Vanilla plants are orchids, which produce pods containing the deliciously flavoured seeds. Native to the American continent, the earliest evidence of cultivated vanilla points to the Totonac people of Papantla, in the Mexican state of Veracruz. When the Aztecs conquered the region, they received vanilla as part of the tribute presented by the conquered Totonac people, and used it mainly as an ingredient for their chocolatl, the beverage that gave origin to chocolate (that will probably be the subject of a different post.) When the Mexica (Aztec) civilization fell under Spanish rule, chocolatl made its way to Europe. Vanilla remained part of the beverage until the early 17th Century, when Hugh Morgan, an apothecary of Queen Elizabeth I, first saw the potential of vanilla as a pure flavour, and created the first vanilla-only sweetmeats, which were a great success. The Queen was known for her sweet tooth, and her court is also credited with the creation of the first cherry pie so, quite possibly, vanilla-flavoured treats and fruit pies shared the spotlight for the first time at her royal table. Vanilla, as a separate flavour, then travelled from England to the main land, and the French used it in ice cream; when Thomas Jefferson was American Minister to France in the 1780s, he became a big fan, and his handwritten recipe for vanilla ice cream is part of the Library of Congress.
Since I had a surplus of fresh garden raspberries, I baked a raspberry pie, but in honour of the English court’s first pairing of vanilla flavour and sweet pies, and as a nod to France’s victory at the FIFA World Cup final match, I served my pie with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream, which was an absolute “cloud nine” delight.
Raspberry Pie – Pay de Frambuesa
1 cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch (for example, Maizena™); check here if in doubt of what to use
4 cups fresh raspberries
½ cup water
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 baked 9-inch pie crust printable recipe: Basic Pie Crust (or from store, no baking!)
Whipped cream, to decorate, optional
Combine sugar, cornstarch, 2 cups of the raspberries and water in a pot. Bring to boil, then reduce to medium heat and stir until mix thickens and turns clear, about 5 minutes. Add butter and vanilla, stir until incorporated. Add the rest of the raspberries, reserving about 1/2 cup for decoration. Remove from heat and let stand for 15-20 minutes; pour in baked pie crust and refrigerate for at least one hour. Decorate with reserved raspberries (and a cloud of whipped cream, if using). Serve by itself or with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream. Bon appetit!