla truly is before taking that first bite!
May all your meals be blessed!
Blessed Be! )O(