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Vanilla Beans vs Extract substitutions


Wholemeal Crank
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this may have already been discussed, but searching I find either hundreds of entries (like for "vanilla bean" + "vanilla extract") or none ("vanilla bean substitute" or "vanilla bean equivalent").

My apologies if I missed the relevant post.

I've switched to using mostly vanilla beans in my cooking and baking, wherever possible milling the beans right in with the wheat berries for flour in baked goods. But I haven't seen a detailed discussion anyplace of how much bean is roughly equivalent to how much vanilla extract. I presume that details matter, such as whether you've got high-quality beans with the vanilla crystals on the outside (nope, mine are nice plump shiny pods without any crystal frosting) and whether you're comparing to gourmet extracts vs. standard retail brands (like the McCormick or Schilling or store brand extracts I used before starting with the beans).

I tend to use about 1/2 inch of bean for each tsp of vanilla called for in the recipe.

Any comments appreciated.

Thanks!

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If you are looking for real vanilla flavor in extract perportions, why not make your own. Just stick a couple of beans in a bottle of alcohol. what type doesn'y really matter. Vodka is the most neutral obviously, but bourbon is really yummy, if you can stop yourself from drinking it all. It seems to me that you get the most flavor for your dollar this way, but it could just be my perception.

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It loaded for me just now in both IE and Mozilla.

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That site loaded easy for me too.

I don't know.....I think using fresh in many applications is a huge waste of money. Typically (with exceptions), I only use it in non-baked items, where it's noticed by your palate. But I don't get fresh beans at one job so I use the Massey brand emulsion.

I think I saw someone did testing on extract comparing the imitation stuff to the pricey real vanilla and the imitation won in taste tests, in baked goods only. Did anyone else see this? I think it depends upon the brand, there are some imitations that are horrible and others that are decent.

I have to wonder about milling the beans in with flour. I can't help but think that would coat the tiny beans and they might not even come thru in flavor. Instead aren't you getting more pod flavor verses bean out of milling?

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I've found a huge difference in most spices when I mill the whole spice in with my grains rather than using powders, and on the assumption that it might work the same for vanilla, I have started doing it regularly. I also bought a lot of vanilla pods when the prices were lower a year ago, and need to do something with them....

For some recipes it has worked beautifully. But the results have seemed a little uneven and I wasn't always using the same conversion of inches of bean to volume extract.

As for pod flavor vs. seed flavor, since vanillin crystals are said to sometimes coat the pod, I'd rather not toss the pod. I've nibbled on the pods and found them to have a little flavor. At worst, it just adds a little fiber to the mix, not a problem when it is milled to a very fine flour.

And the problem with vanilla.com is probably specific to my campus network. It can be pretty capricious in cutting off web servers.

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In school we used a lot of vanilla beans in pastry cream and such, ending up with a lot of scraped pods that still had some flavor. So we dried them in the oven and ground them in a robot coupe. The resulting vanilla "powder" made a great addition to recipes like financiers that could benefit from a rustic appearance. The flavor was great.

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  • 2 weeks later...
...I think I saw someone did testing on extract comparing the imitation stuff to the pricey real vanilla and the imitation won in taste tests...

Cook's Illustrated did a taste test with real vanilla extract vs. imitation. Their tasters found that the imitation actually tasted more like vanilla than real vanilla extract. The magazine concluded that this is because imitation vanilla, which is extracted from rotting wood pulp, has a much larger concentration of vanillin. Vanillin, as you might guess, is the main flavor compound in vanilla. Anyway, in the US vanilla extract is required to contain at least a certain(rather large)percentage of alcohol for safety (damned government!) making it impossible for real vanilla to have as much vanillin as the imitation. At least that's what Cook's said...

I heard the editor of Cook's, Chris Kimball, discuss this and he said that although it won over the tasters he still can't bring himself to use the imitation.

Edited by carp (log)
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Sinclair:

If you ever read the label on a bar of plain chocolate and see that they use vanilla pod (gousse) they actually do use whole pods. They're chopped down and added (usually) during the refining stage. This is after the initial grinding that results in the cocoa liquor. To the liquor is added the sugar and vanilla pod for refining, before it is conched.

There's no real pod taste if the vanilla beans are fresh (besides, chocolate is such an intense flavor at the concentrations we're talking about, nominally less than 1% vanilla that the flavor would have to bea really off/stale before you could taste it).

I know, cocoa liquor is more than a little different from grain, but my guess is that because cocoa butter is so good at absorbing odors and flavors that refining the whole pod into the mix is a very efficient way of adding the vanilla.

:Clay

Clay Gordon

president, pureorigin

editor/publisher www.chocophile.com

founder, New World Chocolate Society

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Thanks Carp! I knew I saw that somewhere.

I don't know Chocophile....in my head it's still a stretch using it in milled flour-I can see adding it into breads for an interesting taste through the flour, but not typical sweet baking. I can see using it in shortbreads or cereals as a vanilla powder to enhanse, but I get stuck mentally using it through your flour in other applications.

Maybe this is one of those things that you need to actually try and taste cause it's hard to guess with-out putting it through trials. It certainly is an interesting idea, I've heard of anyone else doing this, maybe you've got something interesting Wholemeal Crank..........

How's it been going since you began this thread Wholemeal? Have you narrowed down your amounts? Any chance you have some photos of how you do this and your finished product, that would be VERY interesting!?

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I just made some sweet tamales in which I used two inches of vanilla bean milled into 450g of corn (the equivalent of about 3C cornflour). I was expecting a mildly vanilla-flavored dough, but it was very strong. I think 2 inches per tsp vanilla extract, at least the standard extract and ordinary beans I've gotten hold of, may be a little too strong.

I did take some pictures--the blue corn yielded a purple dough which looked quite striking against the mango filling and mango puree topping--and will try to post them soon.

Edited by Wholemeal Crank (log)
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