Showdown: Real Vanilla Extract vs. Imitation Vanilla Extract

Vanilla BeansIf you ever make recipes from scratch, there may come a time when you are not sure whether to use real vanilla extract or the imitation version.  Any time you compare real products to artificial alternatives, you will likely find you will have to pay a little more for the real deal.  But in most cases, there are a few good reasons for that, and vanilla extract is no exception to the rule.  If you are having trouble deciding between pure and imitation vanilla extract, you should get to know why the real version is typically the better choice.

Compare the Ingredients and Decide for Yourself

Real vanilla extract always features vanilla beans as a main ingredient. The extract from the beans is achieved by soaking them in water and ethyl alcohol to draw out their natural oils. According to the FDA, all real vanilla extract has to have 35% alcohol and at least 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans for every gallon.

On the other hand, imitation vanilla extract does not contain vanilla beans at all. Instead, it is comprised of chemicals that attempt to imitate the vanilla flavor when combined. More specifically, imitation vanilla extract is often made using either wood or coal. Manufacturers of imitation extract then add a variety of chemicals you may have never heard of in order to achieve a flavor that is similar to vanilla beans.

Further, if you choose imitation over genuine vanilla extract, you are missing out on the many health benefits of the vanilla bean. The following are just some of the vitamins you can get from vanilla beans:

  • B vitamins, which can regulate metabolism and help the body produce energy
  • Potassium, which can control blood pressure and heart rate
  • Iron, which manages red blood cell production
  • Calcium, which keeps bones and teeth strong

Plus, the vanilla bean can act as both an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory. Of course, pure extract is also known for being a low-calorie sweetener, while the imitation version has more calories and less flavor. Clearly, the ingredients in each version of extract can make a difference.

Real Vanilla Extract Offers Better Value

Though a bottle of real vanilla extract is often priced higher than the same amount of imitation version, you will find the pure product offers better value. The reason is that it tends to taste much stronger than the imitation extract, so you may end up using only half the amount to get the flavor you are going for. In this way, you are not necessarily saving money when you choose the imitation option.

In addition, artificial flavors can ruin the taste of a dish, especially in a recipe that calls for a large amount of vanilla extract. When you make the mistake of using imitation vanilla, you run the risk of having to throw out the entire dish due to the sub-par flavor. The result is that you waste time, effort, and perhaps most importantly the money you spent on all the ingredients in that dish. In this way, you will likely save money in the long run when you go with the safe bet of real vanilla extract when cooking.

If you are still wondering about the benefits of real vanilla extract, try a bottle of it and see what a difference it makes. You can even obtain flavored extracts in many variations if you want a unique way to enjoy a pure, great tasting product. In the end, we are confident you will not be able to go back to imitation vanilla extract ever again!

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Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Way before we even owned a vanilla company, Chad was making this ice cream.  I’ve tried adding various toppings to this ice cream, but always end up just enjoying it plain, it is rich enough on its own!  This recipe includes a vanilla bean, but if you don’t have one, or don’t wish to add it, please see substitutions below for vanilla extract, and you’ll have a simple vanilla ice cream recipe!

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Ingredients:

  • 3 C. heavy cream
  • 1-1/2 C. whole milk
  • 1 1/4 C. sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped - OR -  1 1/2 Tbls. vanilla extract (as always, my favorite vanilla in all cream-based recipes is Mexican vanilla, but choose your favorite!)
  •         Note: If you use the vanilla bean, you may find that you do not need any vanilla extract, but if you like a stronger vanilla flavor, add 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, beat with hand-mixer until mixed, making sure vanilla bean scrapings are evenly distributed.
  2. Freeze in ice-cream maker, according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. For best results, let set overnight (approximately 8 hrs), but you could eat it in 2 hours, if you don’t mind it a little softer.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream Close Up

Who is with me in just liking plain vanilla ice cream?  Or, do you prefer a topping?

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Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Butter Cream Frosting

One of the things I like most to cook with is vanilla beans.  (I know, you’re surprised seeing as how I own a vanilla bean company.  :-))  I just love how vanilla beans add the visual of little bean flecks to recipes, and they add such a rich flavor!  This is a simple recipe using vanilla beans in a classic vanilla cupcake recipe, along with a rich butter cream frosting that I’m wondering where has been all my life.  I may or may not have used this frosting on graham crackers already.  And by graham crackers, I mean spoon.

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Butter Cream Frosting

Cupcakes:

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Line cupcake pan with liners.
  2. Scrape your vanilla bean.  Set aside half for the frosting.
  3. In medium bowl, sift together cake flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, milk, almond extract and vanilla extract.
  5. In your mixing bowl, combine butter and sugar, until fully mixed.
  6. Alternate additions of the dry and wet mixes to your butter and sugar mix, until fully combined, then beat on medium for approximately 2 additional minutes.
  7. Add vanilla bean seed scrapings to the mix. Stir lightly to distribute throughout (about 15-30 seconds).
  8. Fill cupcake liners about 1/3 full.
  9. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Frosting:

Ingredients:

  • 1 C unsalted butter, softened
  • 3-4 C confectioners (powdered) sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 tsp table salt
  • 1/2 scraped vanilla bean
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-4 T milk or heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Beat butter on medium for 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add 3 cups of powdered sugar on low until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter (this helps to ensure you don’t get a powdered sugar shower.)
  3. Increase speed to medium, add vanilla extract, salt, and 2 tablespoons of milk/cream.  Beat for 3 minutes.
  4. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add sugar about 1/4 C at a time. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add remaining milk/cream 1 tablespoon at a time.  I ended up using about 3.5 C to get my desired consistency.
  5. This frosting is best if it is chilled for about 24 hours, so the all the vanilla flavors can meld together.  If you don’t have this time, it’s still great, but that extra 24 hours does help up the flavor a bit.

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Frosting

*The almond extract does add a lot of flavor to the cupcakes, but it can be overpowering.  If you like almond, add it!  But if you prefer a more straightforward vanilla flavor, you may want to omit it.

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New Pinterest Community Board – Join Us!

In our last post, we talked about how we want to connect with our customers and blogger friends – and one of the ways we are going to do it is by creating a community board on Pinterest!  We started a new board called “Food and Friends,” and we invite you to come start pinning with us!  I already invited a few of you that I am following on Pinterest, if I haven’t yet, let me know and I’ll send you an invite!  Our only guidelines are:

  1. Please keep it food and recipe related
  2. Have fun!

Email me at alp @wildbeanvanilla . com if you’d like an invite!  Also, if we’re not following you, let us know and we will!  Happy pinning!

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10 Things About Wild Bean Vanilla Co.

10 Things About Wild Bean Vanilla Co.Hello friends and readers!  It’s been a wild and crazy year for us, we moved and renovated our house, and moved our business too!  Lately we’ve been thinking a lot about what we want the purpose of this blog to be, and we want to do a few new things around here!

The original (and current) goal of this blog is to demonstrate and give ideas of how to use our products.  Often when we tell people what we do and what we sell, they ask, “Well what can you do with that?”  We started this blog to answer that question, and we still want to do that, with great recipes and ideas.

But in addition to that, we just want to connect with our customers.  Because of a trademark issue, we nearly had to close the business this year, and we were so very sad.  But after some negotiation and discussion with the opposing company, they withdrew their opposition.  When we posted about those things on our Facebook page, the outpouring of support for both posts was phenomenal!  We received emails, phone calls and tweets from a lot of lovely people, expressing sorrow at closing, then triumph at being able to stay open!  Our post about being able to keep the business open was our most successful Facebook post thus far, by a long shot!  We love our customers, and we want to connect with you, and you to connect with us.

First, we should introduce ourselves.  We’ve already done a little of that on the About page, but let’s just do a random 10 list, because who doesn’t like a list?!

  1. Wild Bean Vanilla Co. is a family run company, by me (Andrea), and my husband Chad, with a lot of support from our family members.  We have no outside employees or help.
  2. We have two young sons, ages 6 and 3.  Or, 3 and a HALF, as he likes to remind us.  :-)
  3. Right now, Chad and I both work full-time corporate jobs.  We run this business on nights and weekends.  So, if you receive emails from us at weird times, or we don’t get back to you right away – that’s why!  We’re sorry about that.  We hope someday this will be a fulltime gig, and we are absolutely dedicated to serving you all, we hope that you’ve felt that!
  4. We are located in Mesa, AZ, and recently acquired retail space, but since we only work nights and weekends, and we don’t have outside employees, it’s not regularly staffed.  BUT, we are available to meet there by appointment, during the day even, given some notice.
  5. We started this business when a friend gave us a bottle of real vanilla extract and we realized it does make a huge difference in the taste of your foods and baked goods.  We hope you try it, and you’ll see too!
  6. We love to talk to our customers, so always feel free to tweet us, email us, Facebook us or comment on this blog.
  7. We’ve been known to promote others’ blogs, recipes and shops on our Facebook page, just because we enjoy them.
  8. Since owning a small business of our own, we’ve shifted more of our personal shopping and spending to small and local business as much as possible.  I’m not going to say it’s 100%, (we still love us some Amazon), but definitely more than we used to.  We’ll continue to press forward on this.
  9. We currently sell four varieties of vanilla extracts, and eight varieties of flavored extracts.  Our most popular vanilla is Madagascar Bourbon (no surprise there, as it’s the most common variety), and our most popular flavored extract is coconut (which did surprise us a little!)
  10. My absolute favorite recipe on this blog is the Hot Vanilla, and second to the Homemade Vanilla extract, it’s yours too!

Well we hope this has given you more insight into our company and who we are!  Now, share with us a little about you!  If you have a blog or store, link it in the comments below, so we can get to know you too!

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Homemade Granola

What happens when you mix some oats, a little sweet, a bit of nut, and the scrumptious taste gourmet vanilla?

You find yourself with a great tasting treat that satisfies all of your crunchy and sweet cravings.

To start, mix your wet and dry ingredients separately.

Then combine.

Pour and spread onto a baking sheet.

The consistency will still be pretty dry, that’s okay. It will be pretty sticky though!

Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the oats are golden brown.

Enjoy the incredible aroma that fills your home.

A perfect topping for yogurt, mix-in for oatmeal, or a yummy snack all on it’s own!

Recipe:

     Ingredients:

  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (I used walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp Madagascar Bourbon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Mix dry ingredients in large bowl.
  3. Mix wet in separate bowl.
  4. Combine wet and dry ingredients.
  5. Spread on baking sheet, bake for 25-30 minutes or until oats are golden brown.
  6. Enjoy!
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Bloggy Announcements – New Staff Member!

It has been way too long since we blogged!  Why?  Well, life just got busy and caught up with us, and we got wrapped up with other elements of running our business.  But we miss our blog, so to help with that we hired a new “employee.”  I put employee in quotes, because she’s not so much an employee, as a family member.  Wild Bean Vanilla Company is a family-owned and operated company, so my sister Adrienne is going to join us as a blogger!  We are thrilled to have her join us!  Since we’ll have more than one of us blogging, I’ve turned the tagline (pictured below) back on, so you’ll know which one of us is posting each post.  She’ll be posting a new recipe for us soon!  Welcome, Adrienne!

Tagline

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Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (Whole Wheat!)

My kiddos were getting tired of our cereal/waffle/toast rotation for breakfast, and I had some overripe bananas I needed to use, so these muffins were the perfect solution!  The bananas and the chocolate chips are naturally sweet enough that these require only a minimal amount of brown sugar, and you can’t even tell they are whole wheat!  These were a big hit with both kids, and Chad and I really liked them too!

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins (Whole Wheat!)

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 C whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 2.5 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1.5 C chocolate chips
  • 1.5 tsp Madagascar Bourbon vanilla extract*
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 1/4 C olive oil
  • 1.5 C mashed banana

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients and chocolate chips
  2. Combine remaining ingredients in a separate bowl, until mixed well
  3. Combine all ingredients in one bowl until moistened
  4. Pour into greased muffin cups, about 2/3rds full
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes

Enjoy!

————–

*I’m always interested to see how different vanillas taste in recipes, so I made 2 batches – 1 batch with Madagascar Bourbon, and one batch with Mexican.  The Madagascar was definitely better!  It was much sweeter, and brought the flavors and the sweetness of the bananas out much better!

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Homemade Vanilla Extract (with Printable Label)

We carry a full range of vanilla extracts in our store.  But we get it – sometimes you want to make your own!  Vanilla extract is a fun handmade gift to make, and in fact making our own extract for family and friends was what got our business started!  The official recipe from the FDA in order to sell vanilla extract is 13.35 oz of vanilla beans per one gallon of alcohol.  However, you don’t need to make it this strong, a good homemade recipe is at least 5 beans per 8 oz of alcohol.*  Not sure what kind you want to make?  Check out this post on vanilla beans and their suggested uses.Empty Vanilla Extract Bottle

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Slice your vanilla beans lengthwise to expose the inside of the bean, then put them in the jar.
  2. Using a funnel, fill almost to the top with vodka.
  3. Store in a cool dark place (a pantry or a cabinet is great.)
  4. For the first 7 days, give the jar a shake, daily.  Doesn’t have to be intense, you just want to shake up the beans in the alcohol enough to get that flavor in there.
  5. After that, just shake weekly.
  6. Let it infuse and steep for 6-8 weeks!

After it’s ready, you can take the beans out if you wish (but don’t throw them away, you can still use them in baking!) – or you can keep them, and just keep filling the jar with vodka as you use the extract.

*Please note, there are a LOT of recipes for vanilla extract out there, and unfortunately, some of them are quite inaccurate.  Anything less than this concentration is not vanilla extract, it’s vanilla-infused alcohol.

**You may also use other alcohols such as rum or brandy, as long as they are 35% alcohol or greater.  We personally like vodka the best, but it can be fun to try other alcohols and experiment with the flavor!

If you want to print a label for it, here’s a MS Word doc printable: HomemadeVanillaLabel, using Avery 5163 Labels!

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Peanut Butter Layer Cake with Banana Icing

It’s National Peanut Butter Day!  And people, I love peanut butter.  And cake.  And bananas.  And icing.  And peanut butter.  So it seemed only natural to put them all together in celebration of this very important holiday!!

Peanut Butter Layer Cake with Banana Icing

Peanut Butter Layer Cake:

Ingredients:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening or butter, softened
  • 1-3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract
  • 1-1/3 cups buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter

Directions:

  1. Let egg whites stand at room temperature for 30 minutes
  2. In the meantime, grease and flour two 8 or 9 inch square cake pans
  3. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl, set aside
  4. In a large mixing bowl, beat shortening on medium to high for 30 seconds
  5. Add sugar and vanilla, beat until combined
  6. Add egg whites, beating well after each addition
  7. Alternatively add flour mixture and buttermilk, beating on low until combined
  8. Pour 1/2 the batter into one of the pans
  9. Add peanut butter to remaining batter, then pour into to the second pan
  10. Bake in a 350 degree oven, for 25-30 minutes, until toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean

Banana Icing:

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients, except for powdered sugar, in a medium bowl.  Beat well.
  2. Gradually add powdered sugar to desired consistency.

Enjoy!  Let us know if you try it, here or on our Facebook page!  Anyone else bake anything special for National Peanut Butter Day?!

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