In culinary school, I baked with different vanilla substitutes, in addition to using vanilla extract. Vanilla extract such as McCormick and other commercially sold common brands contain 30% alcohol and corn syrup mixed with the vanilla extract. The alcohol and corn syrup are added to extend the life of the product. Most of the alcohol dissipates during longer baking periods however for those of us that love our soufflés and crème brules, most of the alcohol is still present. Some high-end restaurants will use pure vanilla bean but most of them use vanilla extract in their baked goods. They also use a high amount of extract due to its diluted taste which might or might not dissipate!
Since it is Islamically best to avoid alcohol in any product, I’ve long been on a hunt for a good substitute for vanilla extract that doesn’t contain alcohol. Some stores carry non-alcoholic extract, however they contain additives that dilute the vanilla bean flavor, giving a weak flavor overall to the dish. I have found that pure vanilla paste or powder are good substitutes. They are super concentrated and will last a long time. Nothing, however, beats the smell and taste of freshly extracted vanilla from its pods. Sure, I could have just gone to Whole Foods and bought a bunch of vanilla beans that would have cost me an arm and a leg, but, like most of us, I wasn’t ready to drop a bill on such a small ingredient. Small, yet oh so powerful!
After a lot of searching, I found something that took my breath away. Behold, Costco lovers! Wait for it, wait for it – tadaaaaa!!!!! Two awesomely packaged vials containing 10 madagascar vanilla beans sold at the price of just $11.99. Now that’s something you can’t walk away from. This has become my absolute favorite. Thank you Costco for supporting such an amazing company as Rodelle.The other good thing about vanilla bean is that you only need a small amount for a tremendous amount of flavor. I usually use an inch long piece for one pound of liquid. In the end, there is no matching the flavor and smell of vanilla bean. I’ll post a video soon with some tips for cutting the bean and extracting the vanilla.
Baking and Pastry Chef