The pure vanilla extract: what are its characteristics?

The pure vanilla extract: what are its characteristics?

Vanilla extract is a highly versatile vanilla product on the market. It is used in food and in other applications, such as cosmetics. For culinary preparations, vanilla extract is ideal for facilitating the dosing of vanilla flavor in recipes. Pure vanilla extract comes from several vanilla-producing regions: Mexico, Indonesia, Tahiti, India, Reunion Island…. Madagascar Bourbon vanilla extract is the most popular, as is its vanilla bean. Pure vanilla extract is different from artificial or imitation vanilla extract. This imitation product uses chemically synthesized vanillin. Imitation vanilla extract is light in color; caramel colorant is added to the substance to achieve a color closer to that of pure vanilla extract.

What is pure vanilla extract?

Infusing vanilla pods with alcohol and water yields vanilla extract. According to the FDA, vanilla extract can only be termed “pure” when extracted in a minimum of 35% alcohol. The vanilla flavor is extracted either at room temperature or by gently heating the liquid.

  • Cold extraction takes more time and is more expensive, but this extraction process offers an undeniable advantage when it comes to aromatic substance. Indeed, cold extraction preserves the widest range of vanilla pod aromas, knowing that vanilla contains more than 300 aromatic compounds. This is the method commonly used for several decades in vanilla-producing countries.
  • Hot extraction speeds up the filtration process of the mixture of vanilla pods, water, and alcohol. However, its disadvantage is that some aromatic compounds of vanilla are cooked and vaporize throughout the extraction process. It is necessary to use a flavor fixative, and producers use sugar as that product. In Madagascar, it is cane sugar that producers add to the vanilla extraction solution.

How much vanilla extract should I buy?

The quantity of vanilla extract to use mainly depends on the recipes. Some recipes require much more vanilla flavor than others to achieve the desired fragrance. However, vanilla extract is not sold in small quantities. Bottles of 20–30 ml on average, up to liters or more, are generally found. The quantity marketed depends on the use. A few milliliters of vanilla extract are suitable for domestic use. Individuals do not use vanilla every day. A 20 ml vanilla extract is perfect for small cooking projects. This also helps to limit the cost of ingredients, even if 20 ml of this substance is not used all at once. For gastronomy professionals, such quantities are not enough. They need much more vanilla extract to flavor the recipes they prepare on a daily basis.

What is the right dosage to prepare a vanilla product?

Great chefs, pastry chefs, and bakers use a large amount of vanilla every day. For these professionals, a bottle of vanilla extract or more is essential to avoid running out of ingredients in the middle of a project. Moreover, it is entirely possible to reduce costs with a larger quantity rather than buying a 30-ml bottle of vanilla extract at a time. To get an idea of the quantity of vanilla extract needed in recipes, it is necessary to keep in mind that one teaspoon equals half a teaspoon of vanilla powder.

Some culinary projects are more delicate. Making ice cream and creams requires a perfect dosage so that the result can meet consumer expectations. Using vanilla pods in such projects to obtain vanilla flavors is not easy at all, especially for dosage. Also note that cooking reduces the aromatic intensity of vanilla extract. The reason is that the aroma tends to dissipate with the evaporation of alcohol. For bakery products that are baked at temperatures above 300 degrees, it is wise to increase or double the amount of vanilla extract if necessary to maintain the intensity of the flavors.

How much is needed?

Using pure vanilla extract is much cheaper than using vanilla pods. For those accustomed to vanilla products, the conversion is simple: 1 vanilla pod = 2-3 tablespoons of vanilla extract = 1 tablespoon of vanilla powder. All depend on the quality of the pods used. But as it is impossible for end consumers to determine this quality, it is preferable for them to dose by trial and error and then choose the dosage deemed ideal for the next use of the vanilla extract. Some sellers do not clearly indicate the concentration of the products they market, whereas the concentration determines the amount needed for each recipe. Indeed, the use that can be made of vanilla extract depends solely on the recipes. Such a recipe may require more vanilla extract than another to achieve a perfect vanilla flavor.

What is the ideal concentration of vanilla extract?

Again, it all depends on the recipe! Some recipes are more delicate to prepare, and adding additional liquid could ruin them. For these types of recipes, it is better to use more concentrated vanilla extract to avoid adding more liquid to the preparation. But in general, vanilla extract is marketed in single or double concentrations. “Single concentration” or single concentration extracts are obtained from a ratio of about 100–200 grams of vanilla pods infused in a liter of alcohol and water solution. Vanilla extract is called double concentration when the extraction process uses double this concentration to obtain the aromatic substance. If single-concentration vanilla extract is suitable for a particular use in most recipes, double-concentration extract is generally intended for industrial cooking and is highly sensitive to the addition of additional liquid.

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