A Buyer’s Guide to Vanilla


vanilla-macaroons
Vanilla can be confusing. There are so many different types, each with different flavor profile. Plus different use different methods and the beans they use may differ. And most processers have an array of product choices, especially in commercial choices.Our main supplier produces vanilla for the ice cream and baking industries. They’re very good and well respected. They offer over 40 kinds of vanilla to all to businesses but do not sell directly to consumers. We buy in bulk and repackage the vanilla.
(Interestingly with 40 varieties, they don’t offer a Mexican vanilla. They say they can’t buy consistently quality beans from Mexico.)To meet commercial demands, commercial vanilla tends to be stronger It is not sweetened or diluted as many grocery store vanillas are. (Avoid vanilla with corn syrup or other sweeteners that will mask the true flavor of the vanilla.)So which do you choose? Use this guide and experiment. When you find a vanilla that you really like, stick with it. For me, I want two vanillas in my cupboard—Madagascar and French. My third choice is Indonesian.

Your Choices of Vanilla

Madagascar

This is at the top of everyone’s list and a choice of most pastry chefs. Start out with this. Expect to pay $4 to $10 per ounce for a good Madagascar. It’s dark and full bodied with a strong taste of rum. It stands up well to heat. It’s a powerful flavor and is a good choice in fruity baked goods and with chocolate—strong flavors to compete with.

Get Madagascar Vanilla Here

Mexican

This tends to be very sweet and fruity. It is often pleasant to taste alone where Madagascar needs the sweetness and dilution of the baked good to be palatable. It does not hold up as well in baking. Mexican vanilla works well with dairy products.

Tahiti

We don’t sell a Tahiti vanilla but I have some in my cupboard. It’s very sweet and fruity. But not strong and I rarely use it.

Indonesian

This bourbon vanilla is a close cousin to Madagascar. It has a thick, robust flavor that holds up well to baking. (I think baking improves the flavor.) For me it’s perfect in baking but is too overpowering in whipped cream.

Get Indonesian Vanilla Here

French

Usually an imitation vanilla, the “birthday cake” flavor you sometimes find in cakes and ice cream.

Get French Vanilla Here

Clear

This is another imitation vanilla designed in use for cakes and frostings where a pure white color is important.

Get Clear Vanilla Here

New York

This is a strong flavored vanilla with deep taste of alcohol and is reminiscent of bourbon.

Get New York Vanilla Here

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