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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How To Use Avocados In Your Culinary Adventures

Avocado salad and tuna. Isolated on a white background.Avocados are a popular fruit, though used like a vegetable, can find its way into almost any dish. It just seems that when adding avocados to a culinary or baked good, the dish has been enriched. Like this one at Tracy’s Culinary Adventures – Fudgy Triple Chocolate Avocado Brownies, Bobby Flay‘s Crunchy Avocado Salad, or how about pairing avocado slices with grapefruit as in Simply RecipesGrapefruit Avocado Salad.

Avocados have a lot of descriptive words to explain its flavor. Such as a creamy, buttery, and smooth fruit, with distinctive colors like bright yellow and green. Their aroma can be described as floral, green, grassy, freshness, and earthy.

The texture of the fruit is a butter rich melt in your mouth taste and feeling.

How To Pit An Avocado

Pitting an avocado is not hard at all. As a matter of fact you can become a pro in no time once you know the technique.

Avocado Trivia

list with pictures of avocado varieties

Image Credit: 17 Park Side

Do all avocado varieties taste the same? What do you think, yes they do, or no they do not? If you decided on, “No they do not,” you are correct.

There are taste variations between the different varieties of avocados available for consumption.

Not only does the variety determine the taste but it is also affected by the season and how ripe the avocado well get.

It is recommended to taste test the avocados that come into season and are fully ripe, so that you can see which ones you prefer to use in your recipes.

The summer and Fall season avocado favorite among many individuals is the Hass, and the spring season avocado favorite is the Fuerte.

Just remember you can get these avocados out of season because of international trading of produce, but they will not taste the same as when having them in season.

Tips To Selecting A Ripe Avocado

The appearance of a ripe avocado will vary based on the avocado you are selecting.

The Hass variety is one of the creamiest, making it suitable for spreads, dips, and any recipe requiring mashed avocado. Other varieties are firmer and better when consumed in whole slices or chunks.

man shopping for produceThe way to tell if the avocado is ripe or not is to hold the avocado in one hand, and place the thumb of the other hand over the small stem, then gently try and see if you can move the stem.

If stem is firmly in place and cannot be easily removed, that is an indication that the avocado is still not ripe.

The fruit should be fairly heavy and free of blemishes.

To ripen an unripe avocado for use, place it on the counter at room temperature for 3 to 5 days. It would be best not to refrigerate it, as refrigeration halts the ripening process, so you should not store unripe avocados in the refrigerator unless they have already been cut open.

Avocados ripen after they are harvested and not on the tree. If you are picking an avocado off a tree, you should pick a large one with even, dark coloring and a firm texture. After picking it, you will need to let the fruit harden on the counter for 2 to 7 days before it will be ripe and be ready to eat.

If you do not plan to eat the avocado immediately, it is in your best interest to buy an avocado that is still unripened. A ripe avocado will usually only last for a few days in the refrigerator.

To speed up the ripening process, place the avocado in a brown bag with an apple or a banana. These two fruits will release a gas called ethylene, a chemical linked to the ripening process.

Here is our featured recipe using an avocado.

Tuna Salad Stuffed Avocado

1 avocado

Avocado salad and tuna. Isolated on a white background.1 lemon, juiced, to taste

1 tablespoon chopped onion, to taste

5 ounces cooked or canned wild tuna

2 sprigs fresh dill, chopped

Himalayan salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Cut the avocado in half and scoop the middle of both avocado halves into a bowl, leaving a shell of avocado flesh about ¼-inch thick on each half. Cut removed flesh into small chunks.

Add lemon juice and onion to the avocado in the bowl and mash together. Add tuna, avocado chunks, dill, salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Taste and adjust if needed.

Fill avocado shells with tuna salad and serve.

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