We’ve been on a baking binge, thanks to some extrachilly temperatures, a plethora of recent birthdays (including Annie’s!), and our post-holiday swearing off sugar, which promptly made us crave cakes, pies, muffins, cookies, cupcakes, meringues, and . . . well, you get the picture. Whether you bake healthy or go all Pioneer Woman in the kitchen, you’ll find yourself reaching for flavored extracts for virtually every baked recipe. The really good stuff can be pricey, though, and you have to venture outside your local supermarket just to find it. So forget those dinky little grocery-store bottles that cost $10 or more a pop, and make some extracts yourself.
When we realized how easy it was to make extracts, we kicked ourselves for not figuring it out sooner. After all, we could’ve saved beaucoup bucks by whipping up our own, and in quantities that will keep our ovens in business for years to come. Bonus: when we make our own extracts, we can use high-quality and even organic alcohol, thus avoiding the chemical processing used in many store-bought extracts. Really the only downside is that homemade extracts have to be made in advance. We just picked a Saturday morning, lined up a bunch of mason jars, got cracking, and voilá—our baking pantry is now fully stocked with flavor-packed extracts.
To make your own extracts, follow this basic recipe:
1 cup high-quality or organic vodka
Add-ins of your choice (see recommendations below)
1. Thoroughly clean and dry a glass (not plastic!) lidded jar, such as a mason jar. Put the add-ins in the bottom, and pour the vodka over them. Make sure the liquid completely covers the add-ins.
2. Seal the jar tightly and store it in a cool, dark place. It’s essential to keep it out of sunlight while it’s infusing.
3. Allow the mixture to sit for at least 6 weeks, or longer for stronger flavor. Gently swirl the liquid in the jar every week or so to help the flavors develop.
4. Remove the add-ins, straining out any stray bits (such as vanilla seeds, almond shards, or broken citrus peel), and rebottle the extract in a glass container. Store in a cool, dark place.
Suggested Extract Flavors
Vanilla—4 vanilla beans, cut in half; you can also slice the pods lengthwise and give the beans inside a smoosh
Almond—a small handful (about 6) raw, skinless almonds, roughly chopped
Cinnamon—2 to 3 cinnamon sticks, cut in half
Orange or lemon—5 strips of peel, or about 1 tablespoon grated zest (the zest is harder to remove from the finished extract)
Mint—a large handful of fresh mint leaves, stems removed