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Old 09-29-2006, 02:59 PM   #1
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Question What vanilla to buy?

Do you have a favorite brand of vanilla? I was at WalMart this morning and found that they carry the Watkins Brand. They had 3 different types, Imitation, Pure and Double Flavor. There are so many different brands in the stores and so many different prices. Are they all pretty much the same? What do you recommend?

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Old 09-29-2006, 03:08 PM   #2
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I use only Pure Vanilla Extract, and I prefer the Bourbon-Madagascar from Neilsen-Massey. It's widely available at Williams-Sonoma on line and in their stores... or just google it.

When I was teaching regularly, in my baking classes I used to bring several vanillas to class for the students to try. We sometimes baked the same recipe with different vanillas. You CAN tell the difference! The stuff in the bottles with the red, white and blue labels in the grocery store may be "pure vanilla extract," but no way does it compare favorably to the Neilsen-Massey... (imo, of course!)
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Old 09-29-2006, 03:10 PM   #3
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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!
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Old 09-29-2006, 03:12 PM   #4
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Vagriller, if you haven't tested them yourself, why would you dispute someone who has?
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Old 09-29-2006, 03:12 PM   #5
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My favorite is Penzey's double strength.

Cook's Illustrated/America's test Kitchen did do a taste test a while back that contended that imitation vanilla was pretty much as good as pure vanilla.

IMO it's not, but I have used it in a pinch and it's not terrible.
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Old 09-29-2006, 03:16 PM   #6
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I have always used Watkins double vanilla, but I think I will try the Neilsen-Massey. You can tell a difference between brands. I just bought spice island brand pure vanilla, I don't know anything about it, but I hope it is good.
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Old 09-29-2006, 03:20 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChefJune
Vagriller, if you haven't tested them yourself, why would you dispute someone who has?
Are you referring to yourself or ATK? I'm not disputing with either, just posting what I saw, mmkay?
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Old 09-29-2006, 03:22 PM   #8
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I am with Jenny. I like the Penzey's double strength.

I love watching Americas Test Kitchen, but what they say is not gospel. I find that sometimes I agreee with their choices and other times I think they are way off base. Taste is very subjective so there is no right answer.
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Old 09-29-2006, 03:23 PM   #9
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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.
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Old 09-29-2006, 03:28 PM   #10
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Never use the really cheap stuff from Mexico, as it often contains Coumarin, which is toxic.
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Old 09-29-2006, 03:32 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jennyema
Never use the really cheap stuff from Mexico, as it often contains Coumarin, which is toxic.
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?
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Old 09-29-2006, 03:33 PM   #12
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I always buy my vanilla in Mexico. It is cheap... and it's good.
I've been getting it for years and I'm still alive. I'll have to check to see if
there's any coumarin in it.

I'm sure the lable is printed in Spanish..do you know the spanish word for it Jenny?
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Old 09-29-2006, 03:35 PM   #13
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My parents came back from Mexico many years ago and brought back a two pack of vanilla. I remember mom telling us not to touch them because one was poison and the other was not. I wondered why she even bothered bringing the bad one home.
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Old 09-29-2006, 03:46 PM   #14
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From Vanilla.com
"Coumarin

Coumarin is a derivative of the tonka bean, which comes from Dipteryx ordorata, a tree native to Brazil. Some of the organic constituents that make up its flavor are similar to, or the same as, those in pure vanilla. Coumarin is frequently found in synthetic vanillas from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean as it's cheap and it makes synthetic vanilla taste more like the natural. Unfortunately, coumarin is considered toxic, especially to the liver, and potentially carcinogenic, and has been banned from the United States since the 1950s. (Dicumarol, which is a derivative of coumarin, is the active ingredient in certain blood-thinning medications, and is legal in the United States.)"

For more, browse HERE

I'm not sure that it would appear on the label in either English or Spanish. But if the vanilla is very cheap in price it's certain to be artificial, as we all know that vanilla beans are expensive. The artificial stuff is what they add Coumarin to, though obviously not all brands will do this.

IMO better safe than sorry.
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Old 09-29-2006, 03:49 PM   #15
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Quote:
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.
Aw crap, now I gotta go get some good vanilla! That Madagascar Bourbon vanilla does sound good.
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Old 09-29-2006, 03:51 PM   #16
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Quote:
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My parents came back from Mexico many years ago and brought back a two pack of vanilla. I remember mom telling us not to touch them because one was poison and the other was not. I wondered why she even bothered bringing the bad one home.
Maybe she didn't want you messing with them. Worked didn't it?
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Old 09-29-2006, 03:53 PM   #17
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LOL very good point vagriller
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Old 09-29-2006, 04:06 PM   #18
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I always use Pure Vanilla Extract for baking.
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Old 09-29-2006, 04:08 PM   #19
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actually mexican vanilla can also be very good and expensive
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Old 09-29-2006, 04:11 PM   #20
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This is very interesting. I didn't know about the toxic vanilla. I have always used Watkins double vanilla, but next time I will try the Bourbon Madagascar.
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