Hero Ingredient: Organic Madagascar Vanilla

Vanilla is one of those ingredients that doesn’t make any sense.  When you open a bottle, the scent is pure bliss.  But take a taste and the bitter flavor that accompanies the heady aroma will shock your senses.  Yet just a teaspoon or two of quality vanilla can elevate your baked goods from ordinary to extraordinary.  It is an ingredient not be omitted, and one not to skimp on.


I’ve tried many different brands of vanilla over the years.  I have been seduced by beautiful labels, promises of natural or fair trade practices, and visions of the tropical paradise that a vanilla claims to have originated from.  Yet all of these beautiful (and expensive!) vanillas always seem to disappoint.  I invariably end up coming back to the best: Nielsen-Massey.  Many of their vanilla offerings can be found in most grocery stores, and yes, they are expensive.  But so worth it.  


Because I like to bake with organic ingredients at home, I wanted to use Nielsen-Massey’s Organic Madagascar vanilla (for more on the origins of vanilla, click here).  It is not something that stores near me carry, and can even be difficult to find online, especially in the kind of quantity needed for a baking business.  I went straight to the source, explained I was starting a small business, and wondered if they might allow me to open a wholesale account.  For those of you who have started (or are considering starting) a food business, you know that with some suppliers, opening an account can mean having to invest in huge quantities up front that can be more than your kitchen can handle.  But the folks at Nielsen-Massey could not have been nicer, and assured me they would be happy to work with me.  I placed an order on the spot.


I know this sounds crazy, but I was like a kid in a candy store when my huge container of vanilla arrived.  I opened it at once and took a deep inhale of it’s intoxicating aroma.  I immediately whipped up a batch of chocolate chip cookies (we double the amount of vanilla found in most standard recipes).  It is a subtle flavor, but I can taste it in every bite. The flavor is described on their web site as “full, sweet, creamy and mellow with velvety after-tones.” If you haven’t used Nielsen-Massey in your baked goods, give it a try.  And think about adding a bit more than you usually do.  Let me know how you like it!


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