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« birthday cake! | Main | sweet salt relish: Quirky. Kooky. Vegan. Passover. »

25 March 2007


Awesome tips, thanks. I just bought some beans off eBay from vanillaproducts and am brewing up my own extract. I thought the beans were kind of dry, but now I know that's a good thing.

I like sticking the empty pods in my sugar bin once I've gotten the seeds out. Adds a nice vanilla flavor.

Once of my friends asked me why I had twigs in my sugar. =b

I am so happy I found your website!

I recently moved to California and was lucky enough to find a pastry assistant position with a pastry chef/team who is willing to teach me (and teach me well). I never anticipated that learning the 'basics' would be so revolutionary in my life (seasonality was never even a thought in previous positions!) Though I'm comfortable in asking a lot of questions while we are working, there are times I feel my depth of inquiry is inappropriate (or just plain naive). Posts like this are quite satisfying to read after a moody day in the kitchen

Just wanted to say thank you. :)

Fantastic post, Shuna.
I buy my beans at G. Detou in bulk, of course they end up dry & brittle....any suggestions. Would you freeze them?


Twigs? Hysterical!


"I never anticipated that learning the 'basics' would be so revolutionary in my life..." THIS IS THE BEST SENTENCE EVER!

So glad you found eggbeater too! I look forward to what you have to offer as well.


Try "plumping" vanilla beans, as needed, in a low oven. And yes, you can try freezing them, although the fridge will do just fine.

If you have a mortar and pestle or a little coffee bean grinder, just break off what you need and work with that... I like to keep them in their own container or plastic bag because I want the vanilla beans to "keep" their scent.

Could you suggest a couple of "good quality" vanilla extracts. The cooking shows always recommend their use but never say what they are. We've been using Schilling forever and it now seems off somehow. I recently purchased a bottle of Morton and Bassett - good stuff?

Hello Larry,

Nielson-Massey Bourbon vanilla is the one I get at markets. Also please check out for vanilla. I know it seems odd to buy vanilla extract online but at least when you buy from Patricia Rain you know it comes to you in a sustainable fashion.

Some people love Tahitian vanilla but I find it too flowery and so invasive for when I want vanilla to be a background flavor. You will spend more on Tahitian so use it carefully.

In the Bay Area you can find vanilla extract, good stuff, at The Pasta Shop, Berkeley Bowl, Rainbow and many other places that are not Safeway. I tend to stay away from mass produced spices and extracts because usually they are made from inferior sources and/or they are Irradiated!

I get all of my vanilla beans online from: - Excellent quality and variety of vanilla products! Great Tip BTW!

Wow what great tips. I've been using vanilla and vanilla beans for a long time but still learned quite a few things here. Thanks for the wonderful tips. Nothing beats real vanilla beans - also love the scraped pods in the sugar bin. MMMM vanilla scented sugar!

I bought 4 lbs of Mexican vanilla beans from Patricia Rain's Vanilla Company this spring for my Russian Easter baking. They were plump, moist and fragrant. In the past I've had to deal with dry beans and my trick is to put them into a zip lock or other sealable container with a sprinkle of water or vodka (your choice). It's amazing how in a short time they become moist again!

By the way, at Katia's we sell the beans for $3 each, as ordering in volume doesn't work for everyone. Much less expensive than the $10 Safeway charges for one dry bean in a glass jar!!!

Hello Katia,

This is great commentary, thank you. Ms. Rain could use all the support we can muster, no doubt. But just to clarify a point: vanilla beans are held together with natural oils, not water. If one is looking to plump a vanilla bean, an alcohol-tincture is best because water can make the vanilla bean mold.

I tell the kitchens I work in this: if your vanilla beans dry out, break up into a spice grinder and grind with raw or white sugar. This creates a seriously strong vanilla sugar of which you only need a little bit.

And if vanilla beans aren't too dried out, I always suggest that we put bean in oven for a minute to open it up a little. It's always easier to run a knife down the length of a vanilla bean if its not too hard. ~ Shuna

I like the idea of rubbing the vanilla into the sugar. I get frustrated by clumps quite a bit! I was just putting empty pods in a jar but I've got a pretty big supply of vanilla sugar now (even with giving like half of it to friends) so I got a big jar and filled it with vodka to start my own extract. Now whenever I "discard" a pod it goes in the extract jar!

I also don't get why people still think vanilla beans are too expensive. Sure, if you buy them in a brick-and-mortar store. In bulk online, they are quite cheap. I actually have more beans than I know what to do with (I have also straight up given friends a handful of beans as a small gift).

Hi Shuna, interesting. Ive never heard anyone recommend storing the Vanilla pods in the fridge. I hear cool, dark, never in the fridge! Anyway, I guess there are many ways to skin a cat! Cheers KB

Hi there! Love the Vanilla Bean tips! I make Ice Cream in production batches on a regular basis and will definitely start podding my sugar!
I normally soak the beans and pods in the dairy - but will try half soak, half sugar rub, to start.

I have a question about mold. I've heard that white crystallization on the pods is a good thing. Then again - it sure seems like "mold", as it wasn't there last week, and continues to "grow". These beans were kept in sealed plastic bag, and plastic wrapped, in the fridge.

Can you please tell me what the difference may be?

ps - LOVED the writing on "The Weeds" - TRUE TRUE TRUE!!!

Hello RMK, sometimes a "middle man" will plump vanilla beans with water, which is illegal, because they are sold by weight and it makes them heavier. Mold can grow in the fridge, but it would be greenish fuzz, not whitish 'crystallization.' You may want to have a wee taste to see what's going on. I have never seen mold on vanilla beans and I have seen some really old ones... But that's not to say it can't happen. Tell us what you discover, if you have time. ~ Shuna

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