Thursday, November 19, 2009

Challenge Ingredient: Vanilla

Okay, okay, I'm way behind. It's been a busy week and I've been cleaning my house top to bottom because my family is coming into town on Saturday.

Well, this week (what's left of it anyway), our ingredient is vanilla.

My parents went to CancĂșn, MĂ©xico last year and brought me a big bottle of real vanilla. It smells amazing. I can't honestly say that I've noticed a difference in my baking with it, but it's been a long time since I've used fake stuff, so it's hard to compare. But I could just sit and smell the bottle all day. I probably shouldn't.

Vanilla, as you probably know, comes from beans, or pods. I have chanced to read several recipes that call for a vanilla bean, but I can't bring myself to buy one, because they're about $10 a pop. Vanilla is the second most expensive spice, after saffron, and it's due to the extensive labor required to grow the pods.

There are four basic types of vanilla: Bourbon-Madagascar, Mexican, Tahitian, and West Indian. French vanilla is not an actual variety, but more of a process. Most imitation vanillas contain vanillin, only one of 171 identified aromatic components of the real vanilla beans.

(Source: Wikipedia)

So have at it. Let's do some baking! The vanilla challenge technically ends Monday, but you can still make and/or post all next week.

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