Have you ever walked into a bakery, closed your eyes, and let your sense of smell take over?

I love breathing in the heady aromas of yeast, the tartness of lemon, the sweet, syrupy goodness of maple, and the strong wafting of vanilla. Finding a bakery, not a doughtnut shop, has gone by the wayside, but I still remember the scents of it all.

To me, there is nothing more enticing, more entoxicating than baking. I have a collection of more than 17 different extracts to choose from, because vanilla simply isn't enough. In a cheesecake, almond pairs so well, but in brownies - vanilla nut makes me mouth sing. For French toast, add a single drop of coconut extract - coconut seems to be the most potent of the extracts, it takes very little to go an amazingly long way.

Even in a brownie mix, cake mix, or cookie mix: use a little extract. The little things do make the biggest difference. In a simple basic cookie recipe (think chocolate chip cookies without the chocolate chips), try a different extract and pick a stir-in to match (stir-in is any dried fruit, nut, chip, chunk, berry, sprinkle, etc.) and voila! You have created a new masterpiece.

My latest idea is to put maple extract into an oatmeal cookie recipe and stir in a couple handfuls of walnuts. That to me sounds like down-home goodness. Definitely something kids would enjoy, but basic enough to please a variety of tastes.

One Christmas, my sister gave me all the extracts I had been too cheap to buy for myself. I was in heaven with maple, brandy, raspberry, banana, orange, coconut, black walnut (a tried and true favorite), butter (makes low-fat fare taste full-flavored), chocolate, and several bottles each of rum, lemon, and almond extracts. Since then, I've added mango, strawberry-banana, mint, vanilla nut, and coffee.

I can honestly say that was one of the best gifts.....ever! Anytime I reach for my extract collection, I think of my sister, too many miles away, and how she and I still found a way to connect. With each new creation, I mentally make a note to thank her, for her gift has allowed me to do something I love: create.

Though in one of those quiet afternoon moments when I decided to turn on the TV insterad of doing "something productive", I discovered there is one extract I'm missing. Sandra Lee had the audacity to use champagne extract. Whoa, what was that? Yes, indeed - champagne extract. I can hear my sister laughing now, asking me - what would you do with champagne extract? My answer, anything I wanted to. Now, if they only made an apple extract..... Hey, a girl can dream!
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2 Responses
  1. Amanda Says:

    What a great post! I never thought of giving extracts as a gift for the chefs in my life, but that is an awesome idea.

  2. I have a few, I think three or four different extracts, but man you put the fire in my heart to try some new ones! I think that I will be checking my stores out to see what I can find! Thanks for this post!

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