We all use vanilla when baking, but many of us don't know a thing about it except that it smells and tastes wonderful and is rather expensive! Luckily, that little bottle goes a long way. Below are some fun facts about this tasty spice.
Did you know?
Vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world, after saffron. Vanilla is the fruit of a specific orchid plant which grows in the form of a bean pod. Vanilla orchids are grown in tropical climates and are very labor intensive to cultivate.
The orchid that produces the vanilla bean only lasts one day. The beans are hand-picked and then cured, wrapped, and dried. This process takes 4 to 6 months.
Only one type of bee, the melipona bee, can pollinate vanilla. These bees are found only in Central America. However, in other parts of the world, humans have learned to duplicate the process using a wooden needle. The first person to figure out how to hand-pollinate these orchids was a 12-year-old boy who lived on the French Island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean. Vanilla is now produced worldwide with most of it coming from Madagascar.
Pure vanilla extract, made from vanilla beans, soaks in a mixture of alcohol and water. The vanilla flavor is then extracted from the bean and, once strained, is an amber-colored liquid. In the United States, the resulting vanilla extract must have at least a 35% alcohol content.
'Imitation' vanilla is actually made from synthetic ingredients, sometimes coming from tree byproducts of the paper industry. For this and many reasons it is cheaper than pure vanilla. (We never use the imitation at Sweet Day Gourmet).
Vanilla extract has a long storage life. It comes in amber-colored bottles for a reason. These bottles protect it from light and heat. Vanilla is best stored in a cool, dark place, but not the refrigerator since separation and condensation can cause it to spoil. It will stay good for a year, or even longer, if stored properly.
At Sweet Day Gourmet we use the finest Bourbon vanilla extract and vanilla bean powder from Nielsen Massey, that is grown in Madagascar. This doesn't mean that the vanilla contains whiskey but is a reference to the island where it originated. Bourbon vanilla is the strongest and most full-flavored of all vanillas and is the most delicious choice for gourmet baking. Along with the other quality ingredients in our mixes, we know you will be able to taste the difference this vanilla makes!
We hope you enjoyed learning a little more about vanilla. Please contact us if you have any questions about our vanilla baking mixes.