Vanilla extract is a staple ingredient every baker should have on hand in their cupboard. Before covering the variety of ways vanilla can be used in baking methods, it is important to discern between high-quality vanilla and imitation flavors. Imitation vanilla extract has its uses, however, real vanilla extract is produced directly from a vanilla bean.
An ingredient used primarily for desserts, vanilla extract can be added to savory and sweet dishes for a kick of flavor. Vanilla goes beautifully in pancakes, salad dressings, custards, dessert sauces and even marinades. Even in recipes that do not call for vanilla flavors, vanilla is a typical ingredient intended to bring out the rich, surrounding flavors in baking.
How Is Vanilla Extract Made?
Pure vanilla is extracted from vanilla bean pods, the secret ingredient is “vanillin”. Vanillin is pulled from the pods by soaking in alcohol. The brown tones are a result from the essential oils hidden in the bean. The extraction of vanilla from the beans is a time-consuming process. The beans soak in alcohol for up to 48 hours, and the extracts may sit with the bean for a few days after, too. The extract goes through a filtering process and is stored in a tank until it is bottled. Pure vanilla extract always has a slight alcohol scent to it, this is because the FDA suggestion for alcohol content in products listed as pure vanilla extract is set at a 35% minimum.
The vanilla beans utilized for extraction range from all over the world, though most manufacturers stay with one bean variety, such as Madagascar or Mexico.
Imitation vanilla extract is artificially created, and as a general rule is less expensive. The vanillin flavor can be reproduced using wood pulp, pine sap, and clove oil. The extract will be colorless. A good way to tell whether vanilla is artificial or authentic is if the color is clear. from the lack of oils being pulled from the bean). In general, imitation vanilla extract smells more sweet and vanilla, and pure vanilla extract has a stronger scent of alcohol. This is because the main ingredient in imitation vanilla is vanillin, though it is diluted by a host of other organic components.
Does Artificial Vanilla Extract Taste Different
The difference between imitation and pure flavors is subjective, however, your go-to cake or cookie recipes will be far more scrumptious with a high quality, pure vanilla extract. Because this staple is used so often in traditional baking recipes, it is an item that should be purchased by every baker, both novice and experienced alike.
Different Vanilla Strengths: Folds
Concentration in vanilla extracts varies, affecting the strength and intensity of the taste. Single fold, typically written as 1x, is the usual concentrate level in pure vanilla extract. A double fold is twice as intense, and so on. The concentration content can excel up to folds of twenty, however, the extract loses stability anywhere above four-fold. In some candy recipes where liquids can change the integrity of the product, a higher level concentrate is necessary.
The fold level is described as follows: single fold carries the vanilla extract, alcohol and water proportions (a minimum of 35% alcohol and 65% water mixture with 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans). In double and triple folds, the vanilla bean extract doubles and triples with the same amount of water and alcohol as a single fold.
Baking at home shouldn’t demand a higher concentrate unless you are a candy-maker and particularly like working with liquids. However, to save costs it might be a good idea to purchase double fold vanilla extract if you use it on a regular basis. The double fold can be diluted or used more sparingly. For example, homemade hot cocoa calls for a small amount of vanilla extract in order to enhance the cocoa flavors and sweetness without adding more sugar. To use double fold extract in your hot cocoa recipe would call for less product yet be equal sweetness.
Storing Vanilla Extract
Pure Vanilla extract, after opening, has a shelf life of about six months. Vanilla extract goes through a natural aging process from the point it is extracted until it is opened in your kitchen. The depth and body of the flavor continue to richen for about two years. The best way to keep it stored is in a cool, dark place inside your cabinet that stays away from excessive heat or sunlight. Refrigeration is not suggested, as the temperatures can affect the flavor of the vanilla.
Vanilla Extract Dessert Ideas
So, what are some ways to use vanilla extract in your baking? Vanilla extract can be used in so many dishes, it is a versatile ingredient. Vanilla can be the star of the flavor or be a subtle, sweet taste lingering in the background. Vanilla extract can be used in cupcakes, muffins, puddings, cakes, gelato, ice cream, pancakes, brownies, and bread.