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"Rose's Vanilla Bible" for Food Arts Magazine

Aug 13, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose

To my view, the pastry world is divided between two different personality types: chocolate and vanilla, chocolate reflecting the heavy hitters and vanilla the more subtle and complex. I love both flavors but if I had to chose only one it would be simple: vanilla wins hands down, not only because I love its flavor but because it is one of those rare synergistic ingredients that enhances others. If chocolate is king, then vanilla is queen. And it is indeed the power behind the throne. Where, after all, would chocolate be without vanilla to round out its harsher, coarser characteristics. And in the domain of ice cream, vanilla reigns supreme as our number one flavor.

The term plain vanilla is an absurdity. There is nothing plain about magic. Perhaps the concept came about because vanilla sauces and creams are often used as a base for other more intense flavors; but there is nothing plain about it at all. In fact, when it stands on its own as vanilla ice cream or vanilla pound cake, it is the very essence of purity and haunting floral flavor notes that make one yearn for the impossible while feeling utterly fulfilled in the moment.

History: Vanilla possesses an intriguing and powerful past going back to the Totonac Indians of the East Central Coastal area of Mexico. Taken as a conquering tribute by the Aztecs, where it was used in a drink called “Chocolatl” in the court of Montezuma, it was next acquired by the explorer Cortez (also written as Cortes) who introduced it to the royal court of Spain in around 1528. In the late 1500s they renamed it “Vainilla” meaning “Little Scabbard,” which the pods resemble. Vanilla was used uniquely for the chocolate drink in Spain for 80 years until 1602 when Hugh Morgan, apothecary to Queen Elizabeth I, suggested using it as a flavoring for other things such as sweet meats and candied fruits. In 1793 the vanilla vine was smuggled from Mexico to the Island of Reunion, then a French protectorate called Ile de Bourbon, hence the term Bourbon vanilla, referring to vanilla grown in this area.

Processing: There are some who categorize vanilla as a spice, and as such, it comes second only to saffron as the most expensive one in the world. But to my mind, vanilla is in a category of it own—perhaps more a perfume or an essence than a spice.

Vanilla is the fruit of the planifolia (fragrans) orchid or the tahitensis orchid, the only two of 35,000 species of orchid that bears edible fruit (the pompon orchid is used primarily for perfumes and pharmaceuticals). The flower itself is totally devoid of scent, requiring lengthy processing and fermentation to achieve the exquisite aroma of the vanilla bean.

The vanilla orchid’s flowers open briefly only part of one day during a month-long flowering and require hand pollinating to produce fruit. (The only natural pollinator is the Melipona bee, unique to Mexico.)

Six to nine months after fruiting, the green pods are hand harvested and cured. The curing process begins either by brief soaking in hot water and then rolling in blankets to “sweat,” or, as is done in Mexico, by wrapping in blankets and then straw mats and heating the beans in an oven for 24 to 48 hours. In either case, the curing continues over a period of 5 to 6 months, during which the pods are sun dried each day and then returned to the sweating blankets at night. When fully cured, the pods are fermented, shrunk to one-fifth their original weight, to become characteristically dark brown and wrinkled and are referred to as vanilla beans. Incidentally, there is some confusion as to the use of the word vanilla bean because when the seeds (sometimes referred to as grains) contained in the pod are used in a product it is usually referred to as vanilla bean (ice cream or crème bruleée for ex.) even though only the seeds are used and not necessarily any of the pod. A vanilla bean is actually the entire pod containing the seeds. The average vanilla bean contains 60,000 seeds. Madagascar beans graded “Prime Triple A’s,” however are left on the vine an extra week and grow to as long as 8 3/4-inches) containing 90,000 seeds. These represent a little less than 2% of the crop.

Vanilla grows best in areas 10 to 20 degrees north or south of the equator in a hot moist tropical climate with year round temperatures of 75 to 85 degrees F. Primary produces of vanilla are Indonesia, Mexico, Tonga, Tahiti and the Bourbon Islands including Madagascar which is said to be the finest from this area which produces about 55% of the world’s annual supply of 1700 tons.

Vanilla beans vary enormously in quality. In generally, the best beans are thought to come from Tahiti, Madagascar and Mexico, though Indonesia also produces some beans of very high quality with slightly smoky notes. Gahara, which means “of royal descent,” is the most highly regarded Indonesian vanilla, coming from Bali in the Batubulan province, imported by Paris Gourmet.

According to the late Chat Nielsen Jr. of Nielsen Massey, the Madagascar “Bourbon” has a full rich creamy flavor, Mexican vanilla slightly spice like clove or nutmeg, Reunion vanilla also possesses a slightly sweet spicy note, and Comores vanilla has a balsamic quality. His son, Craig Nielsen says his personal favorite is Madagascar for its “deep rich complex, classic vanilla taste. Tahitian is floral and fragrant but the flavor profile is one dimensional.” His take on Mexican vanilla is that it is virtually indistinguishable from Bourbon when added to other ingredients.

Chef Aaron Isaacson, of Mr. Recipe Premium Pure Vanilla Products, a graduate of the CIA whose interest and passion for vanilla led him to become a manufacturer, refers to the Madagascar beans as the refined royalty and the Indonesians as the indispensable truck drivers. He uses a blend of Indonesian and Madagascar from 5 different islands (Sulawesi, Java, Bali, Flores, and Madagascar) for his Vanilla Essence, a term which he has trademarked for his extract which cannot be called “pure vanilla extract” as it contains half the alcohol (18%) of what is categorized by the FDA as “pure vanilla extract.”

The second great divide in the pastry world, after that of chocolate versus vanilla, seems to be variety of vanilla: Tahitian versus Madagascar, with passionate devotees on either side. Oddly, some feel that Tahitian is stronger and others feel it is more aromatic but less strong in flavor in the finished product. All agree, however, that it is more floral in aroma. This is believed to be because it is high in the heliotropin component (piperonne). I find that it most successfully tempers and rounds the metallic quality of tropical fruit, particularly passion fruit. But each vanilla has its champions and now Mexican vanilla is also re-entering the arena. Lydia Jording, importer of Mexican vanilla, says “the reason it’s the best in the world is the way they cure the beans: they are oven dried and sun dried as opposed to the hot water method generally used elsewhere.”

Mexican vanilla fell into disfavor for a while because some unscrupulous producers were adding coumarin (an irreversible blood thinner) as a flavor enhancer. According to Zarella Martinez, successful efforts are now being made to produce organic first class vanilla in Papantla, the vanilla native region, by growers like Victor Vallejo and processors such as Heriberto Larios and Cesar Arellano. An organization has been formed (La Asociacion de Vainilleros de Papantla) and they have instituted rigid controls as to when the vanilla can be harvested. In addition only a few orchids are pollinated on each plant so that the beans that do grow are first rate.

Vanilla Extract Production: Vanilla has been available as an extract only in the last 100 years. To produce an extract, the chopped and shredded beans are soaked in a recirculating alcohol and water solution to extract their flavor. Temperatures vary from 60-130°F. but better manufacturers use cool distillation as it results in the best flavor and also a longer time period of up to 5 weeks as opposed to warm temperature and an extraction of only 48 hours. After extraction, some of the alcohol and water solvent is removed if it is being concentrated and the remaining extract is adjusted for flavor strength. (Vanilla can also be extracted using other solvents such as carbon dioxide, commonly used in Europe but not accepted here by the FDA.)

Vanilla extract is available in different concentrations referred to as “folds.”
The term “fold” refers to the strength of the vanilla extract, not the flavor. The FDA defines single strength (one-fold) as being made from 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans (about 100 beans) which contain less than 25% moisture, per gallon of liquid solvent. Specialty producers claim that their single strength is 10% stronger than most supermarket brands. Double strength (2 fold) uses two times the amount of vanilla bean per gallon of liquid solvent, triple strength 3 times, quadruple strength is 4 times after which it becomes supersaturated. Thirty folds is the highest concentration produced. In order to get to 10 fold concentration, 10 gallons of a 1 fold vanilla are put into a still and under pressure and vacuum the water and alcohol is drawn off, and it is reduced to 1 gallon of 10 fold. This concentration process also drives off flavor components so if reconstituted to 10 gallons it would not be the same. It is used in industry for convenience when working with large quantities of product.
La Cuisine, in Alexandria Virginia, offers a highly aromatic 8 fold Madagascar extract for which the beans have been flash frozen before extraction presumably to maintain freshness and quality.

According to the FDA, vanilla labeled “pure vanilla extract” must contain at least 35% alcohol. (This is not to say that vanilla extracted in mediums other than alcohol is less “pure,” and may in fact be superior!) It may also contain vanilla seeds and ground pods. Sugar, dextrose and cornsyrup, coloring and preservatives are permissible but must be listed. According to Patricia Rain, in her “Vanilla Cookbook”, Celestial Arts Berkeley, Ca. 1986, manufacturers may use 5% to as much as 40% sugar to speed up the aging or mellowing process. Sugar is also used to prevent a muddy color but if caramelized sugar is used it will produce a dark, often muddy color.

Pure Vanilla Flavoring and Other Varieties
Liquid vanilla extract is designated as a flavoring by the FDA when it contains less than 35% alcohol. You can have a pure vanilla flavoring that is less but it is not designated as an extract.
Some manufacturers such as Euro Vanille refer to their product as “Pure Vanilla Extract” though they cannot technically have the FDA designation since it contains no alcohol. In this case, the vanilla is extracted either in alcohol or in carbon dioxide and this medium is then replaced by a glycerin medium, a more neutral propylene glycol medium, or an invert sugar. These varieties of vanilla are used in industry or by individuals who desire the flavor of natural vanilla without using the whole bean or an alcohol solvent. Because glycerin is a vegetable oil derivative, with a higher evaporation point, it dissipates less during baking than a vanilla in an alcohol base. I find that glycerin, when tasted alone has a distinctly bitter taste though in minute quantities and added to other ingredients this may not be perceptible. Euro Vanille and Searome both use the inverted sugar to eliminate any bitter aftertaste.

The now ubiquitous vanilla paste usually contains natural vegetable gum such as carogene for viscosity so it is thickened but still fluid enough to pour. The paste also may contain either the seeds and/or the pod, and sometimes a small amount of vanilla extract in alcohol or sugar syrup.
Paris Gourmet imports a Gahara (Indonesian) vanilla paste made from the entire bean in an alcohol, water and emulsifier medium. This is offered as a more economical approach as the beans used are not of the same quality, resulting in less purity and flavor depth. Nielsen Massey and Mr. Recipe, however, use the same quality beans in his paste but not the pod because it sometimes will add bitterness. Isaacson claims that chefs prefer the paste or the essence to extract and produces extract for the consumer only because recipes call for that product.

The vanilla bean seeds add a subtle earthy depth of flavor and unique sweet quality, but the bean alone cannot offer the full depth of flavor. The extract, though easier to use, lacks the sweet roundness and in excess may even impart a bitter edge, hence the popularity of the vanilla pastes which offer a balance of complexity, richness and fullness of flavor. Vanilla paste, however, is not as strong as extract because it is not full strength or full extraction. It is, therefore, somewhat of a compromise. The ideal flavor profile would be a combination of extract and seeds, and second to that paste, and seeds.

Pure vanilla is also marketed in the form of a powdered bean, and also powdered with sugar. Though most of the flavor resides in the seeds, when the entire pod is used the resulting powder is coarser than the seeds alone and the flavor less subtle and delicate, delivering far more flavor impact but less depth of flavor than extract. Euro Vanille markets a powder that is 100% vanilla, using the bean and the seeds. Nielsen Massey’s vanilla powder has been encapsulated onto a maltodextrin (modified cornstarch) as opposed to the more usual dextrose base which is much sweeter. The FDA allows allows pure vanilla powder to contain lactose, food starch, dried corn syrup, acacia, and an anticaking ingredients.

To sum it up: The major advantages of vanilla paste, vanilla bean seeds and vanilla powder over extract is that more can be used without resulting in bitterness, and that the flavor does not dissipate during cooking or baking. The major advantage of extract is richness and intensity of flavor and ease of disbursement in a liquid medium. Aaron Isaacson advises using paste in recipes that are not subjected to high heat, in conjunction with extra seeds to give the extra flavor boost that you would not have with just the bean alone. He says that the extra sugar in the paste also brings out more vanilla flavor, making it more complex, richer, more mellow and rounded. He advises using the essence or extract in combination with the bean for long baking such as cakes and crème brulée, because it is richer and more full bodied. Though some of it dissipates, there is still an uderlying flavor carried by the alcohol.

Keeping in mind that taste here is highly subjective and particularly dependent on freshness and quality of the product, the suggested exchanges are:

1 teaspoon of vanilla powder = 1 teaspoon of extract = 1 teaspoon paste
(When using Tahitian, I use a 1-inch piece of bean to = 1 teaspoon extract.)
2-inches of bean=1 teaspoon of extract; 1 whole bean = 1 tablespoon extract or paste

Incidentally, most vanilla products are designated as kosher (the designation appearing on the packaging).

Artificial Vanilla
There are thought to be over 250 organic flavor components in every high-quality vanilla bean and only one in artificial vanilla: vanillin. This is commonly produced using wood pulp ( which is why wines aged in oak barrels often have a noticeable vanillin flavor component)

How to Evaluate Vanilla

Appearance: A vanilla bean should be dark brown, plump, glossy or oily, and flexible. It’s surface can display white vanillin crystals. If you look very carefully, you may even find a distinctive mark on a vanilla bean. Some growers actually brand each bean to prevent theft during processing! The average bean measures 5 to 6-inches in length but some measure almost 8 ¾” in length, depending on variety. Those that are the ripest will tend to split sharply along their length.
Sometimes you will notice a white substance coating the vanilla beans. This is usually not mold, it is most probably flavorful natural vanillin crystals which migrate to the surface. (Some disreputable producers harvest this vanillin for other purposes, lowering the quality of the bean. According to Chris Broberg, beans still containing all their vanillin smell sweeter. He recommends always getting an analysis. To determine whether the white substance is mold or vanillin, simply touch your finger to the bean. If it is mold it will not disappear but if it is vanillin crystals, after a few seconds they will vanish.

Taste: The best way to taste and compare vanilla is in bottled water or club soda sweetened with a simple syrup made by bringing 3/4 cup water and 1 1/2 cups sugar almost to a boil, stirring constantly until dissolved, held at that temperature for a few minutes stirring, then cooled to room temperature. Use about 1 quart of club soda to 6 1/2 tablespooons simple syrup to 1 tablespoon of vanilla. If the vanilla is of a higher concentration or fold, use proportionately less .
For the vanilla bean, use 1 bean per cup of water/syrup mixture. Split the bean down the center and cut it into 1/8 to 1/4-inch pieces. Steep for about 2 hours.
A plain butter cookie is also an excellent way to assess the baking qualities of vanilla.

Storage: Vanilla extract or paste is thought to improve on age, developing nuances, for perhaps as long as 5 years and even longer if stored under ideal conditions. If stored at too cool a temperature flavoring material may precipitate out requiring shaking before use. The ideal temperature for both extract, paste, and beans is 70 to 80°F. at low humidity, and not exposed to light. A plastic bottle or for the beans, a freezer weight airtight bag is preferable to glass which is porous. Beans stored in this manner will keep their freshness for up to 6 months. If vacuum packed they will stay fresh even longer. According to manufacturers, chilling or freezing destroys some of the esthers and flavor components.
Cooking with Vanilla Bean
When using any variety of vanilla bean in a sweet recipe I prefer to scrape the seeds into the sugar and process the two together to distribute them evenly. This is particularly important with Tahitian beans which are plumper than the others and the seeds far more pulpy.

It is recommended, whenever possible, to add the vanilla at the end of the recipe because heating changes the entire chemical nature of vanilla.

Uses for Vanilla
Shirley Corriher, author of “CookWise,” when asked if there is a southern traditional use for vanilla replied unhesitatingly: Yes; we put vanilla in everything sweet.

There is a long standing tradition of vanilla used in sweet desserts however there is also a trend thought to have been started during the Nouvelle Cuisine era by Alain Senderens, in his famous lobster with vanilla nage, of using vanilla in savory food as it was originally employed centuries ago in Mexico. Jean Georges Vongerichten, of Jean George, uses vanilla in his savory cooking and refers to it as a spice. He finds that it “softens the dish and goes well with everything”

Zarella Martinez, of Zarella’s, has perfected a Veracruzian chicken dish called “Pollo en Chile Seco, Vanilla and Orange,” and says “the vanilla bean rounds out the flavor and gives it dimension.” Christian Delouvrier, of Lespinasse, finds that vanilla makes the meat or fish sweeter. One of his favorite uses is with lemon cured in salt in a sauce for foie gras.

In industry, vanilla is used in soft drinks, Coca Cola being one of the major importers of Mexican vanilla. It is also used in perfumes, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and tobacco. Chris Broberg, of Petrossian, reports having enjoyed an inexpensive cigar that had been stored with vanilla beans which imparted a sweet quality, particularly in the aroma.

Jonathan Zearfoss, culinary professor at the FCI, in a class on aphrodisiacs offers a recipe for vanilla bean infused mineral oil to be used as a perfume.

In Mexico, whimsical vanilla bean sculptures in the shape of roses, frogs, etc. are used as room deodorizers and a vanilla bean can even be found underneath the seat of taxi cabs. Note, a drop of vanilla applied to a light bulb before turning on the light also works well as a room deodorizer.

How to Use Left Over Pods: Vanilla beans still have lots of flavor even after the seeds have been removed. Be sure to rinse the bean if it has been used to flavor another liquid and dry it in a low oven or with the heat of the oven's pilot light.
The most time-honored use for left over vanilla pods is to make vanilla sugar by burying the dried pods in the sugar. Pastry Chef Jean Philippe Maury of the Bellagio in Las Vegas, recommends substituting this sugar for 8 percent of the weight of the sugar used in a recipe. Jacque Pfeiffer uses equal parts vanilla bean and powdered sugar to pulverize into a powder. Aaron Isaacson pulverizes the pod with sugar and triple sifts it to get rid of any extraneous matter that would cause bitterness. He uses this to replace as much as 30 percent of the sugar in cakes. He feels it is imperative to use vanilla sugar in cookies as with other forms of vanilla the flavor will to some to some degree bake out, however also adds some extract or essence for the additional flavor profile.
For years I have added some of my spent vanilla beans to vanilla extract, a precursor to the now ubiquitous vanilla pastes.

Personal Preferences and Passions of the Chefs
Chocolate has had its day in the sun and is clearly here to stay, but now there seems to be a gradually swelling trend toward vanilla awareness, exemplified by the variety of the bean used often appearing on dessert menus. Vanilla, traditionally a supporting player, is well on its way to stealing the show, possibly leaving chocolate in the cocoa dust.

Jean Francois Bonnet, of Cello, prefers Madagascar, in particular the Euro Vanille, because he finds Tahitian too strong but agrees that it works well with assertive tropical flavors such as passion.

Chris Broberg, of Petrossian, prefers Mexican, saying it is not as cloying as Tahitian, nor slightly fermented like Madagascar, nor smoky like Indonesian. He infuses it in syrups to flavor fruit and jams.

Phillips Conticini, of Petrossian, likes the texture of Madagascar grains though he appreciates the flavor of Tahitian as well.

Francois Payard, of Payard, prefers the Madagascar.

Claudia Fleming, of Grammercy Tavern, says we overlook this most precious of essences. She feels that vanilla has been neglected and pushed aside because of the trendy things being done and would like to resurrect it. She is serving a baked warm chocolate chiboust, with vanilla ice cream, using the bean and extract which boosts the flavor, with a vanilla bourbon sauce.

Johnnie Iuzzini, of Daniel, finds Madagascar richer and sweeter than Tahitian which he feels is more aromatic but less flavorful. He says that vanilla can stand on its own but complements and rounds out a lot of desserts—things you want to keep simple yet add a little flavor. He uses vanilla with fresh fruits such as a fruit soup with melon and a little elderflower water, or in a fresh cream to give it a ripe non-processed flavor. He likes vanilla in invert sugar from Sevarome as it incorporates easily into other things but employs vanilla bean ground with sugar in tarts, sifted to take out any chunks.

Emily Lucetti, of Farralon, uses Tahitian in ice cream and panaccota where it is the main flavor and Madagascar (due to the greater expense of the Tahitian) in applications where it is more masks by other flavors She says it used to be an accent flavor and now is a primary flavor and has emerged in its own right.

Nancy Oakes, of Boulevard, adds vanilla to her brining liquid for meat.

Francois Payard, of Payard, says that vanilla is a very interesting product that can be adapted to a lot of different desserts and the flavor changes depending on what you put it with.

Andrew Schotts, of Ghiradelli Chocolate, has a favorite recipe for sea bass with veal stock and vanilla.

Jean George Vongerichten, of Jean George, prefers Mexican partially because he feels it is fresher and therefore more flavorful. He uses it in many of his savory recipes.

Bill Yosses, of Citarella, prefers Madagascar because it has more seeds, and the flavor is more concentrated and pungent, compared to the Tahitian which is more rounded, mellow and floral. He says he has always been attracted to vanilla as a central element of a dessert and that it is so often used as an “accent,” it must be tired of singing in the chorus. He is doing an all vanilla plate called “vanilla decadence” to include a warm vanilla cake with 12 bean vanilla sorbet (12 beans per quart!) He also uses it in fruit marinades with tropical fruits such as mango and pineapple, and tropical fruit skewers with vanilla and réglisse marinade and kalamansi dipping sauce.

Sources: (Some of these are food service only)

The Vanilla.Company: 800-757-7511, www.vanilla.com: Bourbon, Tahitian, Mexican

Crossings “Euro Vanille” 978/456-8116 : Madagascar & Tahitian

Dairyland: 718/842-8700 Madagascar, Tahitian

Honey Locust Valley Farm 845/561-7309, Mexican

La Cuisine: 800/521-1176: Madagascar

Lydia Jording: 800/650-4622, Mexican

Mr. Recipe Premium Pure Vanilla Products: 845/368-1999, Madagascar and blended Vanilla Essence

Paris Gourmet: 800/727-8791 x202: Indonesian

Nielsen Massey: Mexican, Tahitian, Madagascar, Indonesian

Tripper: 805/988-8851 Indonesian

Vintage Chocolate, 908/354-9304 Sevarome brand Madagascar bourbon

Zingerman’s: 888-636-8162 Mexican


You can buy it in any grocery store in santo domingo, DR. Mind you, it may contain coumadin.


I am also looking to purchase a bottle of Sabores La Chichi vanilla. The flavour is indeed unique and as far as I am concerned nothing else compares to it.


Those look really lovely vanilla pods, so full of seeds!!!


here is a photo i took kitchen last night, as i was splitting and seeding more than one can handle: 60 vanilla beans from Hawaiian Vanilla Company. be sure to contact owners Jim & Tracy Reddekopp for their wonderful vanilla stories www.hawaiianvanilla.com


i offered the Reddekopp's to make a cake that will be picture perfect for vanilla growers, it will be done later this year.

these are vanilla beans grown right here in Hawaii, i let you judge for yourself if it is true the self-claim of been the best in the world. but i can hint you that last night i refused to floss my teeth and nothing better than having a few hawaiian vanilla seeds stuck on your teeth!


I was given a bottle of Anadria. I personally loved it! the best vanilla I've ever baked and cooked with!! Can anyone tell me where I can purchase some?? Please Help! Or something that tastes as good as Anadria?? Thanks


Hey Coni i have been looking for this type of vanilla too! have you had any luck? please let me know! Thank you!


I was in Dominican Republic a year ago. I took an excursion out to the country side and was able to purchase two bottles of "homemade clear vanilla". It's the best vanilla I have ever had!! I used in my candied yams, cooked apples,candied carrots, cookies, cakes,etc....
I have been looking for it for several months. I cannot find it. Can anyone help! Thank you


I sell tonga vanilla beans one of the world top quality organic vanilla beans on the market today. If you like to buy some you may email me. Thanks.



My sister was in the DR and brought me the very best vanilla. When I googled the name of the vanilla this site came up but I don't see it anywhere on here. If anyone knows where I can get "extracto de Vainilla Negra...Sabores La Chichi" La Romana, R.D. please let me know. It had a very unique taste and my fudge needs that vanilla again.


Thank you BetseyD.


Hi Rozanne,

I was just reading this great article and comments about Vanilla, when I came across your question. I know this comes a little late in the game (about four months?), but, in the very off chance that you never really found what you wanted - I thought that I would stick my two cents in, and reply anyway.

Back in February you had asked about info/articles on Baking Powder and I wanted to drop this link to you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baking_powder

Personally speaking, I have found Wikipedia to be an extremely helpful information resource on several occasions - from research on how Sourdough works for my youngest son's science project, to gathering information for my own use - the last instance being about making Homemade Cultured Butter.

We have found that if there is something, anything, you want to know about, then 99.9% of the time Wikipedia will have all the answers you will need; weather it is in the form of a scientific explanation, layman's terms explanation or links to even more information on your subject of choice.

Again, I know I am late here, but I just read this today, and thought that I would throw this out to you anyway. I hope that you found whatever it was you were looking for in the way of information on Baking Powder!

Take care!



Oh okay, sounds good.
thanks !


I think it's safe to say most of the regulars on here, and definitely Rose, would strongly suggest against using vanilla "flavoring" which is artificially flavored. We're fans of pure vanilla extract.


Does anybody know if vanilla flavoring (the one withoutr alcohol), work just as well as pure vanila extract for baking cakes from the scratch?


Yes, found some clear vanilla, but not this brand. Oh well I can try out Watkins. The clear is great for making ice cream. just really like this brand


Did you try doing a google search?


I am trying to find clear vanilla extract Extracto De Vainilla La Favorita Elabordo por: Rafael J Segura
Anyone know how I can buy . . online?


Thank you Rose


no i haven't but the cake bible does have much info. scattered throughout--obviously in the ingredient section but also in how cake baking works, i.e. what happens during baking. harold mcgee surely has some more info. on the science of it in his books and if you google you'll also get info. by way of scientific research papers.


Rose, have you ever written an extensive article on baking powder like the one you wrote on Sugar and Vanilla for the Food Arts Magazine? If not, do you know where I can find info on the subject? A friend of mine is looking for information on baking powder for a school project. I already gave her the Cake Bible so she can read the information in it.
Thank you.


Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
11/26/2007 09:36 AM


Sounds like it's just a matter of using a vanilla you like the flavor of. Many Mexican and Carribean vanilla bottling/manufacturers claim to be pure extracts but in fact are not, and from what I understand, labeling laws are not as strict there so it's really hard to know what's in the bottle you're buying unless it's from a trusted brand that is known for its quality.

I would switch back to Madagascar bourbon vanilla extract and see if you acheive the flavor you remember, try the one made by Nielsen-Massey. That's one of the best.


Hi - Just a quick question: I don't bake as often as I used to but I always used the vanilla from some brands as McCormack and Watkins. Recently I returned from a Carribean vacation and brought home some pure vanilla from the Dominican Republic. It's brand is Extracto De Vainilla Blanca Concentrado by Sabores La Chichi. I made the same recipes and they do not taste anything like they used to when I used the other vanillas. I know I should cut back on the amount, and did, but I really don't like the taste of this Carribean vanilla. Am I missing something? What should I do? Thanks, Jan


Sister Gloriamarie Amalfitano, S/FC
Sister Gloriamarie Amalfitano, S/FC
05/22/2007 03:47 PM

I put it in a freezer bag and it lives in the door of my freezer.

I always mean to peel it and stick it in a mason jar filled with sherry, but I've yet to get around to it.

Come to think of it, I'd like some kept both ways.


While we are on the topic of ginger, how do you all store your fresh ginger root?


Sister Gloriamarie Amalfitano, S/FC
Sister Gloriamarie Amalfitano, S/FC
05/22/2007 02:58 PM

During the course of my research, I noticed that preserved stem ginger is used in Chinese cookery.

We have a huge Asian market here in San Diego called Ranch 99. I called them, but we had trouble understanding each other, so I will have to visit the store.

Rozanne's comment about making one's own got me looking and I found this:

Homemade crystallized ginger
Peel and thinly slice 1 pound (500 grams) fresh gingerroot. Place in a saucepan, add water to cover, and cook gently until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain. Weigh and place in a saucepan with an equal amount of sugar and 3 tablespoons water. Bring to a boil, stirring often, until the ginger is transparent and the liquid is almost evaporated. Reduce the heat and cook, stirring constantly, until almost dry. Toss the cooked ginger in sugar to coat. Store in an airtight jar for up to three months.

I suppose one would not have to boil it until liquid evaporates.

My only thought is that I sincerely doubt that the ginger I purchase in the supermarket is tender, young ginger. I daresay I could grow my own and preserve it, but that is getting to sound much more like work!!


Do you have stores in the US that carry products only from England? They would have it for sure.


Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
05/22/2007 02:39 PM

What's interesting here is that someone could discover a way to take the dried crystallized ginger that's prevalent here and make their own preserved stem ginger -- shouldn't be difficult. Perhaps just preserve the dried (candied or not) in syrup for a few weeks.

By the way, here is a comment from a British site about ginger cookies:

"Using stem ginger rather than dried ginger definitely improves the taste of these biscuits, but doesn't help with the fat content."


Stem ginger is tender young ginger that has been preserved in syrup. Crystalized ginger is not preserved in syrup. I grew up with my grandmother's and mother's "British recipes" and my grandmother always used it in some of her cakes.
Hope this helps.


Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
05/22/2007 02:33 PM

Since it's also candied, but in syrup, the crystallized ginger would be close, i'm sure. Depending on what you're making you could add a little moisture to make up for what might be contributed by the ginger in syrup -- such as a small amount of simple syrup or cornsyrup, but just a tad.


Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
05/22/2007 02:31 PM

Looks like it's ginger preserved in sugar syrup from what I'm reading. I've never seen that before, but surely it's in the US somewhere.



Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
05/22/2007 02:25 PM

Yes, there are people on this blog from the UK, so someone will probably answer. Asian markets carry a lot of ginger products and depending on where you live there might be food import stores that can help answer your question or that might import it from the UK.

I'm looking forward to finding out myself.
Keep us posted.



Sister Gloriamarie Amalfitano, S/FC
Sister Gloriamarie Amalfitano, S/FC
05/22/2007 02:19 PM

Thank you, Zach. I've spent 2 1/2 hours searching for the USA equivalent of this product on the Internet.

I can find crystallized ginger quite easily, however it is packaged quite differently. The crystallized stuff is somewhat dry whereas the preserved stem ginger is in a liquid.

Before I substitute, I'd like to verify the equivalency.


Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
05/22/2007 02:10 PM

p.s...the US equivalent may be crystallized ginger, which is "candied" ginger - it's quite easy to find, especially in health food markets and spice shops.


Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
05/22/2007 02:08 PM

This is what I found defined on the internet:

Preserved stem ginger

Preserved or stem ginger is made from tender young ginger root – which is technically not a root at all but a rhizome or underground stem of a tropical plant.

Preserved ginger goes especially well with chocolate, caramel and honey.

Once opened, keep well covered and store the jar in the fridge. It will last almost indefinitely.

This was found on www.uktv.co.uk. I would search more on the internet as there seems to be a lot of reference to it, but yes, on English sites mostly.



Sister Gloriamarie Amalfitano, S/FC
Sister Gloriamarie Amalfitano, S/FC
05/22/2007 01:44 PM

Have any of you ever heard of this ingredient? Preserved stem ginger. It is frequently listed in a British recipe book I own. But alas, I can't figure out what is the US equivalent.

Thank you for your help.


Thanks for the warning :)


Don't attempt this at home. It is TOO MUCH WORK, less to say that you need to wake up before 10 am to pollinate, wait 6 months for the green bean to grow, wait another 6 months to cure it, and then realize that vanilla beans cure better when wrapped in bundles of hundreds!!!. You are free to take my plant away.



Welcome back Rose!


it may not be mold. there is also a white substance that is the vanilla crystalls. you can tell if when you press your finger against it it disappears. if it doesn't then it's mold and might have a disagreeable taste. in that case i would discard the molded portion and in future store the beans tightly wrapped in the freezer.


Dear Rose,
I just discovered that my vanilla beans (14 - 16 beans) have a hairy mold growing on one half of each bean. They have been stored in their original plastic tube. Help! Can I safely wash the mold off and place them in some rum to make extract? I hate to waste them!


vanilin can indeed smell delicious but i've heard there is a risk that some mexican vanillas may contain cumadin--a blood thinner--so it's really safer to buy products that have passed the fda regulations here.


My niece was in Mexico and brought back to me a bottle of clear Vanilla. Its brand is "Anadria" and it comes from the Papagayo Region. I understand this is not "pure" vanilla, but rather vanillan, or so I think.

Is this safe to use?

Its only listed ingredients are ethyl alochol, vanilla bean extract and sugar.

Smells yummy!


check out the vanilla queen--she has excellent quality. i like the mexican particularly. one of my top favorites which comes in a choice of folds is from crossings--eurovanille. you can get it from www.sos-chefs.com as well.



I found your information on vanilla to be fascinating and informative. My question deals with finding a source or brand for quality single and double fold vanilla extracts and vanilla paste. Which brands and types (bourbon, mexican, tahitian) (single fold vs double fold)do you use for baking? Same question for frosting or lightly cooked puddings & custards or uncooked sauces?

I love your Cake Bible ....

Joan Flynn


i don't know anything about the program in vancouver but i do know it is an extraordinarily beautiful city and fabulous food town. you should definitely check out the french culinary institute, and the institute of culinary education in nyc, the cia in hyde park, ny, and johnson and wales which has several campuses.


Hello Rose

I am currently in the process of applying for the Baking and Pastry program offered at the Art Institute of Vancouver. I know that this is a good program but am also wanting to keep my options open. I was wondering if you had any suggestions or knew of other Baking and Pastry programs that are offered elsewhere. If you have any advice, I would love to hear it.
Thank you


bless you zach--i finally got my dsl back but who knows how long THAT will last--they rerouted my connection from the main office. good sound advice. you've saved me and LJ lots of time!


Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
08/23/2006 01:03 PM


Hope you don't mind my two cents. Yes, you should definitely adjust the amount of cream (or chocolate) used in the ganache if using milk chocolate rather than bittersweet. The rule of thumb is to take the amount of bittersweet chocolate in the recipe and multiply by 1.5 to get a ganache of equal firmness using milk chocolate (x2 for white chocolate). Or, you can decrease the cream by a couple of oz. for every 8 oz. of milk chocolate you'll have. You'll have to experiment somewhat to get the texture you're looking for. You should be able to tell by how firmly the ganache has set up. Even if after making the ganache you find you wanted it harder or softer, you can melt it down again over gentle heat and then slowly whisk in more cream or more melted chocolate (depending on what you need) that has been gently heated to the same temperature as the melted ganache.

Good luck!
p.s. I'm sure Rose will point you to a perfect milk chocolate ganache she has in her book. :)


Hi Rose,
I use your dark chocolate ganache (Cake Bible) exclusively for frosting my son's birthday cakes because it takes so well to shaping and tooling (woodgrain patterns, snake and fish scales, etc.). I've noticed over the years though, that the kids tend to leave more frosting than they eat--bittersweet chocolate seems too rich. So, I'm about to use some of those huge blocks of Ghiardelli milk chocolate from Trader Joes, and I have to wonder, should I have adjusted the amount of heavy cream to account for the milk in the chocolate? Oh, how I hate milk chocolate! After it sits on the counter tonight I'll see how it looks in the morning. I'm also bracing myself for a ganache that will be too sweet for my taste--but hopefully the kids will like it. Your thoughts will be appreciated!


diane, my method of mixing cakes does indeed work for other's recipes of the same type (not sponge or chiffon cake of course).
re the flan ring, you're right--the adjustable would leave a mark in the side of the cake. i think the ideal is the 9 inch ring for 9 inch cakes bc they shrink during baking leaving just the right space between the sides of the cake and the ring!
you can always cut your own cardboard rounds if the sizes you want aren't available.


you're correct--the amounts in the grid are all the right ones!


yes, regrettably that's an error that has since been corrected. thanks for your being so humble and considering blaming yourself! i do hope you didn't use the 4 cups. the amounts, in the grid are all correct (both weight and volume).


Marlene Muskin
Marlene Muskin
08/18/2006 03:06 PM

Dear Rose:
I use your book "The Pie and Pastry Bible" all the time and I love it. However, I was making your Chocolate Cream Pie (page 202) and I think there is a discrepency in the recipe, unless I am reading it wrong (always a possibility). In the ingredient grid you ask for 3 cups of milk, divided. In the body of the recipe you ask to split off a 1/4 of a cup of milk and then add 3-3/4 cup milk to a pan. That would make the total milk 4 cups, not 3 cups. Please help.


HI Rose,

Two questions:

1. Is it possible (or advisable) to use the "Cordon Rose" method of cake mixing (i.e., mixing all of the dry ingredients together and adding the butter to them, no creaming of butter and sugar first) when using other recipes?

2. You talk in the Cake Bible about using a flan ring to get a perfectly smooth surface when frosting a cake. In shopping for flan rings, it seems that the best size for a 9-inch cake is the 9-1/2 inch ring, but cardboard rounds don't come in this size. Can you clarify the instructions for doing this? Should I buy an adjustable flan ring? Won't it tend to expand while I'm fooling around with it? (I've never used one before, so I don't know--maybe they lock into place?) Do flan rings ever come in taller sizes, so that you can use this technique with a layer cake? Or is there something else you could use for a layer cake? I'm very interested in this technique, but very confused! It seems like you could get a mostly smooth surface without having to use fondant, which I dislike. Thanks for your help!



by the way, for anyone interested in my huge article on sugar (also written for food arts magazine) it is on my website: www.thecakebible.com (under articles)


zach we are definitely on the same wave-length! by the way, patricia rain has a great website and also sells excellent quality vanilla. it's www.thevanillaqueen.com


Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
08/13/2006 02:35 PM


How ironic that I just returned from the bookstore and saw this posting. I just purchased the book "Vanilla, Travels in Search of the Ice Cream Orchid." It's described as "tracing the story of the vanilla plant and its secretive trade, from the golden cups of Aztec emporors to the ice-cream dishes of US presidents" (by Tom Ecott). Thanks for re-publishing your article on vanilla; now I've got pleny to read! I also happened to purchase The Physiology of Taste, by Brillat-Savarin, which I've always wanted to read.

I like reading the comments and ideas on using vanilla in savory dishes. I made my own extract once; in fact, it's in my pantry and I've never touched it. The vanilla beans have been floating around in the vodka for two years and I have no idea what it tastes like. Maybe I should get it out now as it looks like this is all a sign....



brilliant idea--thank you!!!


Deborah Sterner
Deborah Sterner
08/13/2006 01:25 PM

I went to the vanilla harvest in Papantla this year. I brought back many vanilla beans and put them in olive oil. It is excellent on vegatables especially. I just keep refilling the bottles of oil and the flavor lingers on in the oil.



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