I prefer the liquid extract in cakes while the bean paste is reserved for cookies, icing, custard, scones...in essence for anything in which the little black flecks come through.
And these have served me well. But yesterday I bought a 350ml bottle of vodka to which I added 6 vanilla pods picked up in Finland.
The next step was splitting the pods in half (lengthways) at which point I stopped to have a good look.
I found them fascinating close up and had lots of fun poking and prodding the pods - visually and texturally, they're quite interesting. Tastewise, the beans had a hint of vanilla without any sweetness which led to the conclusion that sugar must be added in mass production. I'd like for my finished product to be as close to "the real thing" as possible and so would add sugar to mine too but I'm unsure about what stage to do this (?).
Finally, the pods were put in the bottle (and stored in a cool, dark place - thanks for the reminder Kassie!) and that was it!
Now for the difficult bit - waiting.
I'm not absolutely :-) sure how long to wait but my plan is to shake the bottle every few weeks until the colour resembles "the real stuff".
My first impressions: the colour change starts immediately; there are LOTS of pod bits in the bottle (coffee filters will eliminate this issue I'm sure). If 'my vanilla' works as it should, the plan is to buy just the vanilla bean paste and substitute this for vanilla extract in future.
And just because, I slipped a third of one split pod onto my sugar bowl for some vanilla infused cups of yum.