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Vanilla extract has been used for thousands of years to add vanilla flavor to foods. Vanilla extract is produced by maceration and percolating vanilla beans in a solution of water and ethanol. Since vanilla extract is very bitter, most commercial versions are sweetened with sugar or flavored alcohol. It's often used in baking, flavoring ice cream, confectionary, candying, flavoring drinks, and flavored liquors. It's also a key ingredient in several popular homemade sodas including Yoplait Yogurt, Lemon Squeeze, and Chunky Monkey.


Not all commercially produced vanilla extract tastes good. My favorite version is one made with pure Virgin Vanilla Extract. I find that the taste is much more rich and creamy than other varieties. It also tends to be less expensive and has a better texture.


Vanilla extracts are typically used to flavor baking ingredients, but you can also use it to create a unique flavor in your own recipes. For instance, if you're making a cake and want to add some vanilla flavor, you could make a vanilla buttercream frosting. Just take a small amount of vanilla extract (approx. 2 tablespoons) and blend it into a bowl of chilled buttercream. 


Another way to use vanilla extract in your cooking is to replace vanilla beans in your baking recipes. If you use regular old vanilla beans in your recipes, you'll get a bland flavor. Try using natural vanilla, which are just slightly flavored beans. This gives you a closer match to the real thing, without using artificial additives and flavors. You could also substitute natural vanilla extract for Splenda, Equal, or whatever sugar substitute you use in your recipes.


Unfortunately, not all supermarkets or bulk food stores carry authentic heilala vanilla beans. Those that do often only offer trace amounts of this special flavor. But even buying grocery store brands that claim to have real vanilla extract can't be completely trusted. Since manufacturers add chemicals to artificial vanilla beans, the flavor may be masked, leaving you with a bland product that lacks that authentic taste of vanilla.


Instead, experiment with ingredients found at home. Any good cooking book or natural food store should contain at least a few recipes using vanilla extract. Start with just a few drops of the vanilla essence and add them to your recipe according to the instructions in the recipe. You can then tinker with the recipe to bring out the flavor profile as much as you want.

 

 

 

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Vanilla Extract - A Great Recipe Addition