Vanilla is one of the most popular flavors in the world - even more popular than chocolate - and is mainly used in sweet dishes like cakes, candies, puddings, ice cream, sauces and custards. While we mostly enjoy vanilla for the flavor and aroma, this is a powerful spice that can lift the mood - helping with depression and even acting as an aphrodisiac. Let's take a closer look at how to select, store and use vanilla.
- They should be dark skinned - dark brown, almost black in color.
- They should have a rich aroma.
- Know your varieties. There are two, Bourbon beans and Tahitian Beans. Bourbon beans are creamy and sweet with vanillin overtones. Tahitian beans are shorter, plumper, and contain a higher oil and water content and can have cherry or wine overtones. Within those two varieties, vanilla beans will differ in flavor and aroma depending on where they are grown.
- Choose plump beans with a thin skin to get the most seeds possible.
- They should be pliable. Gently squeeze the bean between your fingers. The bod should be able to bend around your finger without breaking.
- They should be oily to the touch.
- Vanilla beans will keep indefinitely in a cool, dark place in an airtight container.
- Bourbon beans may develop what looks like mold on the outside. This is most likely natural vanillin crystals, which are edible and very flavorful.
- Don't refrigerate vanilla beans beans, it can cause them to harden.
- If you have dried out beans, try to rehydrate them in a warm liquid or grind them with a coffee grinder
- Often a recipe will call for scraping the seeds. To do this, cut the bean open lengthwise and spread it apart. Inside you'll find thousands of tiny seeds. Using a knife, scrape the seeds from one side of the pod and then the other.
- Add some interesting flavor notes and aromas to beverages by steeping a whole vanilla bean in drinks like lemonade, mulled cider, hot cocoa and more.
- Once you use a whole bean in a liquid, simply rinse and dry the bean and store.
- After you've steeped a whole bean in liquid, you can place a whole vanilla bean in a jar of sugar to flavor the sugar for other recipes.
- Beans that have been used a couple of times for other uses can be ground up whole and used to flavor ice cream, cookies, custards and other desserts.
Do you use fresh vanilla beans in recipes? Let me know your favorite ways to use it!