When to Select Beans, Extracts, Powders, Pastes, Sugars or a Caviar
This information will help you make the best choice when selecting vanilla. You should select the specific vanilla based on your needs. This will help you save money and avoid waste. Vanilla is generally sold in the following forms:
- Whole Grade A Vanilla Beans
- Extract Grade Vanilla Beans
- Vanilla Extract
- Ground vanilla
- Vanilla Paste
- Vanilla Sugar
- Vanilla Caviar
Whole Grade A Vanilla Beans
This is the highly flavorful & aromatic fermented seed pod which consists of an outer fleshy pod containing thousands of very small seeds. The grade A vanilla bean is soft and flexible. The bean is easy to slice from top to bottom to scrape the seeds. You will find it's easier to scrape the seeds from the larger Madagascar and Mexican planifolia vanilla bean. These are great for home chefs, but not economical for industrial cooking—the extract grade beans are better for large scale production. Placing the spent vanilla pod in some sugar is a great way to get some extra use from a pod that has been scraped clean.
Extract Grade Vanilla Beans
Extract grade vanilla beans come whole, split, and cut. The splitting is a natural occurrence and happens during the sun curing process. Extract grade vanilla, sometimes called grade B, is best used for making vanilla extracts, vanilla beer, vanilla soda... you get the idea. Extract grade beans are also slightly less expensive than grade A beans. So you'll see a cost benefit using these for your extractive culinary projects. Check out the recipe for making your own vanilla extract.
A pure vanilla extract is an extraction of the vanilla into a 70 proof alcohol—typically Vodka, Rum, Spiced Rum, and Brandy. However, you can also make a non-alcohol version of vanilla extract using food-grade vegetable glycerin. Extracts are easy to work with and impart vanilla flavor and aroma into your recipes. Working with vanilla extract means no waste, and making your own is very cost effective.
Ground vanilla is made from the ground seeds and pod of vanilla beans. There is no waste using vanilla powder, it's easy to work with, and for that reason it's very popular for the home chef and large food manufacturers alike. Vanilla powder is a rich & robust ingredient. It can be used as sprinkles, added to hot and cold drinks, and is an excellent choice for baked goods.the flavor holds up to heat and extended cooking times. It's a good choice for temperamental ingredients like whipped cream & chocolate ganache.
Vanilla paste is made up of vanilla extract, vanilla powder, and sometimes glycerine. Vanilla paste has an intense vanilla flavor and has an appealing look in finished products. Its flavor tends to be robust and intense. Vanilla paste is easy to work with and also holds up to heat and extended cooking times. And works well with some temperamental ingredients like whipping cream. It typically contains alcohol, so may not be appropriate for everyone.
Vanilla sugar is easy to make at home and good to have in the cupboard. You make it by adding ground vanilla or your spent vanilla pods to a jar of sugar. Then you'll want to wait a few weeks until the flavors combine. Try shaking the jar from time to time. Vanilla sugar is delicious used as sprinkles, rimming sugar, sweetening hot and cold drinks, and when using sugar in your baked goods.
Vanilla caviar are pure vanilla seeds that have been hand scraped. And, as I am sure you guessed, they are very expensive. These seeds are best for garnishing the top of your deserts when presentation matters—you don't actually use these for cooking. Use vanilla caviar on top of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, vanilla crème brûlée, and buttercream frosting.