How to use a vanilla bean

This post illustrates how to use a vanilla bean pod in your recipes.

Vanilla must be the most common ingredient used in baking recipes – you can add it to almost anything. Did you know vanilla bean is the second most expensive spice in the world after saffron? Also, there are more than 25000 flavorful seeds inside the average vanilla bean! There are 3 major species of vanilla – Mexican, Tahitian, and Madagascar.

The best flavour and aroma of vanilla comes from these seeds, so whenever possible, get hold of some good quality vanilla beans and use them! 1 regular vanilla bean pod would be equivalent to 3 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract. Or at least use the pure extract in your recipes (you can also make your own extract with beans, a post I’ll be doing soon), because once you taste the original, you cannot go back to the imitation. Also, you get these beautiful specks of vanilla throughout and that just adds to the beauty.

How do you identify a good vanilla bean?

It should be soft, bendable and plump. It should be dark brown, almost black in colour.

How to store them?

Vanilla bean pods can dry out easily, so try to keep them in their packaging until you plan to use them. They should be wrapped up in plastic wrap and stored in an airtight container in a cool dark place. Do not refrigerate. If stored properly, these can last for weeks.

And what can we do with the remaining pods after you remove the seeds?

Add them to your sugar jar and have vanilla sugar anytime you want. Or cook it with your liquid (for example, milk when making pastry cream) or even use it to flavour your coffee.

Below are some pictures to help you understand the process of extracting the seeds from a pod –

1. Flatten the vanilla pod with the back of your knife.

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2. Split the bean in half down its length using a sharp knife. This will expose the glorious seeds which contain all the vanilla goodness.

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3. Scrape out the seeds from each half with the dull side of the knife by holding one tip of the pod with your finger.

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4. Add the seeds to your recipe instead of vanilla extract. If boiling it in milk for pastry cream, for example, add the pods as well for extra flavour. Remove them when adding to the eggs.

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See how pretty the vanilla freckles look in a pastry cream filled chocolate eclair!!

Pastry Cream

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