Vanilla Bean Loaves
3 cups flour
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp.
2½ cups vanilla sugar (1 split vanilla bean stirred into the sugar and left for a few days*)
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped*
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1¾ cups sugar
1 cup water
2 vanilla beans, split and seeds scraped*
For the cake:
Heat the oven to 325°. Generously butter two 8½ x 4½ x 2½ inch loaf pans.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a heavy-duty mixer, using the paddle, cream the butter and vanilla sugar until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Add the vanilla bean seeds to the mixture along with the vanilla extract and eggs. Beat to mix.
Add the flour mixture to the batter and beat with a few turns of the paddle until it is just smooth. With a rubber spatula, fold the batter from the bottom of the bowl into the mixture to make sure it's well blended.
Eat all the batter. Start all over again.
Divide the batter between the pans. Bake the cakes for 30 minutes, turn the pans around, and continue baking for 25–40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out almost clean. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Turn the loaves out of their pans and return them to the rack.
For the syrup:
In a small saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the water. Add the vanilla beans and stir so the seeds disperse. Remove from the heat.
Place the cakes on the rack over a piece of wax paper. Brush generously all over—tops, bottoms, and sides—with the syrup. Brush with more syrup as they cool. Cool completely and slice thickly for serving.
*I keep a tub of sugar in my pantry studded with any used-up vanilla beans I go through in the course of baking. You can just keep adding the used-up beans and more sugar—it keeps indefinitely.