Monday, April 25, 2011

Vanilla... beans, extract, paste, essence..

My rant about the availability of Vanilla in Malta.  I need to make this clear, vanilla essence and vanilla extract are NOT the same thing.  Vanilla essence is completely sans vanilla, completely artificial.  It is also the reason I thought i never liked vanilla!  It's something i never thought of until i tasted real vanilla, and loved it!  If i was rich, i would always use vanilla pods, but seeing as they cost about 4 euros PER POD, the cost is a little prohibitive.  In Australia, I started using vanilla paste, which is a thick vanilla extract with extra vanilla seeds added.  This is by far the best non pod vanilla product to use.

Now: I cannot find anything but either real pods or essence in Malta. (EDIT!!! I have found  Natural Vanilla extract in supermarkets now.  Not all of them, but at least a few.  Also try baking shops!)  I tried to use essence but even though everyone was like "yummy cupcakes la" all i could taste was this horrible artificial taste, even though i put half the amount of essence.  Artificial taste, and the extra level that vanilla gives - nowhere! :(   I was so disappointed because it was the essence, and there's nothing I could have done.  Anyway, I searched far and wide.  to no avail, so when i made the shortbread this Xmas, i used a mix of essence and vanilla pods, which was somewhat better.  I'll tell you, the ones that had JUST seeds (no essence) in them were better.  so so much better.  And i love those little black dots!  Anyway i don't have to worry now, as luckily my lovely sister brought me some Taylor's Collection Vanilla Bean Paste from the UK :)  YAY!!!

AMERICANS BEWARE!!!  please note that extract and essence are different for you, as apparently in the US essence is actually just strong vanilla extract.  Gah!  way to confuse things! 
Vanilla beans (cured)

I guess that sometimes I think we're getting too used to the artificial taste of things, and what scares me most is that I think people are starting to prefer it!  The real thing tastes natural, and is what caused them to make the essences in the first place.  Surely that means it's superior in taste?   Otherwise why try replicate it?

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