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    You are in: Home / Community Forums / Spain & Portugal / January ~ Vainilla (Vanilla)
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    January ~ Vainilla (Vanilla)

    NorthwestGal
    Tue Dec 31, 2013 9:48 am
    Forum Host


    Vanilla (vainilla in Spanish) comes from orchids in the genus vanilla, primarily from the Mexican species referred to as flat-leaf vanilla. In fact, it’s the only fruit-bearing orchid species. The word vanilla stems from the Spanish word vaina, which means sheath or pod and translates to “little pod”. It’s commonly used worldwide in commercial and domestic baking, perfume manufacturing, and aromatherapy.

    Vanilla was discovered in 1518 by the Spanish conquistador, Hernando Cortez while on a search for treasures in the New World. He brought it back to Spain (along with bags of cacao) with instant success. It was then introduced across the continent and the Europeans, especially the French, quickly developed a taste for it. In the New World, vanilla was used by the wealthy to flavor beverages and increasingly as a flavoring for delicate pastries. The French loved it so much they bought plant cuttings from the Spanish in South America for transplanting in their Madagascar and French Polynesian colonies. When the transplanted vines failed to produce fruit, the French and Spanish nearly came to blows. It was eventually discovered that any efforts to grow vanilla outside of its originating region would be always be futile because regions outside of Mexico lacked the natural pollinator, the Melipona bee (found only in Mexico). A Belgian botanist Charles Francois Antoine Morren discovered an artificial method for pollinating vanilla plants that at first were unworkable, However, in 1841 a 12 year-old slave on the French island of Réunion refined Morren’s process and discovered that the vanilla plant could be successfully hand-pollinated.

    The led to an end of Mexico’s monopoly on vanilla and opened the way for several different species to be grown in a variety of warm regions. However, despite that discovery, vines grown outside of the original growing region in the Americas must still be carefully hand-pollinated, which is a tedious and labor-intensive process that accounts for its premium price at the market.

    ~ Vanilla is used extensively in baking and most particularly for making a variety of delectable desserts and sweet dishes representing a wide range of world cuisines, including Spanish cuisine. In fact, did you know that vanilla is the most common flavor of ice cream worldwide? And it’s the most common favor of the popular Spanish dessert, Flan.

    Vanilla is the second-most expensive spice (after saffron), because growing vanilla is quite labor-intensive. It nonetheless remains valued for its floral undertones and exotic and spicy-sweet flavor.

    ~ Good vanilla comes from good vines that undergo careful production and processing. It grows best in hot, humid regions (around 80% humidity) from sea level to about 4900 foot elevations. The ideal climate for growing vanilla has moderate annual rainfall evenly distributed over 10 months with optimum temperatures ranging from about 59-96°F during the day and 59-68°F at night. They can be grown in other regions in a climate-controlled hot house or greenhouse. In the tropics, vanilla is grown from September to November when weather (neither too rainy nor too dry) present the most ideal soil conditions. Cuttings usually take about 6 to 8 weeks to establish roots, but 3 years are needed before any cuttings produce flowers and healthy pods. As with most orchids, the blossoms grow along the 6 to 10 inch stems, bloom and mature in sequence, each at different intervals.

    Flowering typically occurs in spring, and without pollination will fall and not produce vanilla pods. Outside of Mexico, pollination is a tedious process. Each blossom must be hand-pollinated within 12 hours of opening by using a small splinter of wood or grass stem to gently lift the rostellum (the projecting part of the outer column of the delicate bloom) upward, so the overhanging anther can be pressed against the stigma which self-pollinates the vine. Generally one flower per raceme stem opens per day, and each raceme can bloom for over 20 days. It takes the fruit about 5 to 6weeks to develop and about 6 months for the bean to mature, and a healthy vine will continue to produce for 12 to 14 years. A healthy vine can easily produce 50 to 100 beans per year. However, this is a case where more is not better because over-pollination often results in disease and inferior bean quality. Therefore, most experienced growers are careful to pollinate only about 5 or 6 flowers from the 20 on each raceme stem so that the resulting beans are all similar in age and of optimal quality.

    Harvesting the vanilla fruit is another labor-intensive process. Each fruit ripens at different intervals, which requires a daily harvest. Each individual pod must be hand-picked. Market value is based on each vanilla pod’s length and overall appearance, which pods 6 inches and above are ranked gourmet and usually sold to top chefs and restaurants. Pods of 5.9 inches length or more are of highest quality, and on down to the shorter pods given lower grades.

    ~ The picked vanilla pods then undergo the processes of killing, sweating, slow-drying and conditioning. The first step involves killing the vegetative tissue on the vanilla pod to stop the vegetative growth which can disrupt the cells and tissues which give vanilla its distinct aroma. Many killing methods exist but the most common are by heating with hot water or a hot oven or by freezing. Sweating is to preserve vanilla’s characteristic exotic floral taste and aroma, and it’s what transforms the fresh pods from green to brown. This step involves keeping the fruits in high (113-149°F) temperatures with high humidity and daily sun exposure for 7 to10 days. The next step is drying, which involves exposing the vanilla pods to intermittent phases of air, shade, and sunlight which reduces the pods to 25-30% moisture by weight. Conditioning involves storing the pods in boxes for 5 to 6 months after which they are then sorted, graded, bundled and wrapped in paraffin paper to further preserve their characteristic flavor and aroma.

    There are four main commercial forms of natural vanilla . . .

    the whole vanilla pod
    powder - vanilla pods are ground and kept pure or blended with sugar or starch
    extract - both pure and imitation forms contain at least 35% alcohol
    vanilla sugar - a pre-packaged mix of sugar and vanilla extract

    There are several different vanilla species used worldwide for daily culinary needs. The most common are:

    Madasgascar Vanilla – also called Bourbon Vanilla, and it’s considered the “classic vanilla”, and refers to vanilla from the Indian Ocean islands such as Madagascar, the Comros and Réunion. It’s said to have the richest vanilla flavor and is the most versatile of all vanilla varieties. It’s especially well-suited for cream- and chocolate-based dishes and for coffee flavoring. It also lends itself well to dishes that require high heat, which is often a necessity in baking. And because of its rich qualities, Madagascar Vanilla is often used in aromatherapy and potpourri mixes as well.

    Mexican Vanilla – It’s darker and richer than Madasgacar vanilla and has a robust, almost intoxicating fragrance, and it’s best in recipes where vanilla is the main flavor. It’s produced in much less quantity than most other varieties of vanilla. Some Mexican vanilla sold in tourist markets are not actually pure vanilla extract but is mixed with an extract of the tonka bean which smells and tastes like vanilla, but it contains coumarin (which studies have suggested it can be harmful to the liver, so coumarin has been banned by the U.S. FDA). Mexican vanilla has a spicy quality that makes it a perfect companion to cinnamon-based dishes as well as reducing acidity levels in tomato-based dishes (such as chili).

    Tahitian Vanilla – from French Polynesia (in the South Pacific), it has an exotic floral aroma with tones of ripe tropical fruit. The flavor is quite rich and cherry-like. The Tahitian vanilla pod is fatter and moister than those from Mexico or Madagascar, but the flavor is more subtle. Its unique taste make it a great choice for dishes that use vanilla as its main profile.

    West Indian Vanilla – from a vanilla plant grown exclusively in the Caribbean, Central America and South America. West Indian vanilla is a little more pungent than all other vanilla varieties and is mainly marketed for industrial uses.





    ………………….Spain Tag Game ~ Vanilla

    We have selected an assortment of Spanish vanilla recipes for this month’s tag game. You are welcome to tag one of the recipes we found, or you can select any recipe from the site’s database as long as it has vanilla (in any form) as an ingredient. And there is no limit. You are free to tag as many recipes as you can make and review before the end of the month.

    Featured Spanish Recipes

    ~ Basic Spanish Flan by Sharon123
    The vanilla touch here creates a wonderful touch to the custard texture in this delicious flan recipe.

    ~ Churros (Spanish Doughnuts) by NELady
    A classic Spanish treat, these churros get plenty of sweet flavor from the cinnamon and vanilla.

    ~ Magdalenas - Spanish Cakes by momaphet
    Magdalenas are a classic Spanish treat full of sweet and tasty goodness from the traditional combination of sugar, butter and vanilla and other tasty ingredients.


    BEBIDAS (Beverages)




    Honey & Almond Spanish Hot Chocolate
    Coquito
    Mulled Spiced Wine Bone Warming!
    Honey Coffee
    Vanilla Lavender Wine Punch
    Morir Sonando Spanish Orange Shake


    DESAYUNO (Breakfast & Brunch)







    Spanish "french" Toast.
    Churros / Fried Dough
    Blueberry Buttermilk Waffles

    Very Best Banana Loaf
    Applesauce Muffins
    No Brainer Never-Fail Blueberry Muffins

    Pear and Walnut Muffins
    Pineapple Banana Bread
    Chocolate-Strawberry Bread Mediterranean Style


    PASTELS Y GALLETAS (Cakes and Cookies)




    Brazo De Gitano -- Rolled Sponge Cake (Spain)
    Almond Cake from Albufeira, Portugal
    Rich Caramel Cheesecake
    Basque Cream and Cherry Tart
    Espresso Shortbread
    Sesame Rings


    FLAN Y CREMA (Flan and Custards)







    Coconut Flan
    Flan
    Banana Flan

    Spanish Rice Pudding
    Rice Pudding With Sultanas (Spain)
    Fried Milk

    Natillas
    Orange Catalonian Cream
    Crema Catalana (Catalan Burnt Cream)


    MAS POSTRES Y DULCES (More Sweet Treats)




    Dulce De Leche - Fudge-Like Vanilla Caramel - It's Sinfully Wond
    Rum Dulce De Leche
    Baked Apricots With Honey (Albaricoques Al Horno Con Miel)
    Chocolates Rusticos
    Vanilla Spice-Rubbed Grilled Peaches With Fresh Goat Cheese
    Nitko’s Simple Vanilla Ice-Cream (Without Machine)


    NorthwestGal
    Tue Dec 31, 2013 9:56 am
    Forum Host


    Last edited by NorthwestGal on Thu Jan 09, 2014 9:35 am, edited 3 times in total
    Bonnie G #2
    Fri Jan 03, 2014 9:41 am
    Food.com Groupie
    Wonderful information, I love vanilla and use it whenever I can adding to recipes for pancakes, cookies, waffles and breads. The aroma is intoxicating to me and even my pickiest eaters love it. Thanks for all this information, now I know why it's so expensive. icon_wink.gif Now to look for a recipe to tag - thinking coffee???
    Bonnie G #2
    Fri Jan 03, 2014 9:59 am
    Food.com Groupie
    Found it, I'm going to make Irish Vanilla Coffee LOVE vanilla and coffee.
    Bonnie G #2
    Fri Jan 03, 2014 10:14 am
    Food.com Groupie
    NorthwestGal
    Fri Jan 03, 2014 11:35 am
    Forum Host
    wave.gif Hi, Bonnie G #2. Your recipes sound scrumptious, and I have them listed above so others can see and possibly tag them this month. And I have your tag included above, too. Like you, I really love vanilla, so this is such a fun topic for me. Feel free to tag as many vanilla recipes as you like this month.
    Bonnie G #2
    Fri Jan 03, 2014 12:42 pm
    Food.com Groupie
    NorthwestGal wrote:
    wave.gif Hi, Bonnie G #2. Your recipes sound scrumptious, and I have them listed above so others can see and possibly tag them this month. And I have your tag included above, too. Like you, I really love vanilla, so this is such a fun topic for me. Feel free to tag as many vanilla recipes as you like this month.


    Thanks NWG, I have to take it easy with tags as we leave next week for a 2 month holiday in Peru and Ecuador so won't have a lot of cooking time and need to try and use up left overs from the holidays - but man - would sure love to find time to try one of those flans
    Bonnie G #2
    Fri Jan 03, 2014 3:38 pm
    Food.com Groupie
    I'm back, here to report I've MERP'd Irish Vanilla Coffee it was sooooo good and truly a great way to relax after working hard to get the house back into shape after the holidays icon_cool.gif




    If I have time I'll be back to post more, love this stuff icon_wink.gif
    Sharon123
    Mon Jan 06, 2014 6:12 pm
    Forum Host
    I love vanilla too. I have bought Madagascar and Mexican vanilla rather cheaply over the internet. I paid $15 for half pound Madagascar and I'm not sure about the Mexican, but it was a little more expensive. I have made Make Your Own Vanilla Extract! with great results.

    Here are my vanilla recipes:

    http://www.food.com/recipe-finder/all/vanilla?layout=desktop&chef=37449

    I can't remember how to make the link to say Vanilla. icon_rolleyes.gif icon_wink.gif

    I'll be back to pick a recipe.

    I will make Honey & Almond Spanish Hot Chocolate #109245.
    NorthwestGal
    Wed Jan 08, 2014 9:29 am
    Forum Host
    Bonnie G #2 - That coffee drink looks so scrumptious. I'll have to try it soon. I look forward to hearing about your fantastic South American trip.

    Hi, Sharon. I have your yummy tag noted above, and I have your vanilla recipes listed so the link is titled. There are a couple of ways to do it, but this is the one I learned first so it's the easiest for me to remember....

    [url=the url address goes here]name of link[/url]
    Sharon123
    Wed Jan 08, 2014 12:59 pm
    Forum Host
    Thanks NorthwestGal, I remember now!

    I have made Honey & Almond Spanish Hot Chocolate #109245 and it was very good icon_biggrin.gif
    French Tart
    Fri Jan 10, 2014 11:28 am
    Forum Host
    FABULOUS post and recipe game, and with one of my favourite ingredients! FT/Karen icon_biggrin.gif
    NorthwestGal
    Sun Jan 12, 2014 9:26 am
    Forum Host
    wave.gif Hi, FT. I'm glad you like this month's scrumptious feature. It's such a classic.

    French Tart
    Sun Jan 12, 2014 3:02 pm
    Forum Host
    NorthwestGal wrote:
    wave.gif Hi, FT. I'm glad you like this month's scrumptious feature. It's such a classic.



    Awwwww, thanks so much! I will try to join in with this, but January is a ver busy month for me work wise, so I may have to sit this one out - but I will try! It is great to be back with my friends, and thanks for your warm welcome too! FT/ Karen icon_biggrin.gif
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