Home Recipes Technique Equipment Ingredients Blog

Extract or Bean pod? The answer really comes down to what you are making. To really get the flavor out of a bean you need to steep it in a liquid. You can't really do this for cookies, so my sole use of vanilla beans has been for ice cream. Pods are expensive, though, so do what fits your budget. A few suggestions:

No imitation extracts, of course. I always chuckle when I hear a cooking show host stress you need real extract. In this day and age of culinary awareness, is it really necessary to mention it? Do people still not get it? It's never ok to use imitation extract unless you need 50 gallons for some industrial use.

Vanilla typically comes in 3 regional varieties, Tahitian, Madagascar, and Mexican. Tahitian vanilla has a strong floral scent, somewhat more perfume like. I like it, but my wife could pick it out of a blind caramel taste test without hesitation since she does not like it. Mexican vanilla has a more kalhua essence to it. Most people are used to the Madagascar vanilla, since most vanilla beans are grown there. The most prevalent brand of quality vanilla is Nielsen-Massey. They have a very informative web site with interesting facts about vanilla.

Bean Pods
I've used bean pods in both glass and plastic tubes, with Nielsen-Massey brand being the most common I have found. The unknown brand vanilla I bought in a clear plastic tube had a loose fitting red cap whereas glass tubes provide a much tighter seal and keep the pods moist. I have only been able to obtain madigascar vanilla pods. I would be curious to try Mexican vanilla in a chocolate espresso truffle ganache.

The flavor imparted by a bean pod to home made ice cream can't be matched by an extract. With a pod you get strong floral overtones and the telltale brown specks of vanilla seeds. I've heard some brand name vanilla ice creams use ground up pod casings to simulate the flecks and save money.

Click any image below to enlarge
Be the first to add a comment to this page!
Add your Comment

Please note that all comments are subject to review. Approval may take up to 24 hours.

  • Related Recipes