The Queen of Beans: Vanilla Recipes

| April/May 2005

  • Burke & Triolo Productions/PictureArts/Foodpix

  • Mary Ellen Bartley/PictureArts/Foodpix

  • Laura Johansen/PictureArts/Foodpix
  • Vanilla partners well with coconut, so sprinkle shredded coconut on top of the cake and lightly press onto the sides just after frosting while the butter cream is still soft.
  • Vanilla ice cream tops the list of most popular ice cream flavors, according to the International Ice Cream Association. French vanilla ranks seventh.

  • Benjamin F. Fink Jr./PictureArts/Foodpix

10 Vanilla Recipes

• Hot Vanilla Milk
• Vanilla Syrup
• Vanilla-Scented Sugar
• Homemade Vanilla Bean Extract
• Vanilla Vinegar
• Waldorf Salad
• Tropical Fruit Salad with Vanilla Mint Syrup
• Vanilla Layer Cake with Sour Cream
• Vanilla Butter Cream
• Decadent Vanilla Creme Brûlée 

I have always adored the fragrance of vanilla. More than once as a child, I tasted vanilla extract from the bottle — knowing full well that I wouldn’t like it. I just couldn’t resist a little taste because it smelled so good.

The fragrance of pure vanilla extract and its essential oil is at once exotic, tropical, warm and sensual. We often associate vanilla with sweets because it is used in many confections and sweet foods, but vanilla’s flowery, resinous quality allows it to partner with many flavors. It works well with spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger, and subtly enhances just about any baked good. It complements dairy products: Fats such as butter, cream and milk seem to intensify its fragrance and flavor. Coffee and tea work well with vanilla, and it brightens any fresh fruit bowl or cooked compote. Vanilla highlights most foods without being too forward or overbearing. It is a harmonious ingredient, but also can stand on its own and shine.

Vanilla is everywhere today, sometimes in inconspicuous roles, used in many foods, including drinks, soups, sauces, rice dishes, with seafood, as a glaze for poultry and pork, in barbecue sauces, condiments and even mashed potatoes.

Whole lines of body care products from perfumes and lotions to cosmetics and household products highlight the fragrance of vanilla. It is used in aromatherapy to calm and soothe. Just be aware of what kind of vanilla is being used in your foods and on your body by reading labels; avoid imitation vanilla or synthetic vanillin because it has a different flavor and aroma than pure, natural vanilla.

Vanilla comes in many forms. Although vanilla beans are the source for pure vanilla extract, they aren’t as commonly used as the extract by the home cook. Here are a few ways you can purchase vanilla.

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