Vanilla is the base of the baking world. It works with many ingredients such as peaches, figs, coconut and even shellfish. Vanilla is the pod of the vanilla planifola plant, which is the only edible fruit of the orchid family. Madagascar, Tahiti and Mexico are the main areas where these plants are grown, but can be found in other tropical countries. Producing and harvesting vanilla is a long and labour intensive process therefore it is very expensive.
The vanilla pod holds all the vanilla seed. To obtain the seeds, split the vanilla pod in half lengthways. Using the back of the knife scrape down to the end and use the seeds as required. The remaining pod can be used to be steeped in milk, cream, sugar syrup or used to make vanilla extract
Vanilla Extract is produced by steeping vanilla pods in alcohol and water. Different alcohols produce slightly different flavours and colours. When finished with your vanilla pod, place it in a jar or glass bottle with a seal-able lid and top it up with rum, brandy or vodka, making your own vanilla extract. When your extract is running low just keep topping it up
This is the cheaper version of vanilla extract. It is a manufactured imitation therefore does not have the same strength of flavour and aroma. I only use this if I about testing and or developing a recipe. For first time bakers, I would suggest using this, so you are not losing money if your baked goods don’t turn out right
The ease of adding little black flecks of vanilla seeds straight into your recipes without having to scrape the vanilla pod. This is perfect for recipes where a slight change in the amount of liquid could ruin a recipe like macarons and souffles.
The vanilla pods that you find at the supermarket are stupidly expensive. Around a £1 per pod. £1 for pods that are dry and contain hardly any seeds and fruity aromas at all. Vanilla pods should be fragrant, almost black in colour with a wrinkly and shiny surface. Not like the ones you get in the supermarket.
When I buy my vanilla pods, I go to one place and one place only. Vanilla Mart (www.vanillamart.co.uk). They have the juiciest pods around and their extracts are full of vanilla flavour. They have a variety of vanilla pods, ranging from premium to gourmet Madagascan, Indian and Tahiti. One of their products you don’t usually see is vanilla extract with seeds, a liquid version of a vanilla pod which means you get all the flavour and the seeds too!!
I’m super exited to host my first giveaway and thank the lovely people at Vanilla Mart (www.vanillamart.co.uk) for their generosity for providing the goodies.
I am giving 2 lucky winners a set of vanilla combo packs which includes:
10 Gourmet Madagascan Vanilla Pods
60g Premium Madagascan Vanilla Paste
100ml Madagascan Bourbon Vanilla Extract
All you have to do is leave a comment on my blog saying what your favourite vanilla recipe is then click the link below to enter and follow the intsructions.