As someone relatively used to taking the easy route when cooking or baking, I have been pleasantly surprised when upon choosing to branch out with flavors and spices, I came across whole vanilla beans. I had never used the entire vanilla bean before, having previously only been exposed to pure vanilla extract, which I like to use and always have a bottle in my pantry for using in my cakes.
However, upon hearing complaint after complaint from my family about the lack of variety on the table at supper time, I decided to go all out. I did some research on using whole vanilla beans and kept coming across Bourbon Madagascar Vanilla Beans, which are apparently the most common bean, which I was not actually aware of before my research. I still did a bit of digging around in order to try to find out which vanilla flavor I liked best and also tried out a range of different authentic vanilla extracts just in case they worked out better for me. However, I was never as impressed with any of that I tried out, as I was when I used the entirety of the Bourbon Madagascar Vanilla Beans.
These whole vanilla beans were wonderfully long and slender and had an extremely rich flavor and aroma, which I just found so mouthwatering. They also had an abundance of seeds, which was helpful as I decided I wanted to keep the seeds and incorporate them, once dry, into my various sugar pots. What is very useful about vanilla is that if you do not have the time, as I did, to use the whole bean, you can always pick up authentic vanilla extract which for all intents and purposes gives off the same beautiful flavor and doesn’t take as long to prepare as it comes ready-made.
When I’d finally found that I was most happy using the whole Bourbon Madagascar Vanilla Beans instead of extract I started my recipe mission. I was determined to incorporate my newfound vanilla knowledge into both savory and sweet recipes. One such savory recipe that appealed to me was vanilla dipped potatoes. To see if you like these as much as I did place some potatoes in a glass dish, (making sure that it is oven proof) and then all you need to do is split the beans, scrape the seeds out and then add them and the seeds and enough rapeseed oil to cover all the potatoes. Cook them for 25 minutes and done! I recommend saving the resulting vanilla oil for when you serve up as it is incredibly tasty! I hope you enjoy them as much as my family and I did.
When looking for a sweet vanilla desert, I noticed that a lot of recipes advised to throw away the bean after scraping the seeds out – I just felt this was such a waste! If you’re not going to use the whole bean, don’t spend the money; just buy some pure vanilla extract instead. Whole beans have so much flavor, not just the seeds, and you can make great use of them. You don’t even have to use the entirety of the bean at one time, you can use a portion at a time and this of course will alter the depth of flavor.
I was looking for a dessert where I could use the entire pod and I came across a recipe for vanilla panna cotta. Although this took a little longer to prepare than the potatoes, it was totally worth it! I used Bourbon Madagascar Vanilla Beans once again and thankfully the recipe was relatively straight forward. I really do advise people to look it up. When making up the mixture, the aroma of vanilla was splendid and filled my kitchen, I could hardly wait for the panna cotta to set in the fridge. In the end I was glad I let it as I was able to use the vanilla sugar that I had made up earlier to decorate them as well as some extra vanilla powder for some beverages later on in the evening.
Alongside these two vanilla elements of the meal I made for my lucky family, I also served up a pitcher of lemonade for the kids that I’d left the beans to soak in for a while and I also added some of my vanilla powder to my favorite mulled wine to please the adults – perfection!
Article By: Sarah Neil