September 27, 2004 1:27 AM | By Adam Roberts | 8 Comments

Vanilla Bean Loaves (via Amanda Hesser)

When I read "Cooking For Mr. Latte" there were many recipes that I carved into my brain with the label: "To be cooked one day." One such carving was a recipe for "Vanilla Bean Loaves" adapted from Hi-Rise Bread Company in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Everything about the recipe seemed wonderful, except the potential expense. 4 vanilla beans would be required. Unless you live in Madagascar, vanilla beans are mighty pricey. This vanilla bean loaf would have to go on the back burner.

But then I was having company over on Saturday--more playwrights to watch movies for class. And I was in Whole Foods anyway, and there were the vanilla beans. These were a bit cheaper--sold in bottles of two instead of one. How could I resist?

Should you ever feel a similar impulse, here's how to proceed. [Quoted directly from Ms. Hesser without persmission---don't sue!]

"You will need:
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature.
2 1/2 cups vanilla sugar (1 split vanilla bean stirred into 1 pound of sugar; let sit for a few days)


(I let it sit for a few hours and that sufficed, I think.)

1 vanilla bean.
1 Tbs vanilla extract.
8 large eggs at room temperature.
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour.
1 1/2 tsps baking powder.
1/2 tsp salt.

For the syrup:
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 vanilla beans, split and seeds scraped.

1. Heavily butter two 8X4X3-inch (or similarly sized) loaf pans and preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Using a paddle attachment in your mixer, cream the butter and vanilla sugar until the mixture is pale and fluffy.
Scrape the vanilla bean and flick its seeds into the mixer, along with the vanilla extract and eggs. Beat to mix.

2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Add this to the batter and mix just until smooth--a few turns of the paddle should do it. Take the bowl off the mixer and use a spatula to scrape the bottom and fold the mixture a few times, to make sure everything is blended. Divide the batter between the buttered pans:


Bake for 30 minutes, then turn the pans around, and bake until a cake tester or skewer comes out almost clean, another 25 to 40 minutes.

3. While the loaves bake, prepare the syrup: in a small pan, dissolve the sugar in 1 cup of water over medium heat. Add the vanilla beans and stir a little so their seeds and fragrance disperse. Take the pan off the heat:


4. When the loaves are done, cool for 10 minutes on baking racks, then turn them out of their pans and set back on the racks. Place the racks over parchment paper or a baking sheet and brush generously all over--bottoms, tops, and sides--with the syrup.


Brush a couple of more times as they cool. These cakes store well. They may be wrapped and frozen, although I can't imagine not eating one of them right away."

Honestly these cakes are awesome:


I popped one in the freezer and served the other to my guests. The air filled with a loving vanilla smell. Sure, it was Yom Kippur and I was supposed to be fasting, but this is a recipe that's worth going to Jewish Hell for...don't you think? L'chaim!


Keeping vanilla sugar around all the time is handy for baking - take a jar and drop 1 vanilla bean (chopped, split, or not - your choice) into it, then fill with extra-fine sugar. Use the sugar as you normally would, but keep topping up the jar (and shaking it occasionally). The vanilla scent will seemingly re-charge the sugar forever. A nice little trick.

Three sticks of butter? No wonder it tasted so good!

Oh wow...

We have excellent vanilla beans from Uganda ready now.We have about 500kgs left,ourprice is low @ 80.00USD to 100.00A kg for GRADE A,BOURBON VARIETY.
We hope to hear from you very soon as this excellent quality is selling fast.
Steve from Boston Vanilla really loved the sample and had this
to say: "I received your samples today. They are excellent. My only wish is for
a more oily look. What you sent is fine though.The fragrance is
Please let me know if you want a sample.

Dear Sir,

We are vanilla exporters in Papua New Guinea looking for vanilla buyers.
If you are interested in buying the beans,we can be your constant supplier and supply 1 tonne per month.
The types of beans grown are Planifolia and Tahitensis. We have quality beans ranging from grades A,B and c grades.

We offer price for A: 16cm and above:
USD 100.00/kg,grade B 14 - 15cm USD 70.00/kg and grade C 13cm and below USD45.00/kg

Please place your order.


Joseph Julius Jangett
Managing Director
Whesc Engineers Limited
P O Box 3144,Boroko,NCD
Port Moresby,Papua New Guinea

Please send the prices for different grades of vanilla supplied by you.Also mention vanillin percentage,moisture content for these grades,Thanks.G S Hegde.

Thanks for the recipe. I tried it this evening.

My take? I'd give it a 5 out of 10. Yeah, it tastes better than bran buds, but honestly, it's not that spectacular. For something that is so expensive (4 vanilla beans!) and so sinfully unhealthful (3 sticks of butter, 3+ cups of sugar, & 8 eggs!), it'd better be really darn good. Sorry, but it just doesn't live up to that standard.

That said, for anybody who does decide to make this recipe, I think the texture could be improved slightly by using pastry flour instead of all-purpose flour.

Finally, I get my vanilla beans online through The Organic Vanilla Bean Company ( They're quite a bit less expensive than the grocery store, and better quality... highly recommended!

How funny that one of the previous comments should be a Ugandan vanilla hawker. Just came back from Uganda with some vanilla beans and this cake was the first thing on my mind. Not sure if it was the vanilla or the butter, but I found it simple and impressive.

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