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Vanilla Extract:


Shel_B
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I'm going to purchase some vanilla extract tomorrow. In the past I've used some expensive extracts, but I've not been able to tell much, if any, difference between them in the finished product. Can you taste the difference between, say Trader Joe's extract, McCormick, and another, more expensive brand, such as Neilsen-Massey?

Edited by Shel_B (log)

 ... Shel


 

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Yes, but you can't tell the difference by tasting it straight.

The best way to compare is to put one drop into a teaspoonful of cream, allow it to blend for several minutes (10 or more) and then taste.

The Neilsen-Massey and TJ's are good so is Watkins that may not be easy to find.

I have tried the various products from The Vanilla Co, sold thru GourmetCountry

And in my opinion they are superior to the others I listed.

That being said, I make my own.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I hate cheap crappy "vanilla flavouring". And even when it comes to extracts, there are big differences between different kinds. I recommend much what andisenji suggests - do a taste test with a little cream. If you don't have cream on hand, make vanilla flavoured warm milk.

Having said all this, I far prefer to buy good vanilla pods and use them instead of extract. I was lucky enough to see vanilla pods being grown and processed in Kerala and it has sharpened my desire for pods over any kind of liquid essence. In addition, my Gran semi-recently visited Madagascar and brought back some enormously fat and fragrant vanilla pods. They were absolutely gorgeous and not something that any extract could match.

Edited by Jenni (log)
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I actually think Nielsen-Massey is cheaper than McCormick, as McCormick is in a much smaller bottle. Having said that, I can definitely tell the difference between my grocery store brand (Publix) and Nielsen-Massey. The Publix is much harsher tasting in my opinion.

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I think taste the difference depends on what its in. I believe that Cooks Illustrated did a taste test a while back, where tasters couldn't tell the difference between high-end, low-end, and imitation extracts when they were in baked goods. I'd imagine that in something like a panna cotta you might be able to, but I think their broader point was that when tasting blind, discerning differences was much harder than people would expect.

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From my first time baking with Penzeys double-strength vanilla extract, I've never used another. High quality vanilla beans and the bean:alcohol ratio is 2X that of regular single strength extract. I'm sure other high-quality extracts are excellent. But if you're using an extract, I've found that the difference between a good one and a mediocre one is noticeably different.

Even better, I should learn from Andiesenjie and make my own.


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I've made my own, and some time ago read the info in your link. However, I want to use bottled vanilla extract for the preparation I'm making and for some other upcoming dishes. Also, Toots has NO interest in making vanilla extract, and she's going to be involved in this as well. Thanks for posting the pointer, though.

 ... Shel


 

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Shel,

After writing my post yesterday, I late thought about the vanilla I use when I'm preparing large batches of baked goods for fund raising events, and also the multiple bread pudding loaves that are sliced and fried for "mock" French toast.

For that I buy a large bottle of the brand carried at Smart & Final - 16 ounces, as I recall. It is a pure vanilla extract and quite strong. Very good in baked items and in eggy dishes and excellent in whipped cream and ice cream.

Since you are in California, I'm pretty sure you are near enough to a Smart & Final to find this, if you need a lot of the product.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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FWIW, the large, food service size bottles of Neilsen-Massey are way cheaper than the small bottles. Surfa's has the 32 oz bottles for around $30 (this is a huge size for a home kitchen), and the gallon ones seem to be around $75-80.

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... I buy a large bottle of the brand carried at Smart & Final - 16 ounces, as I recall. It is a pure vanilla extract and quite strong. Very good in baked items and in eggy dishes and excellent in whipped cream and ice cream.

Since you are in California, I'm pretty sure you are near enough to a Smart & Final to find this, if you need a lot of the product.

Hi,

Thanks for the tip. I think I've seen a S&F somewhere in my routine travels. It should be easy to check out.

I made the panna cotta last night and used some of the extract that Toots had on hand, TJ's Bourbon extract. The results in the panna cotta were certainly acceptable. I'll still need to get a bottle for myself.

I read the Cook's Illustrated test - had it on my computer. Didn't recognize many of the brands they tested - maybe just two or three.

 ... Shel


 

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Thanks for the tip. I think I've seen a S&F somewhere in my routine travels. It should be easy to check out.

While you're there, pick up a bottle of Caramel Coloring. They have it cheapest of any place I've found. Great for darkening gravies and sauces and for dark breads.

Mark

My eG Food Blog

www.markiscooking.com

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I use a high quality vanilla paste much more than any extract. I love the rich flavor it gives to all kinds of dishes both sweet and savory. I buy all of my vanilla beans and paste from the Arizona Vanilla Company (Arizona Vanilla website). Their prices are reasonable and their quality superb. I put in a large order today and am going to try making my own extract when my beans arrive. Thanks for the link!

FWIW, I know that many serious cooks favor the Nielsen-Massey, but it failed miserably in a side-by-side comparison with the stuff I've been using. You can read about on my blog, here: Vanilla paste comparison

(I have no connection whatsoever with Arizona Vanilla. I just love their products.)

Barb

Edited by bjcohan (log)

Barb Cohan-Saavedra

Co-owner of Paloma Mexican Haute Cuisine, lawyer, jewelry designer, glass beadmaker, dessert-maker (I'm a lawyer who bakes, not a pastry chef), bookkeeper, payroll clerk and caffeine-addict

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I use a high quality vanilla paste much more than any extract. I love the rich flavor it gives to all kinds of dishes both sweet and savory. I buy all of my vanilla beans and paste from the Arizona Vanilla Company (Arizona Vanilla website). Their prices are reasonable and their quality superb. I put in a large order today and am going to try making my own extract when my beans arrive. Thanks for the link!

FWIW, I know that many serious cooks favor the Nielsen-Massey, but it failed miserably in a side-by-side comparison with the stuff I've been using. You can read about on my blog, here: Vanilla paste comparison

(I have no connection whatsoever with Arizona Vanilla. I just love their products.)

Barb

I read the tasting comparison ... and thanks for the pointer to Arizona Vanilla. I'll need to know a little more about vanilla paste ... never used it. Thanks again.

 ... Shel


 

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Best extract you can buy, made with the best beans grown in the birth place of vanilla:

http://store.gourmetsleuth.com/mexican-vanilla-8-oz-pure-extract-P471.aspx

The aroma & potency of this one will knock your socks off... but they add carmel color (burnt sugar) and natural Vanillin (secondary extract that is concentrated through evaporation)...

http://store.gourmetsleuth.com/mexican-vanilla-flavoring-20oz-P473.aspx

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Best extract you can buy, made with the best beans grown in the birth place of vanilla:

http://store.gourmetsleuth.com/mexican-vanilla-8-oz-pure-extract-P471.aspx

The aroma & potency of this one will knock your socks off... but they add carmel color (burnt sugar) and natural Vanillin (secondary extract that is concentrated through evaporation)...

http://store.gourmetsleuth.com/mexican-vanilla-flavoring-20oz-P473.aspx

That's one of the ones I posted about in my earlier post - although a different vendor.

I do like Gourmet Sleuth too and have purchased many items, but haven't purchased vanilla from them.

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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