Baking Flavors 101: A Guide to Vanilla Flavor
If you are a baker or foodie you must know the worth of vanilla flavor when it comes to bringing out the best in your baking recipes. And this is not just reserved for baked treats, beverages, ice-creams, and candies are also infused with vanilla flavors for the very same reason; that phenomenal warm floral taste that we all crave. Consequently, it qualifies to be called a “universal flavor.”
The flavor of vanilla has been termed woodsy, creamy, floral, and rich with a pleasant aroma. Unlike other common flavors, vanilla is mild and appeals to a wider audience. In most stores, it is the most bought flavor that blends well with most products. This includes custards, cakes, caramel, yogurts, ice- creams, and coffees among others. Look at it this way; it is difficult to find a strawberry flavored coffee, but vanilla works here quite well. This versatility is what makes vanilla all the more popular.
Before making any assumptions, let’s begin by making sense of what vanilla is.
What is Vanilla?
Let’s find out!
Many people recognize the dark-colored liquid that is sold in stores as vanilla essence. Most associate vanilla with the creamy white option of most products for example vanilla cake, vanilla milkshake, and so forth. A few can recognize vanilla pods which are brownish in color. However, most people cannot really put a finger on what the term vanilla represents. To cut the chase, vanilla is a plant.
Vanilla belongs to the family Orchidaceae, genus vanilla, and is primarily obtained from the pods of the Mexican species. Vanilla is a term that is derived from vanilla which means pod in Spanish.
Here is now the surprise.
Fresh fruits of vanilla do not have an aroma, in essence, they are not aromatic. So where does the vanilla flavor come from?
The beans have to undergo a process of enzymatic curing. They get sweating treatment during nighttime and daily sun exposure until they convert into dark brown chocolate-like color. The selected beans are then subjected to an airy shelter until they are completely dry and ready for grading and packaging. About four to five months are ideally needed for this process to complete. The best-cured pods are the ones that got minute crystals of vanillin which is the chemical compound responsible for flavor in vanilla.
How Is Vanilla Extract Extracted?
The extraction of vanilla essence is a fun and easy process. The dried vanilla pods are crushed and mixed in alcohol which is used as the extraction solvent. The extract can be used to make the popular vanilla essence which is used to flavor bake treats and other dishes.
Vanilla is among the most expensive spices the world over, second only to saffron.
Vanilla Bean Seeds, Extract, or Powder; Which To Use?
Unless you are a baker you probably have never noticed the different forms that vanilla comes in. That said, vanilla can be found either as seeds, extract, or powder. As much as the three forms are similar, you cannot replace one with the other on most occasions.
Let’s discuss each type one by one and find out which one is best when it comes to baking.
When To Use Vanilla Bean Seeds
Black flecks that come from pods are termed as vanilla seeds. You can get the seeds from the pods directly by scrapping the pods or purchasing the seeds. Should you settle for the first option, out-do yourself scraping each pod as this contains lots that you do not want to waste.
Vanilla seeds are versatile and can be used in different recipes calling for vanilla flavor. This includes sprinkling them on desserts, ice cream, custards, cakes, and pudding. Make sure to try this out.
When To Use Vanilla Extract
Vanilla extract has several advantages, we have highlighted some below:
- You can store it for a long time
- It is easy to use
- In the long run, it is economical when compared to pure flavors of vanilla so it’s reasonable for most people out there.
- It is available in most grocery stores and hence it is incorporated in most recipes. It can also be easily purchased online. This availability makes it a convenient ingredient
- Is flavorful and gives similar results to other vanilla products
Not surprisingly, there are few drawbacks with multiple benefits side by side. The extract is not the same as pure vanilla as it needs to be mixed with alcohol generally to extract its aromas that amplify the vanilla flavor. So, it can be said that extract is good to use but it lacks a few things that are found in pure vanilla products.
When To Use Vanilla Powder
You can use vanilla powder in recipes that ask for it. It is full of vanillin and imparts an amazing taste with its extremely potent aroma and flavor. It comes in handy when dry ingredients are called upon or a recipe can’t take more liquid. It may also be used as a sweetener.
Vanilla powder is made from vanilla beans and has a stronger flavor as compared to the extract. The beans are first dehydrated and then ground into the powder. Vanilla sugar is made by adding sugar to the vanilla powder.
In most baking recipes one teaspoon of vanilla powder is used. The powder may be sprinkled on baked treats such as cakes, cookies, or doughnuts to add a pleasant flavor. T may also be used on pancakes and waffles.
Why Is Vanilla So Expensive?
After saffron, vanilla is the world’s most expensive spice. This is the case because vanilla doesn’t just grow anywhere. It requires a hot tropic climate for the plants to flourish. Consequently, it does well in Mexico or areas that have a similar climate. If grown in a different climate it will require a lot of care which will push the cost of cultivation further up and this will affect the final price of the vanilla. For instance, in Mexico pollination takes place naturally but let’s see in Madagascar, workers do pollination manually which increases labor costs. The high cost of vanilla poses another significant challenge. Farmers and would-be farmers are wary of investing in this crop given the high risk that comes about as a result of its lucrativeness.
Okay, we discussed so many things, now what is vanilla essence?
Vanilla essence is a synthetically made flavor for people who cannot buy expensive pure vanilla. While the extract gets its flavor from the vanillin molecule the essence lacks this molecule or at least not in significant amounts. The essence is made from water, alcohol, emulsifiers, propylene glycol, and synthetically produced flavors and colors. FDA standards require that pure vanilla extract must contain at least 35% alcohol and 380 grams of vanilla beans in each gallon. On the contrary, vanilla essence does not need to meet this requirement. In comparison, the extract is purer and has a stronger vanilla flavor.
Vanilla essence or synthetic vanilla is used in most parts of the world as an alternative to natural vanilla. One teaspoon is equal to one pod of vanilla.
How To Use Vanilla Flavor For Baking
Vanilla is a common ingredient in many baking recipes. If a recipe calls for vanilla, ensure that you use the exact type of vanilla that is required. This could be the extract, powder, or essence. Also, ensure that you use the exact amount of vanilla that has been called for in the recipe. The extract or essence is usually added to the liquid ingredients while the powder is usually added to the dry ingredients.
Where To Buy Vanilla Flavor For Baking
Vanilla flavor can be easily accessed from stores and online sources, especially the essence. But take note that not all vanilla is created equal. Ask yourself this one question before purchasing vanilla flavor from any source. Does this vanilla flavor meet FDA requirements? Does it also meet the GRAS acceptable standards for safety?
Dolce Foglia is a well-positioned manufacturer of high- quality flavors for foods and beverages. The company works with manufacturers to create flavors that add the best value to their products. All their flavors are FDA & GRAS approved. Customers can choose from ready-made flavors or work with the company’s team of experts to come up with unique flavors.
Dolce Foglia offers both oil soluble and water soluble vanilla flavors. The oil-soluble vanilla flavor is suitable for baking as well as for cannabis edibles. The oil-soluble option is a popular choice for vape products as well as pre-rolls and flowers.
The bottom line
To conclude, vanilla is matchless when it comes to flavoring different bake treats. It is no surprise that this flavor can be found in many stores and online shops. Unfortunately, several vanilla products on the high street are of poor quality and may be mislabeled to represent what they are not. Pure vanilla is hard to come by and will take some due diligence or trial and error. At the end of the day, this expensive ingredient is worth every effort and penny.