Killer Vanilla from Taylor & Colledge
Where would the British baker be without vanilla? It’s hard to imagine cakes, biscuits and custards without that sweet and fragrant flavour which we all know and love so well. And life without vanilla ice-cream is virtually unthinkable. We sort of take it for granted, but it is worth remembering that vanilla is a tropical orchid originally from Mexico and now cultivated in other tropical regions. Recently there has been more awareness about the production of vanilla and the exploitation of workers that so often goes with it. To produce good quality vanilla and provide workers with a decent livelihood means that it is never going to be a cheap ingredient. In fact, it is the most expensive spice after saffron. So when I received a vanillary scented parcel of products from Australian company Taylor & Colledge, I was really pleased to find that most of the products are fairtrade or organic. In their own words Taylor & Colledge are: makers of award winning vanilla bean extracts for more than a century. These items are available in the UK at Waitrose and Ocado.
Bottles of good quality vanilla extract, especially if they are fair trade and / or organic are expensive. I certainly go through a lot of the stuff. In recent years, I have made my own by infusing good quality vanilla beans in Vodka for a few months. It’s very easy to do and saves a lot of money. The 100 ml bottle of Vanilla Bean Extract in this bundle, not only smelt wonderful, but the flavour really came through in the bake that I made with it. Although it is not organic, it is fairtrade.
Vanilla bean pods themselves are wonderful things and can be used for all sorts of purposes. Generally the seeds are scraped out to flavour any number of dishes, including custards, labneh and various baked goods. The pods can also be used whole to infuse milk, alcohol or other liquids. I’m looking forward to making hot chocolate with my own vanilla infused milk for a special occasion. I have used them whole in the past to make vanilla and apricot jam, which was truly delicious. These pods were organic and came in a pack of four, contained in a heavy duty plastic tube for freshness. They had a heady smell and complex aroma which you simply don’t find in the extract. CT noticed how the smell lingered in his nose for quite some time after closing the lid. This is an unorthodox use, but just sniffing them early in the morning when writing this post, seemed to lift our mood. They were soft and plump, which is just what you are looking for in a good quality pod.
Once vanilla beans have been scraped out, I add the remaining pods to a jar of golden caster sugar to flavour it and always have one on the go. I have not thought of doing this with icing sugar before though, so I was intrigued by the Vanilla Bean Dusting Sugar. So far, I’ve used it to cover a cake and it worked very well. The recipe for this will be appearing shortly. I can see myself following one of the suggestions on the container and dusting my porridge liberally with this.
Vanilla paste is new to me. Essentially, it is the scraped out seeds combined with vanilla extract and sugar. I recently used it in some mini chocolate persimmon cakes and was really pleased with the results. It gave a good flavour and the flecks of vanilla seed looked attractive in the icing. I will be posting the recipe for this tomorrow.
Last but by no means least, was this fabulous Vanilla Bean grinder and I have fallen in love. Working to the same principle as a pepper grinder, this contains shards of dry (ish) vanilla pod and enables you to top off any dish you care to with freshly ground vanilla. It even has two settings, one for a fine grind and one for a coarser one. I trialled it out on my chilli, ginger & persimmon tarts and was impressed that the vanilla flavour came through so well. The black flecks on top looked rather good too, I thought.
I was sent a range of Taylor & Colledge vanilla products to try out with no requirement to write a favourable review. As always, all opinions are my own.