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Apr 30, 2011 11:56 AM

Ground Vanilla, Why?

Ran into this at the bottom of my panna cotta dessert last night. I've never seen it before. Tastes of vanilla, but also bitter and not pleasant at all. Would much rather they had used ground chocolate cookies instead of this ground vanilla if it were a cost issue.

Any reason to defend this?

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  1. Ah, you are referring to vanilla powder (which is ground vanilla) that was used obviously not so professionally/a bit heavy handed? A little bit of that stuff goes very far. There's no defending overuse. Why is right.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bushwickgirl

      Yes, it's true that I only tasted the bitterness when I tasted it in great quantity (a small pinch) but I didn't really taste that much vanilla, either. Maybe it was dried out...

    2. I think what you're referring to are the vanilla seeds, not ground vanilla. My panna cotta recipe comes out like this. It calls for splitting open a vanilla bean, scraping out the seeds, and steeping the seeds and pod in hot cream to impart flavor. I remove the pod but not the seeds - they sink to the bottom of the mold and look like vanilla dust.

      What you're eating there is the real thing, not "vanilla extract." I've never noticed them having a bitter taste though - they may have used a poor quality bean.

      7 Replies
      1. re: BobB

        No, it was definitely ground vanilla beans. The manager brought out a Cambro container of the stuff.

        Splitting, scraping, and infusing is the normal process, and I'm quite familiar with it.

        1. re: jaykayen

          Interesting - I didn't know powdered vanilla exists. Doesn't sound like something I need to pick up for my kitchen.

          1. re: BobB

            Nah, you don't. I thought of vanilla seeds initially also. The powdered product is cheaper than beans and is used instead of vanilla extract, as it provides a better flavor without loss through evaporation when used in warm or hot liquids, the way extract can, but obviously not in the OP's dessert experience.

            1. re: bushwickgirl

              Isn't the powdered also a form of vanilla that can be used by recovering alcoholics who may not want to keep vanilla extract in the house? I got some for my sil a few years ago for that very reason. Beans are pricey and do require some extra time to use.

              1. re: nofunlatte

                There's imitation vanilla, too, if no alcohol.

                1. re: nofunlatte

                  Sure, absolutely, as an cost effective alternative to beans. The alcohol in the extract doesn't completely evaporate when heated, although the heat affects the flavor somewhat, which is probably why the pastry chef of jaykayen's dessert used the vanilla powder.

                  I have read articles about imitation vanilla extract, I believe right here on chow, and elsewhere, claiming that consumers can't tell the difference between real extract and alcohol free imitation vanilla when it is used in baking.

              2. re: BobB

                I put some in my plain yogurt. It's darn tasty and the powder doesn't give that extract taste like the liquid extract does. But that's all I use it for, no cooking.

          2. There are two kinds of ground vanilla beans you can buy. One is regular ground vanilla beans, the other is 'spent' ground vanilla beans. They are a by product of vanilla extract manufacture. They're used as decoration in vanilla bean ice cream.

            Suppliers probably mixed em up if there is little or no vanilla taste.


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