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Lori Horton
Lori Horton is the owner of Celebrations by Lori in Pittsburg, Ks. With over 15 years experience in the bakery business, Lori opened Celebrations in 2000. She is always out front with the most unique ideas in cake and cookie decorating for all occasions. Celebrations is also on top of the industries' latest trends and products with the area's largest selection of baking and cake decorating supplies. Open Monday - Saturday, Celebrations can be reached at 620-231-5700 or at www.celebrationsbylori.com
Candy, Chocolate & Sweets
2010-11-01 13:03:00
Real vs. imitation: “pure”ly opinion? the great vanilla debate
Answer: For years, bakers have pondered over the age-old question: Real or Imitation Vanilla? With the weather changing and everyone’s thoughts starting to turn to holiday baking, let’s see if we can divine an answer. Pure vanilla, with its aromatic flavor, is the most widely used flavoring in pastries, confections and desserts around the world. It is the second most expensive spice in the world, next to saffron, and as much as chemists try, cannot be exactly replicated in an artificial form. After over a century, scientists devised a method of hand pollinating the orchids that bear the vanilla bean, allowing commercial production of vanilla. So, what does that tell us about which vanilla to buy? While vanilla is sold in several basic forms, extract is the one most commonly used by home bakers, so that’s what we’ll focus on here. Vanilla extract is produced by steeping the vanilla beans in an alcohol and water solution for several months, sometimes with sugar added, thereby producing a clear dark liquid with a rich flavor that is highly aromatic. The FDA requires that pure vanilla extract contain 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans per gallon of liquid and contain 35% alcohol. This is called one-fold vanilla extract and is what you generally find in stores labeled “Pure.” Madagascar or Bourbon vanilla are the most common types of pure vanilla and are named for the regions from which the beans are harvested. The imitation vanilla extracts are made with synthetic vanilla and products labeled vanilla flavoring are a blend of pure and imitation vanilla. Be sure to store either one in a cool, dry place. The flavor will degrade if exposed to extreme or variant temperatures, moisture or direct sunlight. Remember pure vanilla extract is 35% alcohol, so treat it as you would a fine liqueur and it will last up to 5 years. It comes down to this, how is the vanilla being used? If you are heating or baking with vanilla, a pure variety is best. It won’t break down or evaporate during the heating process the way imitations will. If you are making icings, smoothies or ice cream where the extract isn’t being cooked, then imitation will give you the delicious flavor you are looking for. Then there’s clear vanilla, but that’s a question for another day.
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