Vanilla has to be one of my favourite spices, aromas and ingredients in dessert cookery. I read an interesting short article about it recently and here are some highlights of that article.
The Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes is credited with introducing vanilla to Europe in 1520. The beans were combined with cacao to make a drink called xocolatl, and for 80 years it was enjoyed only by nobility and the very wealthy.
In 1602, Hugh Morgan, apothecary to Queen Elizabeth the first suggested that vanilla could be used as a flavouring all by itself and the rest is history.
Vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world after saffron.
The best beans are cultivated in Madagascar.
Vanilla beans ripen quickly but are not ready to harvest until 9 months have passed.
Harvesting is a very labour intensive process and not all the beans are ripe at the same time, so have to be checked daily.
After harvesting, the beans have to dry and ferment for up to six months to develop their rich flavour.
Vanilla is the only edible member of the orchid family.
A teaspoon of vanilla in tomato sauces helps cut the acidity of the tomatoes.
Vanilla is named after the Spanish “Vainilla” which means “little pod”
Vanilla extract is made by percolating alcohol and water through chopped, cured beans.
Melting Vanilla Moments
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp icing sugar
112g Plain flour
½ tsp Vanilla extract
80g Icing sugar
1 tsp milk
Beat butter, vanilla and sifted icing sugar in a small bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Stir in sifted flours.
Spoon mixture into piping bag fitted with 1cm fluted tube. Pipe 3cm rosettes about 3cm apart onto a lightly greased baking tray.
Bake in a moderate to hot oven for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on trays
Make the filling by beating together the butter, vanilla and sifted icing sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in enough milk to make mixture spreadable. Join cold biscuits together with filling.