Vanilla. Fresh. Fragrant. Rich. Sweet. There is nothing as delicious to me as adding a splash of pure vanilla to dishes to accentuate the flavors of the recipe.
When making a recipe with just a few ingredients, using the highest quality is always your best decision. There are no masking flavors when a dish has just 4 ingredients. I discovered a brand of vanilla that has wowed me with their depth of flavor, variety of vanilla extracts and family story. It is what I have used for many years and what I want to share with you now.
About 5 years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Beth and Matt Nielsen from Nielsen-Massey Vanilla at an event in the housewares industry. Since that time, I have learned so much about this simple ingredient that is anything but simple.
The brand, Nielsen-Massey Vanilla, started way back in 1907 with the Massey family, later partnering with Chatfield Nielsen. Now being run by the third generation of Nielsen’s, they produce vanilla from the top three vanilla markets in the world: Madagascar, Mexico and Tahiti. The company itself is based out of Waukegan, Illinois, with a plant in the Netherlands. Their products are found throughout the world and used in restaurants, bakeries, within premium foods and of course, in our home kitchens.
Understanding vanilla, means recognizing that the unique flavors are going to vary depending on where the vanilla is produced (just like wine). The climate, soil curing methods and types of vanilla all play a key part in the flavor profile.
- Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla– creamy, sweet flavor
- Nielsen-Massey Mexican Vanilla Extract– creamy, sweet with a bit of spice
- Nielsen-Massey Tahitian Pure Vanilla – fruity and flowery characteristics of the island
So, when making dishes that are cold or with fruit, I use the Tahitian Vanilla. For anything with chocolate or tomatoes, the Mexican Vanilla and for all other dishes, I use the Madagascar Vanilla. To see a more detailed description, here is how Nielsen-Massey recommends which vanilla to use where:
Did you know you can buy vanilla in all different forms?
- Vanilla Pure extract: Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract
- Vanilla sugar: Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Sugar
- Vanilla paste: Nielsen Massey Pure Vanilla Bean Paste
- Vanilla powder: Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Powder
- Vanilla bean: Nielsen Massey Pure Madagascar Vanilla Beans
Each has slightly different uses although the pure extract and paste can be interchangeable. If you wondered how to know how much to use if you want to try the paste instead of the liquid form, here is a handy little guide:
1 whole Vanilla Bean = 1 tablespoon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste = 1 tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract = 1 tablespoon Pure Vanilla Powder
To determine if I should use the paste or the extract, I consider what the outcome of the dish will look like. If I am making chocolate chip cookies, then I would use the liquid. If I am making pound cake or sugar cookies, then I love to use the paste as you can see the vanilla bean specs in the final product. It’s really up to you though.
I think it is good to know that Nielsen-Massey also makes a variety of other types of extracts including coffee, chocolate, rose, and lemon among others. All are made with the same level of quality as their spectacular vanillas. You can find Nielsen-Massey Vanilla at gourmet grocery stores, on Amazon and at kitchen stores like Williams-Sonoma.
With Valentine’s Day just a few days away, I am sharing my crème brulee recipe with you. This is the perfect dish to try using Nielsen-Massey Vanilla as there are just 4 simple ingredients in the recipe. As I said earlier, this is the ideal time to use high quality ingredients because you will taste them in each spoonful.
Have you used a vanilla bean or vanilla paste in your recipes?
Thanks for stopping by!
- 8 egg yolks
- 2 cups cream
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- Whisk egg yolks and sugar till creamy yellow.
- Add cream.
- Whisk to blend.
- Add vanilla.
- Place ramekins in 9 x 13 pan. Fill pan half way up ramekin side with water to create water bath.
- Bake 40-50 minutes.
- Let cool in water bath. Remove ramekins and place in refrigerator to completely cool.
- When ready to serve, sprinkle white sugar across top of each dish. Using either a kitchen torch or the broiler, caramelize the sugar to a golden brown.