To use a vanilla bean in foods such as ice cream, custards, cake batters and sauces, slit the bean lengthwise down the centre using a pointed knife, scrape out the tiny seeds and add them directly to your mixture. You can also split the vanilla bean in half and drop the entire pod into a cooked mixture such as custard, and remove before serving.
Vanilla beans can often be used several times depending on how strenuously they have been used. Simply rinse the bean, dry it and store for future use. You can also take a bean that has already been used several times, rinse and dry it, and add it to your sugar or coffee jar to impart a delicate flavour and fragrance that will last for quite some time.
Vanilla beans will keep indefinitely in a cool, dark place in an airtight container.
Points of Interest
Vanilla beans are the fruit of the vanilla orchid, a tropical plant indigenous to Central and South America, though today the majority of vanilla beans come from Madascar, Indonesia, Mexico and Tahiti. There is a nothing like the flavour and aroma of a whole vanilla bean. When used in cooking, it imparts a rich, sweet flavour to dishes and its tiny dark seeds add visual appeal and dimension to your food. Many cooks recommend using vanilla beans (over vanilla extract) in recipes where vanilla is central to the flavour of the dish, such as vanilla ice cream, and in items such as flans and frosting, which aren’t cooked long enough for the alcohol in an extract to evaporate.
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