How To Flavor With Vanilla

basket of vanilla beans - How To Flavor With Vanilla

Melipona bee pollinating a vanilla orchard

Image Credit: Athena Rayne Anderson 2008

Vanilla is a flavoring that is extracted from orchids, primarily from the flat-leaved vanilla Mexican species.

The first endeavors to propagate or grow the vanilla orchid outside of Mexico had shown to be in vain as this particular orchid has a synergetic alliance with its natural pollinator, the Melipona bee.

At least 40 species of this bee are known, and thrive in Mexico, as well as Argentina.

Other areas were the vanilla orchid is now successfully produced, such as in Tahiti and Madagascar among other places, is entirely dependent on artificial pollination.

The magazine – “Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution” states that the vanilla orchid is one of very few crops whose production depends entirely on artificial pollination.

How To Pollinate The Vanilla Orchid

This video provides details how to successfully pollinate the vanilla orchid that produces vanilla beans! This presentation was appropriated by the Western Kentucky Botanical Garden.

Using Vanilla In Baking

When it comes to baking, vanilla is a very important ingredient, and there are 3 ways to use it…

  1. Vanilla Bean
  2. Vanilla Extract
  3. Vanilla Paste

Let’s examine the differences between these three and how to best use them in your baking.

Vanilla Beans

 Whole Madagascar Vanilla Beans

Whole Vanilla Beans

Vanilla beans themselves provide wonderful flavor to any recipe that calls for it. The bean can cost between $7 to $13  for a small jar of two or three beans. They are a little time consuming to work with, but you will find the flavor they produce to be well worth the time.

You want to find vanilla beans that are plump and smooth with a slight shine and that are highly fragrant. Avoid overly dried beans. Using the vanilla in dessert recipes that call for it, gives the finished baked good an intense vanilla flavor that you might never want to go back to using another form of vanilla.

Be warned though, the bean can leave specks of brown throughout the baked good. To some this is great, but if you are baking a white cake, then employing the vanilla bean for such recipes may not work. That brings us to another form: vanilla extract.

Vanilla Extract

 

Vanilla extract is the common form used in baking.

To acquire the extract, the bean is mashed, and it is infused with a mixture of alcohol, a clear drinking alcohol is used, like Vodka.

Vanilla extract readily available, not only as pure, but also artificially made. The extract is simple to measure out and use in your baking.

Vanilla Paste

Pure Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste

Pure Vanilla Bean Paste

Vanilla paste, though spendy (between $12 to $16 for a 4 ounce jar), is the best of both worlds when it comes to choosing between vanilla beans and vanilla extract.

Vanilla paste is the flesh of the pod scooped-out, and make available at market in small jars. So you are getting all of the flavor of the bean without all of the hassle. It will still provide those flecks of color in your baking like the actual bean does.

For vanilla paste, consult the jar to see how much to use in your recipes. It usually shows the conversions between vanilla extract and the paste.

When in doubt, gradually add to your baking, tasting after each addition to help you determine the right amount of vanilla flavor.

Which One To Use

Most recipes do call for vanilla extract but if you do decide to substitute the bean or paste for the extract, you can. One bean actually equals about three teaspoons of vanilla extract.

The next time you bake, try using vanilla beans or paste instead of the more common vanilla extract. Of course, what you decide to use depends on your personal preference.

Link Here For A Selection Of Dessert Recipes From Splendid Recipes and More

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