I had the pleasure of getting this e-mail yesterday:
“Hey Cat! I’m wondering what’s the best type of vanilla to use for baking. I took a look
at the store and there was artificial vanilla, pure vanilla, artificial vanilla
with a percentage of pure, and some other types. Help!”
So, in addition to answering her e-mail, I also thought I would write about vanilla today. We use it a lot in our baking, and it truly does add such a lovely flavour to many cookie, cake and other sweet recipes.
Vanilla comes from a plant belonging to the orchid family. It comes from the seed-pod or bean part of the plant, and has been used as a food flavouring for centuries. If you’d like to know more about vanilla in the scientific sense, there is a lot of information on Wikipedia, and it’s quite interesting.
As far as baking goes, there seems to be no real advantage to using the pure vanilla extract, at least according to a recent study where participants rated their preferences, and the only real one was for *true* vanilla in Vanilla Ice Cream. When I bake, I also use artificial vanilla extract – and the reason is simple. The cost. Artificial vanilla extract is less than half as much money as the real deal, and second only in cost to saffron in terms of cost of spices and flavourings. So, when you bake as much as I do, the choice is simple. The secret to using the artificial extract though, is using more than the recipe calls for. Artificial vanilla extract is not as strong, so you need to use a tad more.
I learned a lot from this article on Wikipedia – a really interesting read if you have a minute.
So, thanks Nicole for the e-mail I hope this at least somewhat answers your question! Happy Baking!