thoughts on vanilla bean price differences?

Discussion in 'Pastries & Baking' started by phoebe, May 5, 2013.

  1. phoebe

    phoebe

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    I don't use them often, but needed a vanilla bean for a pot de crème recipe.  Penzeys has 3 Madagascar beans for $9.35.  Our local supermarket had Spice Islands which contains 1 bean for . . .  wait for it . . .  $17.39 !!!  I ended up buying 1 bean from our co-op.  They sold them for $ 1.69 each.

    Is there any reason for the wild price differences beyond "because they can"?
     
  2. jessicaskyler83

    jessicaskyler83

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    I was just watching something about vanilla the other day. I think there is a reason but it depends on quality too. I purchased a bunch of pods from an online company and was severely disappointed! I could barely get the beans scraped out and when I did they would rip and pieces of the pod would come off. These weren't very flavorful either. They also weren't plump with beans either like I've seen other chefs use. I'll be shopping around looking for quality next time.
     
  3. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    For making an order for over $20 -$25 from MySpiceSage I received a complementary bag of four or so beans and will try a partial one out tomorrow.  I've read that a two-inch slice of V bean that's had its internals scraped and added (along with the skin) to 1 C or so of dairy is equivalent to a tsp of pure vanilla extract.  Will let y'all know tomorrow or so.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2013
  4. jessicaskyler83

    jessicaskyler83

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    Koko, I'll be interested in hearing your results. I think I am going to take the remainder of mine and make my own extract!
     
  5. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    From the posts I've read here, you really need a "chemistry" setup to do a proper extraction using pure alcohol.  A soxhlet extractor or something like that.  Otherwise don't bother since soaking the bean in alcohol hasn't yielded good results in the past.
     
  6. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    I followed a recipe for a strawberry tarte in a book entitled THE COOKING OF PROVINCIAL FRANCE, a Time-Life edition.  The recipe for the 'cream' (I don't know if it's creme anglaise, pastry cream or custard or what the F ever!), it calls for 1 tsp vanilla extract.  Well, I took a bean from MySpiceSage and cut off a three inch piece.  The stem was slit down one side and the innards scraped out.  Everything, the innards and stem, were mixed with 1C milk and heated several minutes to extract the flavor, probably 35-45 minutes or so.  The mixture was then strained and mixed with eggs, flour, gelatin yada yada and beaten to a rich thickness in a saucepan heated on the stovetop.

    As to the finished product, the flavor seemed a bit less that subtle but I'll let y'all know in a few hours after the tarte has chilled thoroughly.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2013
  7. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    We've been making our own extract for donkey's years using vodka, rum or cognac.  You won't get the same strength as commercial extract, but the results are significantly better than all but the very best commercial extracts.  I don't know why you don't get good results; it's not a very complicated process.  Split and soak.  Soak some more.  Then soak.  It takes a few months. 

    There are a few very good sources for best quality vanilla beans at a reasonable price.  We've been buying our beans from Vanilla, Saffron Imports aka "Golden Gate" since even longer than we've been making our own extract.  I'm sure there's some other place as good, but I just haven't found it yet.  They absolutely crush Penzeys for quality AND price.

    They're also the best source I've found for saffron.

    If you find any place better for vanilla or saffron, please let me know.

    BDL
     
  8. siduri

    siduri

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    I never got any results worth using even leaving the beans more than a year in the alcohol.  I think maybe the beans we get here are just crap, old and dry and tasteless.  I never saw any place that sells beans "from" any particular place, just "vanilla beans" e basta.  After a year, having cut and opened the beans, and left them in pure alcohol for a long long time, (not a lot of alcohol, mind you) and they didn;t even take on the color of light tea, never mind a richer brown that i expected, never mind even regular tea color.  So i imagine it;s the beans.  It's very frustrating because vanilla extract is almost impossible to come by here either.  Everyone here uses this chemical white powder, fake vanilla. 
    My favorite tarte of all times, and one of my favorite deserts.  I'm making it to bring for a dinner for 12 tomorrow - two of them actually.  The cream is a bavarian cream, with the gelatine and the whipped cream folded in later.  Maybe the flavor was strong because you hadn;t added the whipped cream yet? 
     
  9. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    In making the Bavarian Cream a la Time Life I used a two or three inch piece of vanilla bean gotten from MySpiceSage.com.  The bean was split and the innards scraped, all (the stem plus scrapings) placed in the milk to heat and infuse.  Once made, the B Cream was quite speckled with vanilla and the flavor very pronounced.  The flavor was good, but next time I'll use a piece of bean measuring about half as long.  Using the vanilla bean for the first time, I was quite delighted with its flavor and I have around a dozen more beans in the fridge to work through! 
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2013
  10. goldilocks

    goldilocks

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    In the UK 2 Madagascan vanilla pods (which I guess are the same as vanilla beans) are £2.99 upwards, dpending where you shop. I have seen them for a lot more. I agree, they are expensive.

    Once I have scraped out the seeds I keep the husk and add it to a bag of caster sugar, it makes wonderful vanilla sugar for baking /img/vbsmilies/smilies/thumb.gif
     
  11. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    Not knowing much about using vanilla beans, I assume that when making an infusion of scrapings with dairy, one does not use the stem?  Rather, the stem itself is placed into the sugar container to add flavor to the granulated sweetener?
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2013
  12. goldilocks

    goldilocks

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    Yes exactly. I use the seeds inside for whatever I am making and then keep the outside (husk) and put that into a bag of caster sugar.
     
  13. nalather

    nalather

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  14. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    What strength vodka do you use for soaking the beans?
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2013
  15. carruthers

    carruthers

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