There's no question that using vanilla extract in your baking recipes will deliver a wonderful and welcome flavor to whatever it is you're preparing. However, to get the most intense vanilla flavor, you should definitely try scraping the vanilla seeds right out of the vanilla bean pods. Probably the only reason more people don't do this is that the cost of buying vanilla pods can be really expensive, and they're usually not something you would stock on your shelves for baking purposes.
When you are preparing a special recipe and you want to use vanilla beans, make sure that you don't just discard the bean pods when you're done, because even after the vanilla seeds have been removed, there's still plenty of flavor left in those pods. Given the fact that vanilla bean pods are fairly expensive to begin with, you should maximize your usage of them, and find your own creative ways of using bean pods. Here are some usages you may not have thought of for your leftover vanilla bean pods.
Make homemade extract
This is a great way to extend your usage of vanilla bean pods, and it can provide you with a good strong extract you can use in your next baking recipe. After you scrape out all the seeds, you can place the pods into a sealed glass container, or even into a bottle of vodka. Let this mixture set for a couple months, so that a good strong floral flavor can develop. If you like, add some additional vanilla beans to the vodka during that two-month time frame, so that you can really enhance the flavor. Once you start making your own vanilla extract, you may begin to prefer that over anything which can be purchased at your local grocery store.
Produce your own vanilla sugar
If you already have plenty of vanilla extract which you've made from your leftover bean pods, you can toss your new leftover pods into an airtight container which has been partially filled with granulated sugar. This will cause the vanilla beans to combine with the sugar to produce a delicious and sweet vanilla flavor. You can use that vanilla sugar on any of your baking recipes to really produce a special kind of flavor. You can also use it to sweeten up your tea or your coffee, to give it that little extra tinge of sweet vanilla flavor.
Make vanilla powder
Making your own vanilla powder is a great idea, because it provides a really powerful flavor for any baked goods you might be making. You can create your own vanilla powder by drying out your pods, and then grinding them up with a food processor or if you happen to have one, a small spice grinder. This powder can be stored in Mason jars or in any airtight container you happen to have. It won't take much of this powder to deliver a really powerful flavor to anything you choose to have spiced up. Many people like to sprinkle a small bit of vanilla powder into their tea or coffee to really liven it up.
Make your own vanilla syrup
When you produce your own vanilla syrup, you can use it just as you would any other type of syrup. That means you can put it on top of your pancakes, you can stir it into coffee or iced tea, and you can even use it as an extra ingredient in cocktails that you mix. To create your own vanilla syrup, simmer some water and granulated sugar together, then toss in your used vanilla bean pods, and let their powerful flavor seep into the mixture. It won't take long before you have a very useful vanilla syrup that you can find endless uses for in your beverages and in any foods you might be preparing.
Vanilla body scrub
This is a great idea which shows that your leftover vanilla bean pods can be used for more than just consumption. If you want to pamper yourself a little bit, why not create a moisturizing vanilla body scrub? To make it, all you have to do is mix together your dried out vanilla pods with a small amount of granulated sugar, until these two have blended together thoroughly.
Then you can mix that with more sugar, but don't use a blender for this step because you're not going to want the sugar to become powdery. Instead, mix in a sufficient quantity of oil so that your resultant mixture looks and feels like wet sand. Any kind of oil can be used for this purpose, e.g. coconut oil, grape seed oil, olive oil. You'll end up with a very aromatic body scrub, which will impart that same appealing fragrance to your skin when you're showering or bathing.
Store them for future usage
There is nothing that says you have to put your vanilla bean pods to immediate use, because you can just store them for some future baking project you have in mind. When you are preparing to store your leftover vanilla bean pods, keep in mind that it's essential to avoid allowing air or moisture to get at them, because that will cause the bean pods to spoil.
In order to safely store your leftover vanilla bean pods, wrap them up in wax paper as your first step. Then put them in an airtight container, making sure to remove as much air as possible. It's better if you store your leftover bean pods in a glass container, because Tupperware or plastic containers will tend to absorb some of the flavor out of the beans. Now you should find a place to store your vanilla bean pods which is cool and dark, preferably in the basement or in a cupboard.
It's best if you store your bean pods in the same place as breads, chocolate, and olive oil, since all these require the same environmental conditions. Make sure that your storage area is not subject to any wild fluctuations of temperature, and that it never gets too hot or too cold. That way you can ensure that when you're ready to use your leftover vanilla bean pods, they're still packed with the same wonderful flavor they originally had.