Vanilla For Baking
Vanilla: A Gift From the Gods for Bakers and Cooks
Exotic, magical, aromatic, wonderful flavor; these are all characteristics that can be used to describe vanilla beans and vanilla extract.
What is the origin of vanilla? It is speculated that more than 1,000 years ago several tribes living in Mexico first discovered the magical qualities of the vanilla bean. Whether it was accidental or simply a serious discovery will always remain conjecture. What is known is that by the time the Spaniards invaded South America, the vanilla bean was entrenched in Aztec society. In fact Montezuma, the famed Aztec leader, was known to be fond of a drink called chocolati which was made from ground cocoa beans and corn then flavored with vanilla beans and honey. What is also known is that the vanilla beans were a rare commodity and in some cases were used as currency.
When vanilla was introduced to Europe by the early Spanish explorers it was quickly discovered that vanilla was a delicious and aromatic flavoring agent. The Europeans started manufacturing vanilla with chocolate as early as the mid-16th century. While the Spaniards started using vanilla as a flavoring agent, it was really the French who kicked it up a notch. By the 18th century they started using vanilla as a flavoring for chocolate, in confections and even to flavor tobacco.
While the original source for vanilla beans, Mexico, lasted up till the 18th century the Europeans were not able to cultivate the vanilla plant, a member of the orchid family, because they didn't understand the pollinating process. Observations in the native growing areas enabled botanists to understand that the vanilla plants were pollinated by local insects. Armed with that knowledge botanists were able to transplant vanilla plants to grow in other tropical areas. The method of hand pollination which still exists to this day was discovered by a former slave by the name of Edmond Albius on the French island of Reunion. His method was to take a thin stick and dip it into the male pollen and then transfer it to the female stigma inside the flower.
Vanilla beans have many uses in the culinary world. While most people think of vanilla beans as an ingredient for ice cream or other sweets, innovative chefs are now showing the world how versatile vanilla beans are. Vanilla beans can be used to make liqueurs, and are often added to cocktails. Vanilla beans can mask the taste of strong spirits (such as vodka or tequila), but can also enhance flavors in liquors such as rum or whiskey. They are a wonderful ingredient for crepes, waffles, muffins and even breads. While usually not thought of as an ingredient in vegetable or meat, fish, and poultry dishes, vanilla beans (or vanilla extract) are a marvelous way to take these ingredients to new heights.
As a last point, imitation vanilla extract, once reviled by gourmet bakers and chefs, has a place in any pantry. Artificial vanilla flavors, created using either natural or synthetic flavoring compounds, can provide more consistency of flavor in baked goods, as there is no variation in quality. However, for many cooks, there is no substitute for top quality pure vanilla extract made with water, alcohol and vanilla extractives. True vanilla extract has a rich perfumed smell, amber color and is totally free of any chemicals or sugar additives.
General FAQs About Vanilla for Baking
What is the best vanilla for baking?
Depending on the application used and final product desired, bakers may choose from a variety of vanilla forms. Vanilla beans are best used in no-or-low heat recipes, as well as in homemade extract-making. Alcohol-based pure vanilla extracts are ideal for low, mid, and hi-temp baking applications. Because of the alcohol content in extracts, some chefs prefer to use emulsions or pastes for low-temp, no-bake applications to maximize vanilla flavor. PG-based extracts, oils, and concentrated flavors are best for candy making or chocolate making. Artificial and imitation vanilla flavors are effective at all baking temps. Powders and ground beans are best for dry baking mixes.
Do you sell vanilla flavouring in bulk?
More than 90% of our vanilla products are available in large sizes such as gallons and by the pound. We take wholesale orders and have a special wholesale program for those who are looking to buy in bulk.