'Pure Vanilla' Has Landed (with a Giveaway!)

Well,  friends, today is the day--the birthday of my second cookbook Pure Vanilla! (WHAT?! Unreal.) I really couldn't be more excited about the whole thing. I thought I'd pop in here right quick to say hello, spread the sweet, dreamy word of the book release, and, most importantly, give you all a little preview, with a shot to win a free signed copy of your own. Hooray!

As much as I adore my first book Marshmallow Madness! (and lo, much like a first-born child, I do), I have to say that I am that much more excited about this second book. See, this book allowed me to explore all kinds of new territory and really dig into the world of vanilla beyond just recipe development. The insane history and the painstaking process of how vanilla begins as a little pod in the center of an exotic orchid and manages to travel all the way to that little brown bottle on the supermarket shelf is pretty dang interesting. If nothing else, it makes your eyes pop out a little less while marveling at the sky high price tag of premium vanilla products.

Like mothering my own crazy human child, I will always have a soft spot for the way that I was endlessly surprised while working through this book. Perfect example: see the little raised, dotted areas on the vanilla beans below? They are called vanilla tattoos--upon harvesting, each bean is hand-stamped with a sort of "brand" unique to each vanilla grower, to keep the beans from being stolen during the lengthy, many months-long curing and conditioning process. I KNOW, right?!

Just to stretch out that first book vs. second book comparison a little further, there's this: I am so pumped about the variety of recipes I got to develop for this guy (Breakfast! Cakes! Cookies! Savory! BOOZE!). After a lifetime of just using vanilla extract and the occasional scraped whole bean in recipes, I became positively obsessed with working with all forms of vanilla, including pastes and ground beans, and really working to offer tons of helpful tips that can help you maximize your investment when you shell out for great vanilla products (or even just pointing out better ways to use the regular stuff from the supermarket), and eke as much flavor as possible out of whatever form of vanilla you're using. (Psst...I also give my recommendations for the best sources for great vanilla that won't make your wallet cry.) Of course, we also chat about how to make your own awesome vanilla projects, perfectly suitable for gifting, like homemade vanilla sugar and extracts.

And then we've got to talk about the aesthetics of this book. Oh, people. I've flipped through it millions of times and I still sigh a little at the images shot by the amazing Leigh Beisch and art direction and styling by Sara Slavin. The days spent shooting this book were some of the best of my life, no joke--creativity buzzing about, running from the kitchen to the studio space to check out the action, frosting smeared on my face, vanilla caviar under my nails for days on end. Being able to do the food styling again for this book was awesome, but bringing it to set and watching Leigh and Sara bring everything to life was magical. Like this Vanilla Cloud Cake for starters (which I know I shared in my last post, but really, THIS CAKE IS MY LIFE).

Vanilla Stewed Fruit. Something that, from the outset, may seem a touch, oh, geriatric at first. But man, oh, man, it is ever good. Over yogurt with a smattering of Honey-Vanilla Granola Clusters? Forget about it.

I also loved that this book allowed me to riff on some family favorites, real soul-soothing recipes that are delicious, but also really personal to me, like these Cherry-Vanilla Shortbread Cake Squares. I literally teared up when we were shooting these. I've got problems.

And of course, I couldn't get away with not including a Candy and Confections section. These recipes are crying out for gifting all throughout the fall and hoilday seasons. Glorious!

When you get a sec, check out my Book page for more info on upcoming tour dates and Vanilla Tasting events! I really, really hope to meet more of you on this tour. There will be a few stops where I'll be bringing several varieties of vanilla for tasting, so you, too, can have your mind blown by how vast the world of vanilla really is. It will be like wine tasting, without the day buzz. (Sorry.) (But you can bring a flask if you want!)

To celebrate the release of this creamy, dreamy tome, I'm giving away five signed copies! If you want to get in on it, here's what to do:

1. Share this post on Twitter or The Facebooks

2. Leave a comment here letting me know you've done so, and tell me about your favorite recipe that features vanilla!

Entries must be received by Thursday, October 11th at 6:00 p.m. PST. Winners will be chosen at random and announced on Friday, October 12th. I will ship to the winners wherever they may be, so international bakers are welcome!!

The giveaway is now closed! Thanks for entering! Winners will be announced tomorrow, Friday, October 1oth.

Giveaways, NewsShauna Sever