There's a reason why vanilla is the second most popular spice (after saffron), and that's because it has such a delightful flavor, and it's versatile enough to be used in all kinds of baked goods, as well as dishes for any meal. The warm, inviting flavor of vanilla has been used in countless recipes and in various entrees and side dishes over the years, and its popularity just keeps on growing. Here are some tips you should keep in mind for including vanilla in your own baking and meal preparations, so as to get the maximum benefit of all that flavor and goodness.
Scrape the seeds from your vanilla pods
The proper way to scrape the seeds from your pods starts with laying the pods on a flat surface. Then you'll need to slice the pod down the middle, and use the back side of the knife, running it down the entire length of the pod to harvest the seeds. After you've collected all the seeds, be sure to keep the pod itself, because it will still be loaded with flavor.
Add your vanilla in at the end
It's a good idea to add in your vanilla extract, or whatever other form of vanilla you're using, at the end of the baking or cooking process. This exposes it to heat for a shorter period of time, and does less harm to the delicate flavor of the vanilla. By adding in vanilla at the end, you can be sure of preserving all the best characteristics of the wonderful vanilla flavor.
Use high-quality vanilla
This tip should not come as a surprise, because it's the same for practically all ingredients you'll use in meal preparation or baking. The better the quality of the vanilla you use, the better will be the results of your efforts. If you want to be sure of having high-quality vanilla in your prepared foods, shop for your vanilla at Bemarivo Vanilla, where only the finest premium vanilla beans are sold.
Try different vanilla products
Many recipes call for vanilla extract, but there are some terrific substitutions you can use which can make your baked goods come out even better. For instance, you might want to try Premium Gourmet Madagascar Vanilla Powder or Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla , because both of these pack a powerful punch in recipes. It might take a bit of experimentation, but when you find an alternative product that works well with a given recipe, you just might have a specialty you can call your own, and which your friends and family will love.
Try using whole vanilla beans
There is no better way to include vanilla flavor in any recipe than by using whole vanilla beans. They will be much more expensive than simple vanilla extract of course, but for sheer flavor, they simply can't be beat. That's because every vanilla bean pod is jam-packed with tiny black specks loaded with wonderful vanilla flavor, and these not only provide an intense taste experience, but they also have great visual appeal. As a rule of thumb, a 2-inch vanilla bean will be roughly equivalent to a teaspoon of vanilla extract, so whenever you're using a recipe calling for extract, you can make this substitution.
Don't discard your bean pods
Since you paid so much for your vanilla beans, you shouldn't simply discard the pods after scraping out all the seeds for use in recipes. Those bean pods can be ground up using a grinder, and you'll have lots more vanilla flavor you can add to prepared dishes as well as baking recipes. You'd be surprised how intense the vanilla flavor can be in those pods, so make sure not to just discard them, but re-purpose them for future usage.
Select the right vanilla beans
The best vanilla beans to use in your food preparation are those which are somewhere between five and seven inches long, with an outside skin that is a really dark brown. When you roll the bean between your fingers, it should feel somewhat moist and very supple - not brittle or dried out. If you get the opportunity, you should smell the beans, even if they're packaged in some kind of cellophane or other wrap. The natural fragrance of vanilla beans is so powerful that you should be able to smell it right through the packaging. Depending on where the beans were grown, they will have different flavors which can be very distinctive. Madagascar is the largest producer of vanilla beans, and those typically will have a sweet and creamy aroma.
Use both seeds and pods for some recipes
For certain recipes like custard, it can be beneficial to use both seeds and pods in your preparation, so consider throwing both of them in your cooking pot. The seeds will cook right out of the pods, and add some tremendous flavor to your custard, and the skin of the pods themselves will intensify that even further. You'll end up with a custard that has a powerful aroma of vanilla, and that will be noticeably stronger than anything you might buy off your grocery store shelves.
Store your beans properly
You should never store your beans without wrapping them, because they will dry out and lose much of their flavor. Either wrap them in a zip-top bag or use foil to seal in all the flavor until your next usage. Make sure to store the beans in a location which is cool and dark, so they keep well until you intend to use them. If your pods do begin to dry out for some reason, you can store them in a jar of vodka to revive their terrific flavor.
Keeping your vanilla beans
If vanilla beans are stored properly, they will have a shelf life of up to two years, and the flavor will be intact. You can store vanilla extract for as many as five years if it has been stored properly. By taking a little care in your storage process, you can keep your vanilla beans for a very long time, and use them on a number of baking or meal preparation projects.