Vanilla, an all-purpose spice

Vanilla is a spice that many of us ate at least once in their lifetime. In desserts is an essential ingredient to enhance the taste and aroma but perhaps few people know that vanilla can also be used for many other purposes.

In fact, if for example you are suffering from insomnia, vanilla can help you feel better if mixed in a glass of warm milk before sleep. It is also very rich in antioxidants, highly useful to counteract free radicals, responsible of our cellular aging.
How to recognize a fresh vanilla bean, perfect to use? The method is simple: you should be able to twist a bean without cracking it, around a pencil. The quality of the world's most famous vanilla is the "bourbon" variety that is growing in both the Comoros islands and Madagascar, although the "authorship" of discovery remains by Mexico, where this plant was originally discovered. The cultivation of this spice is very complicated and very long: to get a vanilla bean from its birth to our tables takes roughly 10 months from the moment of pollination at the time of collection. The flower from which was born the fruit (vanilla bean) is a special type of Orchid that is fertile for only one day in its life. For these reasons the price of vanilla beans is quite high and for this reason was then created the “vanillina”, a chemical product that resumes in itself vanilla smell and taste, although the difference it's still very substancial between the two.
Vanilla is not only used in food industry, where even very famous brands adopted it to flavor their fizzy soft drinks, but also in cosmetic industry, adding it in shower gel, body creams and perfumes.
Today I'm going to offer you the recipe for a vanilla and ricotta cake that is very good and very simple to do that will allow you to enjoy the full taste of this amazing product.

 

Ingredients:

150 g caster sugar

300 g ricotta cheese

150 g all purpose flour

3 eggs

1 sachet of baking powder

1 tablespoon vanilla extract (or vanilla seeds)

125 ml whole milk

150 g of butter at room temperature

1 pinch of salt

1 teaspoon of lemon juice

 

Proceedings:

Pour into a large bowl the butter with the sugar and beat them until they turned into a cream.

Add 2 egg yolks now in it (but keep the whites of these 2 apart), milk, ricotta cheese and a whole egg and beat to incorporate them well to the dough.

Add the flour a little at a time, sifting it in the meantime, and mix with the help of a silicone spatula or a wooden spoon. Don't beat too vigorously, you only have to pay attention to possible lumps which will form, and delete them by mixing.

Now whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt and lemon juice together, with an electric hand mixer. Once they'll be very fluffy and well beated you can incorporate them to the dough, with a wooden spoon with very gentle movemente, from the bottom to the top of the bowl.

Now add vanilla extract or seeds of a bean and mix them into the dough. Now put the packet of yeast and stir a little, just to mix well with the rest of the ingredients. Grease and flour a baking sheet of about 20 cm in diameter (will be a low and very moist cake inside) or use a silicone baking pan of the same size without greasing it.

Bake the cake at 180 degrees for about 60 minutes. Is a cake with a very liquid mixture, so it needs more time than a normal cake to be ready. To know when it is cooked take the toothpick test: put it inside in the middle of the cake and if it'll comes out clean and dry, it mean the cake will be ready. Halfway though baking, you can place a piece of aluminium foil on the top of the cake to prevent it from browning too much.

When ready, allow the cake to cool for about 20 minutes before serving.

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