Always getting asked which I prefer more is always a difficult question to answer. I prefer them both but for two different reasons.
Vanilla Extract, you and I know, is vanilla mixed with an alcohol base. A great product that’s been around for ages for good reason. It’s a great addition to baking and it gets the job done. In a baked good such as cookies, cakes, tarts and breads.
When doing your baking. Just get yourself a good quality vanilla extract and you’ll be fine.
I use vanilla extract for my baked goods. No one can tell the difference in a baked good whether you used a real vanilla bean or vanilla extract.
No one will notice the flex’s of vanilla bean in your cake or cookie unless you point it out. And if you’re that person, just go jerk yourself off at home and let people eat their cake or cookie.
Oh and please wash your hands before you bake.
A general rule is, one vanilla bean is equal to 3 teaspoons of extract or a two inch piece of vanilla bean is one teaspoon of extract.
I use vanilla bean for things that are custard based and more delicate. Ice creams, creme brûlée, pots de creme and puddings. I myself do like to see a brûlée or ice cream dotted with bits of vanilla.
There is a new movement or trend and that’s vanilla paste. I don’t understand this concept or trend. Why would you take good quality vanilla beans and grind them up only to add fillers and sugar to make a paste?
Not to mention how highly expensive these beans have become. Never made sense to me but people will do whatever is popular. To each their own.
I saw a homemade recipe for vanilla bean paste that required 30 vanilla beans. What!? That’s insane. At almost $5 per bean that’s a $140 paste. Ludicrous.
If you are running a business and using a paste. First off, you probably won’t be open long. Second, how much would you have to charge for those cookies? No one will know that your chocolate chip cookie has paste or extract in it. Save your money. Let’s be smart about this.
The big deal with vanilla, which I’m sure you picked up on, is that it has become absurdly priced.
Don’t let this discourage you. If using the vanilla bean it would be unwise to just use it once and discard. Let’s get as much bang for our buck here. That bean has many more uses.
Here are a couple examples as to what I do with my vanilla beans.
When you order your vanilla beans, you are generally going to get Tahitian or Madagascar vanilla beans. These are the two most popular and widely available. I myself have always preferred these. These two beans have the smoothest and richest flavors.
Mexican vanilla beans seem to be coming onto the scene more frequently. I myself find them to dry out quite easily and the flavor for me isn’t quite what you’d get with Madagascar or Tahitian.
When using vanilla beans I like to kill as many birds as possible with one stone. When I split a bean to use in a recipe. I, of course, use the seeds at the moment and then take one half of the bean for extract and the other half for vanilla sugar.
I keep a large bottle full of Captain Morgan Spiced Rum that I drop one half of my vanilla bean into. The other half of the bean I drop into a container that holds a four pound bag of sugar.
The extract I have built up to contain a large amount of vanilla beans. This will take time, of course. I just keep adding more Captain Morgan Spiced Rum when the bottle gets to a little less than half.
It has a deep rich color and an absolutely fabulous flavor. I use this for my baked goods such as cakes and cookies.
For the vanilla sugar, I place the other half of the bean into the sugar and let it sit for days. Once I get three beans per four pound container of sugar. I put the sugar in a food processor with the three beans and grind them up to make vanilla sugar.
Make sure to sift the sugar, as sometimes you won’t get all the bits of bean completely pulverized. You can add these back to another four pound container of sugar and start a new batch.
I use my vanilla sugar for custard based desserts like I mentioned earlier. I also like to sprinkle it on finished products like toasted walnuts or a spoonful of vanilla sugar in your coffee creates an unexpected sweet perk. People love it!
I hope this clears things up a bit. Of course, you can always leave a question and I would be more than willing to help.
Fear wants you to run from something that isn’t after you.