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Watkins Baking Vanilla With Pure Vanilla Extract

First, the basics. You need to know when to use pure vanilla extract and when it’s okay to use imitation vanilla extract. You also need to know when it’s best to use the liquid version of the vanilla.

Pure vanilla beans are available in pod form, whole bean form, cut bean form, and in liquid. To make vanilla syrup, slice up 3-4 beans and place them in a saucepan with 1 cup sugar. Bring to a boil on medium heat for about 5 minutes before removing from heat. Add ¾ cup boiling water and let stand for 24 hours at room temperature until cool. Strain the beans out and you have vanilla syrup. It will keep for an indefinite period of time. You can use it just like you would use regular sugar in your coffee or on your pancakes.

Pure vanilla extract is made by soaking the pureed beans in a solution of alcohol and water. Sugar and other flavorings may be included to give the extract its signature flavor and consistency. Some people still prefer to hand-milk their own beans when making extract, so it’s important to know that there are other options available depending on your needs and preferences. If a recipe calls only for extract, imitation extract will do, but I’d advise against imitation if you’re trying to make vanilla cakes, pies, cookies etc.

The liquid version is even easier. Simply add several vanilla beans and enough brandy to cover them. Let sit at room temperature for a week or two, then strain through a fine sieve. Add alcohol, flavorings such as bourbon, rum or cognac, and sugar to taste and you have useable vanilla extract. I recommend only using the liquid if you are already familiar with making homemade vanilla extract.

Most recipes call for either whole beans and pure extract OR pure extract and imitation beans. I prefer the latter myself because it’s faster and easier than the former (unless you’re adding other ingredients). The beans and pod themselves can be saved for a second extraction. Other recipes call for bean paste, which is simply the pureed beans that have had their flavor sealed with alcohol (you can use brandies or liquors, but I prefer vodka because it doesn’t alter the flavor and adds a high enough proof to keep bacteria from growing).

Okay, so now you know the basics. Let’s learn how to use it in different recipes so you’ll be able to make anything from Starbucks-like coffee drinks to homemade vanilla cream pie.

Vanilla Coffee Syrup: Simple syrup (1 cup water, 1 cup sugar), ¾ cup boiling water, 3-4 vanilla beans and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Boil the extract for 1-2 minutes and add the mixture to your hot coffee.

Warm Vanilla Sugar: This is a great addition to any bread recipe that calls for sugar. Combine equal parts sugar and finely chopped vanilla bean. Store in an air tight container or ziplock bag and keep in a cool place (not refrigerator). You can also use it as a decorative topping on homemade cupcakes or other desserts.

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Vanilla Custard Sauce: Use only extract with this recipe, don’t use beans at all! Combine 1 cup heavy cream, ½ cup whole milk, 5 egg yolks, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, ⅓ cup sugar, 2 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tsp rum (optional). Heat the mixture until it begins to thicken, stirring constantly. This can be done in a double-boiler on the stove, but it’s much easier to use a microwave. Microwave it for 30 seconds and let cool while you continue with the recipe.

Vanilla Whipped Cream: When making whipped cream, use an electric mixer and beat just enough at low speed until soft peaks form (1-2 minutes). Add more of whatever you’re making the cream for and keep whipping until soft peaks form again. Add vanilla extract and continue whipping until stiff peaks form (1-2 minutes).

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream: Combine 1 cup whole milk, 2 cups heavy cream, 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk, 2 tablespoons cornstarch and ¼ teaspoon salt. Heat the mixture until it comes to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add 3 yolks, 3 teaspoons vanilla extract and ¾ teaspoon rum flavoring. Stir until smooth. Chill the mixture for at least 4 hours before freezing (this is due to the egg content). During the last 15 minutes of freezing time mix in ½ cup sugar.

Homemade Vanilla Pudding: Follow directions above but replace heavy cream with whole milk, omit sweetened condensed milk and replace with instant pudding mix (any flavor).

Homemade Vanilla Custard: Follow directions above but replace whole milk with evaporated milk, omit sweetened condensed milk and replace with instant pudding mix (any flavor).

Vanilla Cotton Candy: Combine ½ cup sugar, ½ cup water, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 1 Tablespoon baking soda in a saucepan. Stir gently until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil on medium heat. Remove from heat, add 2 teaspoons liquid food coloring per pound of cotton candy material. Stir gently until desired shade is achieved (1-2 minutes).

Return to heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a full bubble. Remove from heat immediately and stir in 12 whole vanilla beans (this will make your droplets much more vibrant). Pour into prepared cotton candy form (you can buy this at any craft store) or funnel onto a foil-lined sheet pan. Allow to cool completely before breaking into pieces.

Homemade Vanilla Icing: Combine 1 cup unsalted butter or margarine, 2 tbsp milk, ½ tsp vanilla extract and 6 cups confectioners sugar. Beat together with an electric mixer on low speed until smooth and creamy (about 1 minute). Add additional milk if needed to get proper consistency.

Homemade Vanilla Frosting: Combine 1 cup butter or margarine, 2 tbsp milk, ½ tsp vanilla extract and 4 cups confectioners sugar in a mixing bowl. Beat together on low speed until smooth and creamy (about 1 minute). Add additional milk if needed to get proper consistency.

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Homemade Vanilla Custard: Follow directions above but replace evaporated milk with sweetened condensed milk, omit vanilla extract and replace with instant pudding mix (any flavor).

Homemade Vanilla Extract: Combine 1 pound granulated sugar, 1 gallon of 95 proof vodka and 3 vanilla beans for each pound of sugar. Stir well and store in the refrigerator for 6 months. Dump out the sugar from time to time and simmer the vodka with new sugar until you have a warm amber color (3-4 days). When cool, strain into jars and add 2 drops of your choice of essential oil or flavoring (see below for suggested flavors/speeds).

Vanilla Extract Additions: If you’d like to add something else to your vanilla extract, these are a few suggestions:

Paprika: Add 1 tbsp for each pound of sugar. A deep red color will occur.

Cinnamon: Simply add a few sticks of cinnamon sticks along with the vanilla beans. A deep red/brown color will occur.

Citrus: Simply add a few squeezes of orange or lemon juice along with the vanilla beans. A pale yellow color will occur.

Pure vanilla extract is 100% pure and if you don’t have it at home, the best place to find it is in baking supply stores or better yet from your local supermarket. This ingredient produces a more intense flavor while imitation vanilla extracts are a combination of other flavors like almond, cherry, etc. which produce a milder flavor (which can be used for some baked good recipes).

What brand of vanilla extract is gluten-free?

As with most things in life, there are a few exceptions to this rule. While the majority of vanilla extracts are gluten-free, there are a few brands that do not adhere to strict FDA guidelines for gluten-free. Rather than blindly saying all vanilla extract is gluten-free, look for this symbol on all vanilla extract bottles produced by McCormick, Nielsen Massey and Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract from Frontier Coop.

Natural Vanilla Flavor: In some recipes where a more intense flavor isn’t needed or desired, natural vanilla flavor is used instead of pure vanilla extract. This is simply pure vanilla combined with corn syrup and it makes for a much lighter taste (which goes well in things like cookies).

How do you know if the vanilla extract is gluten-free?

As with most things in life, there are a few exceptions to this rule. While the majority of vanilla extracts are gluten-free, there are a few brands that do not adhere to strict FDA guidelines for gluten-free. Rather than blindly saying all vanilla extract is gluten-free, look for this symbol on all vanilla extract bottles produced by McCormick, Nielsen Massey and Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract from Frontier Coop. You can also visit the manufacturer website for additional info.

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Is vanilla extract made from real vanilla beans?

Real vanilla extract is made from real vanilla beans, which are known to be gluten-free. In fact, they are the only native plant of Mexico and in need of cultivation there.

Where is vanilla grown and how is it harvested?

Vanilla is native to Central America and therefore can only be grown in that region. The entire process involves hand pollination and harvest so it’s not exactly an inexpensive product (just like good wine). Vanilla beans can be harvested anytime between 9 months and 2 years depending on the grade of the beans. Most commercial varieties (which are used in all products) are harvested when they’re 18 months old at full maturity.

What’s the difference between real and imitation vanilla?

There are a variety of imitation vanilla products on the market including those with different names, but they are all alochol-based flavorings that mimic the flavor of real vanilla. Unlike most other ingredients in our recipes, we don’t suggest using imitation vanilla extracts in any of our recipes as they are not gluten-free.

Where can I get real vanilla extract?

Most supermarkets, specialty grocery stores and health food stores will carry real vanilla extracts (the bottles will have this logo on the label). They are inexpensive and the best way to ensure that your vanilla extract is gluten-free is by purchasing one labeled “Grade A”, “Grade B” or “Classified”.

Is Watkins vanilla flavor vanilla extract?

Watkins Vanilla Flavor is simply vanilla extract in a larger bottle that’s labeled “Vanilla Flavor Concentrate”. We’ve never used Watkins Vanilla Flavor and we don’t know any of the ingredients. But your best bet is to check the wording on the label of your vanilla extracts or simply go with McCormick, Nielsen Massey, Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract or Frontier Coop pure vanilla extract.

What’s in Watkins vanilla flavor?

There are a lot of different flavorings used in our recipes so we don’t have enough information to say for sure, but if you’re allergic to either gluten or dairy, it may contain trace amounts of these ingredients.

When it comes to vanilla beans, you have a multitude of options. You can purchase them in whole pods, or as loose seeds or even as an extract. The quality of the bean will determine the quality of your end product, so it’s best to invest in high-quality vanilla beans whenever possible. Our go-to brand for superior vanilla beans is Nielsen Massey. They make great vanilla extract as well, but we prefer the fresh beans in our sweets. We also love Frontier Coop because they’re a coop and therefore provide one of the best prices on the market. Make sure that you’re purchasing organic and fair trade if you can afford it (it’s not necessary if you don’t feel comfortable with it). We never use artificial or imitation vanilla products in our recipes, so be sure to check labels when purchasing products like vanilla extract, vanilla flavoring and pure vanilla powder.

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