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Old 09-29-2006, 04:13 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Chef_Jen
actually mexican vanilla can also be very good and expensive
Yes, the real stuff can be excellent.

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Old 09-29-2006, 04:34 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by vagriller
I remember an episode of America's Test Kitchen's where they tested different types of vanilla extract. They mixed a measured amount of several popular and some exotic varieties with milk. The mix had a much stronger vanilla flavor than you would likely taste with any recipe. The results proved that they were all very similiar, and used in a recipe the difference would be even less noticable. That is my story and I'm sticking to it!
The other thing a test by Cook's Illustrated (America's Test Kitchen, I believe) did was to pick artificial vanilla as the best tasting vanilla. That one result makes me shake my head and wonder WHO they have doing the tasting. Artificial vanilla is nasty tasting.

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Old 09-29-2006, 04:35 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by bethzaring
IMO, I can taste a hugh difference between imitation vanilla and Bourbon-Madagascar from Neilsen-Massey. I started baking when I was a kid, in my cooking-challanged Mom's kitchen. She only kept imitation vanilla. When I moved out and started to keep my own kitchen, I started with store bought pure vanilla. I know only use the Bourbon-Madagascar from Neilsen-Massey. This vanilla is heavenly in cookies and whatever else you bake.

So to answer your question, no, all vanillas are pretty much not all the same. You get what you pay for. If you can afford it, try a very good vanilla.
I'm with you on that, Beth. I've even made "Vanilla Bean" Ice cream with only the extract from Neilsen-Massey, and my eaters thought it was my "best vanilla yet!" Go figure!

I don't know whether or not any of you know the "Vanilla Queen," Patricia Rain, but she has a GREAT vanilla web site at www.vanilla.com. She offers a number of top quality vanillas on her site, and I've tried a few. I know some folks who prefer one or another of hers, but my pref is the Neilsen-Massey.. In fact, I buy it direct from them in bulk, cause I use a lot of it.
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Old 09-29-2006, 05:12 PM   #24
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I use a lot of vanilla in my baking and I bought the Tones brand - pure vanilla extract from SAMS club. It's much cheaper than other stores and you get a lot. I also bought the same brand pure almond extract and that's good too. I also have the more expensive Madagascar brand that I got as a gift from a friend who bought it at Crate and Barrel but I can't tell the difference.

Not to go off on a tangent here but I dont know why vanilla beans are so so expensive. I guess the craze of it being gourmet in the west has made it so expensive and inaccessible (unless you go to specialty stores and pay a huge premium).

Growing up most of our friends who went to Dar-es-Salaam in Africa would bring us tons of vanilla beans. These were so soft, plump and pliable. We would refuse them because we did not know what to do with some much vanilla. We would make vanilla sugar, custards etc but baking was not as popular in India and Indian desserts don't really use vanilla so at some point we use throw it out. The irony is that now I miss having them but no more members from the US go to Africa any more and I have heard it's gotten very pricey even in Africa.
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Old 09-29-2006, 07:21 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Alix
Ummmmm...HOLY CRAP! How do you know which are the cheap brands from Mexico???? I've had two people bring back bottles for me and I am using one of them now. Is Coumarin a blood thinner? Like Coumadin?
If you buy it in a grocery for under a dollar, don't.

I have bought many a bottle of excellent vanilla in Mexico.
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Old 09-29-2006, 08:59 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by ChefJune
Vagriller, if you haven't tested them yourself, why would you dispute someone who has?
that's what we are here for "Chef".... June ....
Not all of us are by "trade" Chefs....and sometimes...we "think" together...

I was raised on "Mexico Vanilla"...
it will NOT taste as good as "expensive", because it is Mexico...but, I would use it in a "contest" with you, because it is what "makes-my-recipe" taste the way it does...
#1 Rule for Dieting.....If it "Tastes Good"...Spit-it-OUT!!
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Old 09-29-2006, 10:00 PM   #27
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In cooked foods, Cook's Illustrated blind tasting panel found no difference between artificial and the real thing. Except cost of course.

In uncooked foods, they could tell the difference and preferred the real thing.

I don't bake a lot of sweets so I don't sweat it too much.

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Old 09-29-2006, 10:00 PM   #28
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I have the Madagascar-Bourbon Vanilla Bean Paste from Williams Sonoma. It contains vanilla bean seeds which gives a gourmet look to custards and stuff. It definitely renders a much more distinctive vanilla taste and smell than the artificial ones. (Well, maybe my artificial one isn't that good to start with...)
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Old 09-29-2006, 10:43 PM   #29
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Just to bring us all down to earth a little...

"REAL" vanilla is the seed pod of an (originally) Mexican orchid. the word " Vanilla" is an English corruption of the Spanish word "Vainilla", meaning sheath, or (long) bean .
The vanilla orchid only grows at a certain altitude ( I recall it has to be more than 2,000 mts, but I may be wrong) in a certain climate with a certain temperature and a certain micro-environment. For that reason it is so expensive. You cannot find Hydroponic Vanilla, thank God!

"Someone" ( probably the local indigenous population) discovered the extraordinary perfume, allure and flavour.

If you want to taste Heaven, buy yourself a REAL vanilla pod,split in two, scrape out the seeds and prepare yourself for a culinary experience.

If you want to use run-of-the-mill stuff, that's also fine (vanilla is very expensive) but you'll be missing out on a very special flavour.

Regarding "Toxic" Mexican vanilla extract -it's false. I'm happy to announce that this is complete rubbish, since the label MUST display all ingredients.Unfortunately, if ONE product slips through the net, then ALL products are I've spoken to Mexican producers who assure me that only the very cheapest brands use coumarin. Coumarin tastes a little like vanilla, too.

The exhortation remains. Buy the real thing, boys and girls, and you won't get any surprises!!
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Old 09-29-2006, 11:41 PM   #30
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I made my own and gave gifts to my sister and friend. Bought 10 Madagascar beans for $20. Lovely beans. Bought two 750ml and one pint of vodka. Split the beans, and placed four beans in each 750ml and two in the pint. I did this 6 months ago. It will never get as dark as what you buy, but that is because commercial vanilla has "burned sugar" added to it, so my bil told me. I looked at the ingredients on some of my "pure vanilla" and none of them used sugar as an additive but they did have corn syrup added.

My sister has been using hers and says it is wonderful and it gets better each time she uses it.

Keep in mind the there is a loss in strength caused by heat in the baking process.

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