You’re likely to be familiar with Tahitian vanilla extract. It’s so easy to use because it keeps forever and a little goes a long way to enhance sweetness in your recipes. You might be less familiar with ground Tahitian vanilla bean powder. Ground powder is a great way to incorporate vanilla into dry ingredients. (Stay tuned, because we’ll have more on how to use ground vanilla bean powder in a future blog post.) But, here’s the thing. The absolute best way to get that unique Tahitian vanilla aroma and flavor is directly from the Tahitian vanilla bean itself. Don’t be intimidated by recipes that call for splitting a vanilla bean. It is so easy! Here is a handy technique to getting the most seeds from the bean. Read on.
First off, let’s just get this out of the way. Splitting a Tahitian vanilla bean is no different from splitting any vanilla bean, except that we find that it’s a bit easier. Easier because Tahitian vanilla beans tend to be more plump, larger and more pliable than other beans. Other than that, the procedure is exactly the same.
Step one: Grasp one end of the vanilla bean firmly. With a very sharp paring knife, cut the bean lengthwise. A sharp blade is important because dull or serrated blades tear the bean rather than cutting a clean, smooth slice. The tiny vanilla seeds will stick to the torn bits and resist being removed and you’ll end up with fewer seeds. Take care not to cut the bean all the way through. You want to end up with one piece, if possible. If it is impossible, don’t sweat it. Simply proceed as if it was one piece.
Step two: Spread the bean open. You can see that we sliced through a small portion of the bean, ourselves.
Step three: With the blunt edge of the knife, scrape out the tiny black seeds, also known as vanilla caviar.
And there you have it. You now have the most delicious and aromatic and beautiful way to use Tahitian vanilla, bar none. That was easy, wasn’t it?
Here is another way to split a bean. Wolfgang Puck's Executive Pastry Chef, Marian Getz does it differently. She says “At the restaurant, we don't slice and scrape your plump Tahitian vanilla beans, we squeeze and pop them instead. Because they are so soft and pliable, it's more efficient.”
What to do with the spent bean: Wait! Don’t do it! Don’t throw it out! That spent bean still has a lot of life left in it. There is a plethora of ways to use the fragrant and flavorful spent bean. You can make Tahitian vanilla sugar, or salt, or honey, or simple syrup for cocktails, or infuse spirits, flavor tea or coffee, or make your own vanilla extract, or sweeten the smell of your sock drawer. Oh the possibilities! Go to our blog post for more ideas on what to do with a spent Tahitian vanilla bean.