• Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
mamster

Imitation vanilla extract

65 posts in this topic

For one thing, bad cake is often made with vegetable oil rather than butter. Veg oil is not only inferior in flavor to start with, it's prone to rancidity. Various preservatives have flavors of their own, and there's no preservative that will prevent a product from having that "sitting around" flavor sooner or later. Not rotten, or even stale exactly, just not-so-fresh. Other problems with supermarket cakes include bad chocolate, too much sugar, and frosting gone wrong.

Is artificiality a good enough reason not to use imitation vanilla? If so, why?


Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
...explain what the actual difference is between real and good quality imitation vanillas.

This web page will possibly tell you more than you ever wanted to know about 'real' vanilla.

A real vanilla bean has many different chemicals that create it's flavor and aroma. Of these, one, vanillin, is overwhelmingly responsible for vanilla flavor. It's relatively easy to synthesize vanillin in a lab; that's what goes into imitation vanilla (or possibly a minor variation called ethyl vanillin). (And even if created in a factory, vanillin is still vanillin; the exact same stuff the plant makes.) Many imitation vanillas also contain other related vanilla flavoring, whether synthesized or natural.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I've seen it for less. I made my usual chocolate chip cookie dough (which contains 2 tsp vanilla extract to 11 oz flour), and made half with real vanilla, half with imitation.

Yes, but have you ever tried making CC cookies with real seeds scraped from the bean? We're talking a whole new animal (especially if you add lightly toasted walnuts).


Edited by GG Mora (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I haven't, GG, but I will now.


Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On the other hand, I think doubling the amount of vanilla in any recipe can only improve it in most cases.


So long and thanks for all the fish.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

truly an "american" thread again... talking about fake foods... ts ts ts...

if you want to get something good "out" you must put something good "in"

nevertheless i use vanilla extract because the beans are fucking expensive.

"vanilla extract" is usually made of 100% beans soacked in alcohol

(i use the spice island brand which is great)

so all you SHOULD avoid is "vanilla essence" for it is artificial !!

and go ahead and try tahitian vanilla its REALLY good (very fruity flavour)

tahitian is my choice for making my own strong vanilla sugar (recipe on request)

cheers

t. :raz:


toertchen toertchen

patissier chocolatier cafe

cologne, germany

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
truly an "american" thread again... talking about fake foods...  ts ts ts...

I am not dogmatic or inflexible when it comes to the issue of natural versus artificial in food. I do my own cost-benefit analysis when deciding wether to use natural or arificial vanilla. In matters of taste and smell, it all comes down to molecules, whether the substance is natural or artificial. Where the results are comparable, I see no problem with using a cheaper, artificial substance. Natural and expensive is not necessarily better for everyone, especially if one has a budget to consider.

For example, I use the relatively expensive Plugra butter in butter-rich foods, such as shortbread and pie crust, in which the I can taste the difference that the flavor and higher fat content of Plugra make. However, in my brownies, whiich contain a lot of chocolate, I find that Plugra makes little if any difference, and I am content to use cheaper butter.

I am glad for the suggestions of imitation vanilla on this thread and will definitely try them out (while I hoard and sparingly use the 32 ounces of double-strength vanilla extract that I, luckily, bought from Penzey's before the price recently doubled).

Substituting a cheaper, comparable alternative is not "American," per se, just prudent in any country!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Actually using vanillin is not "american" as it's very popular and extensively used in Europe, although natural vanilla is easily available and probably cheaper than in US. I just wondered many times why in America, the land of fake foods, imitation vanilla extract seems to be almost unknown! :biggrin:

As for the flavour, of course even the best vanillin is worse than natural vanilla, mainly due to the bitter taste you get if you exceed the right dose. Natural vanilla has a sweeter, rounder and more complex taste that no artificial flavour can give!

Vanillin, however, is not that bad. I generally use fresh vanilla bean (natural vanilla extract is hardly available here in Italy) for recipes calling for milk or another liquid to be flavoured with the bean, and vanillin for "dry" items like doughs, cakes and so on, mainly if they contain stronger flavours that would overwhelm the flavour of natural vanilla.

The only advice I can give is: use it sparingly. As I said, if you use too much vanillin it will give a bitter taste to your food. This is likely to be the main reason why many people hates it, but this can be easily avoided reducing the doses.

Pongi

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You can get a bitter flavor from too much real vanilla extract, too, but it's probably easier to do with the imitation because imitation has a higher concentration of vanillin.

schneich, I'll put the question to you that I have to others: in what recipes have you tried imitation vanilla, and have you done a side-by-side taste test? Your post did bring one point home for me: vanilla extract is, like imitation vanilla, a cheap substitute for the best product, which is whole vanilla beans. Those of you who swear by real vanilla extract because you feel strongly about choosing the best--why aren't you using exclusively vanilla beans? They're quite easy to use and aren't bulked up with alcohol and water like vanilla extract.


Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Does anyone else make their own vanilla extract? I have a small bottle I keep in the spice cupboard. I take my leftover scraped pods and store them in the bottle covered with rum. Works well for me, the vanilla flavor comes through pretty quickly. I try to use white rum to avoid too much of a rum flavor and also that way I can seel when the liquid takes on a more brown vanilla color.

Speaking as a former analytical chemist (MSc from the U of W), I have made several flavor extracts over the years, including vanilla. I take care not to use any flavored alcohols since I want the pure flavor of the substance being extracted.

The closest you can get to absolute ethyl alcohol, the better. I preferentially use Everclear, which is not sold in Washington state. I pick up a few bottles at a time when I go to Portland on business. I also use it as a sanitizing agent for certain pieces of my homebrew equipment. If you cannot find Everclear, then any cheap high-proof non-flavored vodka would work well. I macerate the vanilla beans in the alcohol for a few weeks and the end product is superb, and usually better than anything I buy.

When I don't make my own, I am partial to the tahitian vanilla from Trader Joe's and a vanilla bean paste I pick up from Sur La Table.


Regards,

Michael Lloyd

Mill Creek, Washington USA

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I macerate the vanilla beans in the alcohol for a few weeks and the end product is superb, and usually better than anything I buy.

How exactly do you do this? What ratio of beans to alcohol do you recommend? Do you crush the beans or use them whole? Do you use already scraped beans? Do you remove the beans after a few weeks, or leave them in?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd like to know how too, since I haven't yet used all of my precious Everclear for other purposes.


Edited by MsRamsey (log)

"Save Donald Duck and Fuck Wolfgang Puck."

-- State Senator John Burton, joking about

how the bill to ban production of foie gras in

California was summarized for signing by

Gov. Schwarzenegger.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm guessing it has to do with your preference and how many vanilla beans.

I've got one recipe that uses one vanilla bean, sliced/scraped and completely immersed in 3/4 cup of vodka. Place into a glass container with a tight fitting lid. Shake occasionally and allow to steep for 4 to 6 months.

Another recipe, a Martha S. one, states using only 2, sliced and scraped vanilla beans and a 750ml bottle of vodka, by allowing it to steep for the same 4 to 6 months. Barefoot Contessa recommends 12 vanilla beans, whole and not scraped of seeds, in a bottle of vodka steeped for at least one month.

:blink:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I macerate the vanilla beans in the alcohol for a few weeks and the end product is superb, and usually better than anything I buy.

How exactly do you do this? What ratio of beans to alcohol do you recommend? Do you crush the beans or use them whole? Do you use already scraped beans? Do you remove the beans after a few weeks, or leave them in?

My typical recipe is to use two sliced and roughly chopped vanilla beans into 500 ml of alcohol. I put this into a 750 ml brown glass bottle with a tightly fitting cap. I let the solution macerate for at least three weeks, and I give the bottle a vigorous shake every two days.

Depending on the quality of the vanilla bean (which can vary), this produces a strongly-flavored vanilla extract which is to my personal taste. There can be some fine particles in the extract, so if I am making a recipe that would not benefit from the particles, I pour a little bit of the solution through a paper coffee filter to catch the particulates.


Regards,

Michael Lloyd

Mill Creek, Washington USA

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, but how can I make my own imitation vanilla extract at home? :huh:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll give you one reason. The closer food is to the earth, the healthier it is for you.

I have a bottle of vodka with 20 vanilla beans soaking in it, it's black. the real deal, and I can just add vodka to it when it runs low.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Yes, but how can I make my own imitation vanilla extract at home? :huh:

:laugh:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey, nightscotsman, at the lab where I used to work, we had a huge jar of vanillin. Nobody used it. Nobody knew why we had it. It had probably been there for decades. I would have asked to take it home, but I had no way of proving it wasn't contaminated. Anyway, if I had taken it home, I could have made you-know-what.

Homemade vanilla extract sounds fairly economical. Well, the two-bean version does, at least.


Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Homemade vanilla extract sounds fairly economical. Well, the two-bean version does, at least.

In my opinion, the key to extracting the flavor components to the maximum in the minimum amount of time and cost, is to increase the surface area of the item being extracted. The more solids exposed to the solvent, the higher and faster the rate of extraction. Thus, my preference to slice and roughly chop the two vanilla beans I use in my recipe.

I would think it would take quite a bit of time , quite a few vanilla beans and quite a bit of solvent to make vanilla extract from soaking whole beans. I am the first to admit that I have never made vanilla extract from soaking whole beans. I do not know if there is a quality difference. Although I have no actual knowledge and have done no research, I would bet that commercially-prepared vanilla extract is not made by soaking whole beans, just based on a SWAG on cost and time issues.


Regards,

Michael Lloyd

Mill Creek, Washington USA

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For example, I use the relatively expensive Plugra butter.....

another "american thing" plugra butter.. what the hell ??? :blink::blink::blink:

every normal butter in germany (not the lite stuff obviously) contains 82% fat and you can

select from a variety of creamy extra creamy, sour, french butter, salted unsalted etc....

my point is these are ALL real butter´s! no fake shit... i mean comon..

you guys use ass-lubricant (crisco) in cakes and cookies...

you guys use fake baconbitz...

you guys have milk that is basically white water

you guys do this unhealthy complete bullshit of "lowcarb"

etc.. etc... etc... :biggrin:

thats what i mean with "american thing"

cheers :laugh::raz:

t.


Edited by schneich (log)

toertchen toertchen

patissier chocolatier cafe

cologne, germany

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Your post did bring one point home for me: vanilla extract is, like imitation vanilla, a cheap substitute for the best product, which is whole vanilla beans.

sorry but we have to put things right here first! :

vanilla essence is artificial and therefor shouldnt be used!

to me it tastes just artificial... you might be able to do a nice cake

with it, but it will always taste like this entenmann´s stuff... not real!

vanilla extract is the real thing... they take the whole beans, mash them and

soak them in alcohol, which extracts not only the vanillin but all the Phytochemicals, which makes them taste like real vanilla. the other night i talked to a representative from nielsen massey at the ANUGA show here in cologne and i was able to try some of there new products... its really incredible.. they have a very reasonable priced tahitian vanilla extract... very fruity and flowery...

their newest baby is a product which is just like the stuff you scrape out of the bean..

all the smeary stuff with the little dots... very sweet.. very concentrated...

all their products are 100% real vanilla, and you can tell if you smell them!

thats about as "artificial" as i will get, ever... :biggrin:

if i dont have the mo for a few drops of that stuff, i stop baking cause

then i also couldnt afford all the rest (butter, nuts, chocolate etc.)

cheers

t. :cool:


toertchen toertchen

patissier chocolatier cafe

cologne, germany

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My favorite source for vanilla was recommended to me at a San Francisco Bakers Dozen meeting. Patricia Rain's Vanilla.com is a fabulous website full of all sorts of information re vanilla. She sells a large variety of very high quality vanilla beans and extracts on the site.

Here's the link:

Vanilla.com

And, by the way, some of those cheap Mexican "vanilla" extracts may actually be harmful to your health. Many of them are made by adding coumarin to synthetic vanillin to make the flavor a little more like pure vanilla. Coumarin, from the Tonka tree, can be toxic, especially to the liver. Its use has been outlawed in the United States since the 1950s.

Here's a link:

Mexican Vanilla Toxic?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

bullshit!! tonka beans if used as a spice is no toxic at all

if you eat a whole bag of tonkabeans things could be different :biggrin:

but if you eat a whole bag of salt it could be too :raz:

.t.


toertchen toertchen

patissier chocolatier cafe

cologne, germany

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
you guys use ass-lubricant (crisco) in cakes and cookies...

you guys use fake baconbitz...

you guys have milk that is basically white water

you guys do this unhealthy complete bullshit of "lowcarb"

etc.. etc... etc...  :biggrin:

Who is "you guys?"

Were you trying to be funny? If so, I don't get it.


Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
bullshit!! tonka beans if used as a spice is no toxic at all

if you eat a whole bag of tonkabeans things could be different  :biggrin:

but if you eat a whole bag of salt it could be too  :raz:

.t.

I'll tell you what. YOU use that stuff and take your chances. I'LL choose not to. My mom had a liver transplant -- liver disease is not anything I'd want to risk getting. The FDA has determined that even small amounts of coumarin can be toxic. Why use this crap when you can use real vanilla?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.