Autumn’s Sweetest Spice
As the air turns crisp and the leaves start to change, our thoughts drift to cozy sweaters, crackling fires, and comforting fall treats. For many of us, fall baking means rich seasonal flavors like pumpkin, apple, and cinnamon. But don't overlook the wonders of vanilla! Though we tend to think of it as a basic baking staple, vanilla can add its own special touch to all kinds of autumnal baked goods.
With its warm, subtly sweet aroma and flavor, vanilla enhances everything from pies and cookies to cakes and custards. Though typically used in desserts, vanilla also pairs nicely with heartier fall flavors like squash, sweet potatoes, and warm spices. Here are some of my favorite ways to use vanilla to elevate your fall baking:
Bake It into Pies
What would apple pie or pumpkin pie be without a dash of vanilla in the filling? The vanilla mellows out the tart apples and earthy pumpkin, while highlighting the spices. For the flakiest crust, add a teaspoon of vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste to your dough.
Stir it Into Cookies
Vanilla cookies are a fall staple. For classics like sugar cookies and snickerdoodles, vanilla provides a base flavor that complements autumnal mix-ins like cinnamon chips, dried cranberries, and orange zest. For chocolate lovers, try vanilla in chocolate chip cookies; it deepens the chocolate flavor.
Flavor Your Custards
Smooth, creamy custards are the perfect cool weather treat. Vanilla is a must for classics like vanilla pudding and bread pudding, but also try it in pumpkin flan or sweet potato pie. Infuse your custard with a vanilla bean split lengthwise for maximum flavor.
Blend it Into Milkshakes
For the ultimate fall milkshake, blend vanilla ice cream with pumpkin puree, maple syrup, and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. The vanilla ice cream tempers the spices and brings out the maple flavor. For a less sweet option, try vanilla almond milk blended with cold brew coffee.
Boost Your Breakfast Baked Goods
Start your fall mornings off right with vanilla-spiked breakfast treats. Vanilla adds flavor dimension to banana bread, coffee cake, muffins, scones, and more. Try adding vanilla bean flecks or vanilla sugar to oatmeal bake recipes.
Whip it Into Frostings
You can’t go wrong topping any baked good with a creamy vanilla frosting or buttercream. Vanilla frosting is especially nice on spice cakes, carrot cake, or red velvet cake. For more texture, whip real vanilla bean seeds into the frosting.
Simmer it In Sauces
Vanilla also shines in warm dessert sauces for seasonal fruits like apples and pears. Make a vanilla-cinnamon caramel sauce for apple pie, or vanilla bourbon sauce for pear tarts. Drizzle your sauce over individual servings.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to using vanilla in fall baking. Let your imagination run wild with different flavor combinations. Try vanilla with maple, hazelnut, blackberry, honey, or orange. And don’t forget garnishes like fresh vanilla bean, vanilla powder, or vanilla sugar.
With its sweet, fragrant flavor and aroma, vanilla is more than just a basic ingredient; it’s a warm and comforting addition to all your cozy fall baking. This autumn, give vanilla the starring role it deserves. Your friends and family will be asking for second helpings.