Thursday, February 26, 2015

Cooking, drinking, and baking with Tahitian vanilla

Ever wonder what Tahitian vanilla smells and tastes like? The most common descriptors for Tahitian vanilla are: floral, fruity, chocolate, cherry, aromatic and complex.

You are probably aware that vanilla is most commonly used as a flavoring in ice cream, pastries, desserts, and in chocolate confections. But don’t limit yourself to sweets and baked goods. Vanilla be used in savory dishes to bring out the natural sweetness in shellfish like shrimp, scallops and lobster, for example. Tahitian vanilla in particular can impart depth and complexity to sauces for pork, poultry, and barbecue as well as Mexican moles. Tahitians use vanilla in cream or wine sauces for seafood dishes. Use Tahitian vanilla in salad dressings, fruit soups, pork dishes or pork brines, dry rub for beef, marinades, carrot soup, squash soup, sweet potatoes, the list goes on and on.

Try Tahitian vanilla in drinks. Put a pinch of ground vanilla in your coffee, hot chocolate, cocoa, tea, smoothies, and milkshakes. Drop a bean or two into a bottle of vodka, bourbon or rum for a couple weeks or so to infuse the spirit. The use of vanilla in creative cocktails is limited only by your imagination. Visit our blog for posts on vanilla mixology to learn how to infuse spirits, make vanilla simple syrup and for cocktail recipes.

If your recipe calls for a bean and you only have extract, don’t worry. The forms of vanilla can be used interchangeably. However, the equivalents for a vanilla beans, extract, and powder depends, as they say, on a lot of things including your preference. If the vanilla beans are fresh, you might not needs as much as if the beans are dry. A plump, moist, aromatic Tahitian vanilla bean can be twice the size of a grocery store bean and twice as intense. Is the vanilla extract natural and gourmet quality, or is it synthetic, imitation or simply flavoring from the supermarket shelves? Is the ground powder pure vanilla bean or does it have added sugar, starch or other fillers? Adjust accordingly. Here is a general starting point: 1 Tsp extract = a 2” section of bean = ½-1 Tsp ground powder.

Wolfgang Puck’s Executive Pastry Chef Marian Getz dispels the crazy Internet myth that you shouldn't use Tahitian for hot preparations because some of the perfume will be lost. She says, “That's just ignorance. Of course flavors are lost or muted when we manipulate them with heat, but the wonderful nuances are still there. In some cases, a bit more vanilla is added at the end of cooking to add another layer of flavor. But that should never make you think that you shouldn't use Tahitian vanilla in hot applications! The change in flavors is true of most of the foods we cook. Think of onions, for example. They change dramatically during cooking, which is a wonderful thing, and many times extra onion is added off heat to add that fresh punch of flavor.” Read more of Chef Getz thoughts on Tahitian vanilla. 

So now that you know all about Tahitian vanilla, get your apron on and head to the kitchen! Shop for premium Tahitian vanilla beans, extract and ground beans on our website. Can't decide? Try a sampler of 2 beans, 2 oz of extract and 7g of ground powder in one convenient package. Check out our Pinterest boards for recipe ideas. 

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