Vanilla beans are an expensive and prized flavoring formed from the vanilla orchid plant. The beans are long and thin. The extracts and powders made from vanilla beans are used to flavor many baked goods, cakes and cookies in household and commercial kitchens alike. Here is a great way to make a vanilla paste out of spent or fresh vanilla beans that can be used to flavor homemade items.
Lay a piece of parchment paper over a baking or cookie sheet. If air drying, find a dry place with low humidity to allow the beans to dry, or preheat oven to 175 to 200 degrees, depending on how low the oven will go. The temperature should be warm but not hot.
Place each vanilla bean on a flat work surface or countertop. Using a small paring knife, split the vanilla bean in two. This is done in one of two ways. The first is to hold the vanilla bean firmly down with one hand and in the other take a paring knife and work the tip of the knife down the vanilla bean, working right to left if you are righthanded. The second is to hold the vanilla bean on the right side, place the knife parallel to the work surface and cut the vanilla bean in two by going left to right. Repeat with remaining vanilla beans.
Place the cut vanilla bean halves on the parchment-lined baking sheet and spread them out to avoid touching.
If letting air dry, let the beans dry out for several days until brittle and completely dry. If drying out in an oven, place the vanilla beans inside and bake for about 30 minutes. Check every 10 to 15 minutes thereafter and remove when completely dried and brittle. Remove and allow the beans to cool to room temperature.
Break up the beans into smaller pieces and place several broken-up vanilla beans in the bowl of a spice grinder or a thoroughly cleaned coffee grinder. Pulse until the vanilla beans have been pulverized into a powder. Open up the top and pour out into a mixing bowl. Repeat with remaining vanilla bean pieces.
Measure the corn syrup one tablespoon at a time and add enough to get the desired consistency. Add only enough to make a paste that will be easy to scoop. The amount of corn syrup will depend on the amount of powder from grinding the vanilla beans.
Use in sauces and batters to flavor, giving them a rich, true vanilla flavor and visual texture. Mixture will keep for a week in the refrigerator.