Something has gone awry in my homemade vanilla extract. For the past three months I’ve been steeping a vanilla bean in vodka in a well-sealed glass bottle in the dark recesses of one of my kitchen cabinets, a process I learned after buying a few vanilla beans on our honeymoon at Colonial Williamsburg 13 years ago. I’ve made countless batches of homemade extract since then, and they’ve all turned out well. Alas, this bottle had unpleasant globs of some unidentifiable substance floating in the otherwise lovely amber liquid, rendering it unusable.
Finding myself completely out of commercial vanilla (how that happened, I will never know), I resorted to the vanilla beans in my pantry. This is one of the many things I love about baking—that you can improvise. Although most cooks believe baking to be too restrictive, requiring precise measurements of this and that, I find it liberating to substitute vanilla extract with the scraped seeds of a vanilla bean, or to use up my miniature semisweet chocolate chips and mix them in with milk chocolate ones for this recipe. While I intend to scour the internet for various troubleshooting tips for making homemade vanilla, it seems that the bean did just fine.
- 12 tablespoons butter, softened
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup mashed very ripe bananas
- 1 vanilla bean
- 2 cups flour
- 1/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
- 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a 10 x 15 x 1 jelly roll pan; set aside.
In a mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for 30 seconds.
Add white and brown sugars, baking powder, and salt; cream together until fluffy.
Split vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds; discard the pod.
Add egg, mashed bananas, and vanilla bean seeds; beat until well-blended.
Add flour and beat until combined.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Pour batter into pan and smooth with an offset spatula to even out the top.
Bake for 25 minutes, until the top is totally set and begins to turn golden.
Cool completely in the pan; cut into squares and store in an airtight container between sheets of waxed paper.