Friday, August 12, 2011

PURE VANILLA for Dessert Professional Magazine

VANILLA for Dessert Professional Magazine
By Susie Norris


“If a recipe does not call for a vanilla bean, we usually sneak one in,” says Executive Pastry Chef Kaushik Chowdhury of the J. W. Marriott Desert Ridge Resort in Phoenix and leader of the 2009 National Pastry Champions and top-ranked World Pastry Champion team.  This may explain why pastry chefs around the country stash vanilla beans in their knife kits and keep secret bundles wrapped up tightly in freezers to avert a day without vanilla. Like their customers, they are drawn to the soft power and flavor range of tropical vanilla.  “It is a simple, popular, important flavor and the character of the bean brings dimension to desserts,” explains Chef Chowdhury.  His Bourbon Vanilla White Chocolate Cake (featured below) incorporates the three main types of vanilla beans: Mexican for spicy flavor; Bourbon for smooth fragrance; Tahitian for sharp richness.   This layered approach allows him to provide guests flavor that comfort them and also delights them with surprise.  “People are very sentimental about their vanilla.”

Vanilla comes from a rare, flowering orchid native to southern Mexico.  It grows in the shade of large, leafy tropical trees like cacao and banana and is cultivated in Tahiti, Uganda, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, India and Madagascar.  Spice-obsessed Spanish explorers first noticed how the sixteenth century Aztec carefully fermented the vanilla seed pods, blended them in their drinks and treasured them as medicine.  In many subsequent cultures, including Age-of-Reason France, vanilla was a culinary aromatic, a health tonic, a subtle but adored spice and a sure-fire aphrodisiac.  Thomas Jefferson was one of the first Americans to appreciate vanilla beans.  After service as Ambassador to France in the late 1780’s, he imported vanilla beans back to America, packing them carefully with champagne, mustard, vinegar and oranges from the South of France.  He appreciated the French-favored combination of chocolate and vanilla, a pairing that dates back centuries to the cultural homeland of both delicacies:  Mexico. 

Author Patricia Rain (Vanilla: The Cultural History of the World’s Favorite Flavor and Fragrance) who prefers to go by the name “Vanilla Queen,” paints a romantic picture of vanilla’s early Mexican days, and describes how little vanilla production has changed in growing regions, such as those that surround the market center of Pampantla, “the city that perfumed the world”.   The orchid vines there are long and delicate and produce a shy little light green flower.  When pollinated, that flower can produce a dramatically long and thin seed pod that resembles a green bean. The characteristic flavor of vanilla – that deep, woodsy pool, that spicy echo of warmth – comes mostly from a chemical called vanillin.  It is the predominant chemical compound of an estimated 300-400 that contributes to the complex essence of vanilla.   On high quality beans, it is visible as white frost-like particles on the outside of the pods.  In the curing process, where natural vanillin and other flavor components develop, the pods are blanched in near-boiling water or baked in ovens, then wrapped in cloth and allowed to “sweat” in sweat boxes.  For 1–2 weeks, the pods are laid out on mats in the sun by day, then wrapped in cloth and packed in airtight boxes to sweat at night. During this process, the pods become a wrinkled dark brown, and enzymes in the pod release vanillin as a free molecule, unemcumbered, as it ordinarily is, by sugar molecules.  From these piles of beans emerges the remarkable scent with its unearthly blend of lightness and depth. The curing process has changed little over the centuries, and those who tend to the vanilla beans – pollinating their delicate blossoms, harvesting their fruity pods, laying them out for their sunbaths and tucking them into their warm linen beds, are mostly the families of modest tropical villages living under thatch roofs. While vanilla production could be industrialized, mono-cropped and made factory-efficient, perhaps its delicate stubbornness - its quiet demanding nature - is part of what makes vanilla so mysteriously sweet and special to the rest of the world.

Patricia Rain also emphasizes the important role vanilla plays in supporting sustainable farming methods in its many growing regions.  Because vanilla is a cash crop which grows in harmony with the trees and dense layers of vegetation, it allows farmers to make a living while keeping the rain forest intact and thereby thwarting cattle farmers and lumber merchants who might otherwise raze the trees for their businesses.  “When the rain forest goes, the whole planet goes,” she says from her vanilla-filled home in Northern California.  Many pastry chefs appreciate their widening options for purchasing fair trade, organic and high quality vanilla beans.  These products, instead of cheaper, industrial alternatives, support a way of life for farmers, environmentalists and flavor aficionados alike.

Invisible in the dark waves of melted Tanzanian chocolate, tiny black seeds conjure chemical magic in Chef Alicia Boada’s bowl of chocolate.  As a technical consultant for Barry Callebaut,  she explains her commitment to the flavor combination of chocolate and vanilla, and why she chose particularly plump vanilla beans imported from the jungles of Tahiti for the recipe she is working on. “I use Tahitian when I need a lot of seeds and up-front flavor. If I need stronger aroma and smoother flavor, maybe Mexican.  With chocolate, I’m looking for accent notes.”  Her selection speaks to the growing demand for high quality vanilla beans.  Not only does she value the vanilla flavor notes prominent in many of Barry-Callebaut’s couvertures, she also develops desserts that balance chocolate and vanilla in varying strengths.  Her Warm Tahitian Vanilla Bean Apple Tart with Salted Caramel Milk Chocolate Ice Cream bring two layers of vanilla into play with salty caramel, baked apples and creamy milk chocolate.

Sweetness is not the only splash vanilla makes in the culinary world.  Savory chefs pair vanilla with scallops, lobster, herbs, chutneys, sauces and confits.  Craig Nielsen, one of the owners of family business Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, a main supplier to chefs in the USA, published A Century of Flavor (2008), a cookbook emphasizing many savory uses for vanilla as well as sweet ones.  Crab Cakes with Vanilla Remoulade and Vanilla Lobster Supreme (featured below) allow vanilla’s subtlety to combine with the similar subtlety of seafood.  “We are Vanilla Specialists,” he explains.  “Whether used in sweet or savory applications, we’ve provided the finest vanilla products to food companies since 1907.”  Many vanilla purveyors emphasize the need for specialty – the need to really understand and appreciate the complexity, delicacy and beauty of vanilla.

Why did vanilla become the spice of choice for the bakeshop?  How did it triumph over cinnamon, cumin or cardamom?  “It is the very essence of purity and haunting floral flavor,” says Rose Levy Beranbaum, the New York-based author of The Cake Bible and many other high quality cookbooks. “The term “plain vanilla” is an absurdity,” she says.  “There’s nothing plain about magic.”  Her Cherry Vanilla Coulis (below) from her most recent book, Rose’s Heavenly Cakes, is designed to accompany cakes or cheesecakes that need a blast of fruit and magical, transforming flavor.  She advises that vanilla bean pods used to flavor desserts can be plucked out of the finished sauces, rinsed and used again since their flavors are longer and stronger than any one recipe can tame.

Confusingly, vanillin is not only the name of the main chemical that creates vanilla flavor, but it is also the name of a synthetically produced vanilla substitute that threatens the growers of vanilla around the world.  Vanillin is made in laboratories and often sold as “imitation vanilla” or “artificial vanilla”.  It is much cheaper to produce than coaxing enzeymes from finicky tropical orchids.   Gale Gand, cookbook author and Executive Pastry Chef at Chicago’s Tru and Cenitare Restaurants, says, “The cold extraction process such as the one used by Nielsen-Massey Vanillas gently extracts the complex flavor components from the vanilla beans and then preserves them in jewel-like bottles.  No imitation flavoring could possibly replicate the complexity of 300 different flavor compounds, some of which have yet to be indentified.”  She is among many chefs who always opt for vanilla beans and high quality extractions.  When man-made vanillin is compared to real vanilla’s complex cultural mystique, man-made vanillin simply evaporates.

In a recent event cake made for the Museum of Natural History in Pasadena, California, Chef Norma Salazar of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts – Los Angeles, used vanilla simple syrup to flavor the layers of chocolate and yellow cake supporting a trio of chocolate mousse layers.  Real vanilla beans did their most trusted and most well-understood job: enhanced the flavor of cake and cream.  “Vanilla is like salt and pepper in the bakeshop.  I use it to balance and brighten everything.”  The cake, pictured here, brimming with flavor, fed over 1,000 guests.

“When I first used European vanilla paste, the flavor lingered and danced, “ says Stephen Sullivan at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.  He now uses vanilla paste and vanilla powder to bring layers of vanilla flavor to his cakes and plated desserts. From Chef Pierre Herme, he learned the boldness of Mexican vanilla beans work best with chocolate, the more delicate floral notes of Tahitian beans go best with fruit desserts, and a mix of all three vanilla beans – Mexican, Tahitian and Bourbon – create the most pronounced vanilla flavor.  Chef Sullivan’s famous life-size holiday gingerbread house even includes a hint of vanilla.  He reminisces about serving vanilla-laced cinnamon rolls to soldiers in the Persian Gulf War when he was a baker in the marines.  “Everybody understands vanilla.”



Bourbon Vanilla White Chocolate Cake
Tahitian Vanilla Berry ConsomméôMexican Vanilla Basil Gelato

Warm Bourbon Vanilla White Chocolate Cake
Servings: Six
2 ounces butter, unsalted
4 ½ ounces white chocolate chips
1/2 Bourbon vanilla bean, split and seeds reserved
1 ½ ounces sugar
2 eggs + 1 egg yolks
1 ½ ounces flour, all-purpose
Powdered sugar for dusting
In a microwave on high heat, melt the butter for 1 minute. Add the white chocolate chips and microwave for another 40 seconds, remove and stir until chocolate and butter are completely melted. Let this chocolate and butter mixture rest for at least 3-4 minutes.  Whip eggs, egg yolks, vanilla seeds and sugar on high speed for 8 minutes. Add the chocolate mixture and the flour; be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Whip on high until the mixture reaches a thick, mousse-like consistency. At this stage the cake batter can rest like this for up to two days. Butter or grease 12, four-ounce molds. Place on a baking tray and bake in a 400 degree oven for about 7-8 minutes until the cakes are golden and puffy (the cakes will be runny in the center).
Tahitian Vanilla Berry Consommé
8 ounces Strawberries hulled
8 ounces Raspberries
3.5 ounces sugar
2 tsp Gelatin soaked in 2 tbsp Ice Chilled Water
1 Plump Tahitian Vanilla Bean, split and seeds reserved
Cook strawberries, raspberries and sugar over a double boiler without stirring for around 20 minutes. Strain out the juices. Add the soaked gelatin and vanilla seeds, reserve till it cools down.
Mexican Vanilla Basil Gelato
13 ounces Milk
4.5  ounces Cream
10 ounces Dry Milk
2.6 ounces Sugar
1 Mexican Vanilla Bean, split and seeds reserved
1.5 tbsp Egg Yolks
¼ tsp Stabilizer (optional)
3 oz Basil Leaves
Melt all ingredients except for the egg yolks. Cook it over a medium flame till it boils. Temper in the Egg yolks. Add the Basil Leaves and steep for an hour. Strain and completely cool the mixture preferably overnight. Spin it in an ice cream/gelato machine as per manufacturer’s instruction. Reserve the gelato in the freezer till you serve.
Assembly: Once the cakes comes out of the oven, flip over a plate, sauce with Tahitian Berry Consommé and cut strawberry into  small quarter-inch dices. Put a generous tablespoon of diced strawberries on the plate and serve with a quenelle of Mexican Vanilla Basil Gelato. Garnish with dried vanilla bean and fried candied fresh basil leaf.

Frozen Macaroon Lollipops

Saffron Vanilla Macaroon ô Tahitian Vanilla Gelato
Bourbon Vanilla Chocolate Macaroon ôRosemary Caramel Swirl Gelato

Saffron Vanilla Macaroon

7 ounces White Almond Powder
7 ounces Icing Sugar
5.3 ounces Egg Whites
4.4ounces Powdered Sugar
¼ tsp Spanish Saffron
1 Bourbon Vanilla Bean split and seeds reserved

Soak saffron in half of the non-whisked egg whites. Sift almond powder, vanilla seeds and icing sugar together. Using a spatula, mix these ingredients in a bowl with half of the non-whisked egg white- saffron mix to obtain dough. In a bowl, mix the remaining egg whites with powdered sugar while heating them with baine marie, until the mixture reaches 104 degrees. Then whisk the meringue into peaks, until it gets cold. Incorporate into the dough with a spatula until smooth and shiny.

With a pastry bag, shape into balls 1.2 inches in diameter on a grease-proof paper or silicon baking sheet placed on an oven tray. Leave the macaroons at room temperature for 20 minutes until a crust forms on top. Bake them for 12 minutes at 325 degrees, until done.

Bourbon Vanilla Chocolate Macaroon

28 ounces White Almond Powder
18.5 ounces Powdered Sugar
5.3 ounces Egg whites
1 ea Bourbon Vanilla Bean, Split and seeds reserved
2.8 ounces Cocoa Powder
12.5 ounces Granulated Sugar
2.5 ouncesWater
4 ounces Egg whites

Sift almond powder, vanilla seeds, icing sugar and cocoa powder together, and then using a spatula mix them in a bowl with first quantity of the non-whisked egg whites to obtain dough. Cook the granulated sugar and water till it reaches 240 degrees. Whisk the second quantity of egg white and slowly pour the cooked sugar syrup. Whisk the meringue into peaks, until it gets cold. Incorporate into the dough with a spatula until smooth and shiny. With a pastry bag, shape into balls 1.2 inches in diameter on a grease-proof paper or silicon baking sheet placed on an oven tray. Leave the macaroon at room temperature for 20 minutes until a crust forms on top. Bake them for 12 minutes at 325 degrees, until done.
Tahitian Vanilla Gelato
13 ounces Milk
4.5  ounces Cream
10 ounces Dry Milk
2.6 ounces Sugar
1 Tahitian Vanilla Bean, split and seeds reserved
1.5 tbsp Egg Yolks
¼ tsp Stabilizer (Optional)

Warm Tahitian Vanilla Bean Apple Tart with Salted Caramel Milk Chocolate Ice Cream and Praline Powder

Warm Tahitian Vanilla Bean Apple Tart
1-2 lb. Uniform Granny Smith Apples
8 ounces Crème Patissiere - infused with Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean
3-4 inch Pate Feuillete Discs, docked
Unsalted Butter, melted
Tahitian Vanilla Bean Sugar (2 dried vanilla beans, 3 Tablespoons sucrose)

Peel and core the Granny Smith Apples. Cut in half from top to bottom. Using a Mandolin, slice uniform pieces, lengthwise. To prepare tart: pipe a small amount of Crème Patissiere on the pre-cut Pate Feuillete Discs. Fan the sliced apples in a flower shape over the Crème Patissiere. Wash with melted butter. Tahitian Vanilla Bean Sugar- Food Process dried Tahitian Vanilla Beans with Sucrose until grey. Sprinkle over the buttered tart. Bake 375 degrees Faranheit until golden brown. Serve Warm with Salted Caramel Milk Chocolate Ice Cream.

Salted Caramel Milk Chocolate Ice Cream
10  ounces Cacao Barry Lactee Superieure Milk Couverture
Full qty. Salted Caramel Base (see below)
16 ounces Whole Milk
16 ounces Heavy Cream 35%
8 yolks
4 ounces Sugar
4 ounces Cacao Barry Extra Brute Cocoa
2 Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans                                                           
Pinch of Kosher Salt
32 ounces  Heavy Cream 35%

Salted Caramel Base
15 oz. Sucrose
8 oz. Heavy Cream
5 oz. Salted Butter                                                           
Directions: Caramelize Sucrose, Add Heavy Cream, Whisk until blended. Remove from heat and add Butter. Emulsify.

Ice Cream Directions:
Heat Whole Milk and 16 oz.- Heavy Cream and Salt to a scald. Split 2 Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans open, scrape and infuse in the heated mixture by steeping for at least 30 minutes. Strain to remove vanilla bean. Re heat to a scald. Whisk in cocoa until blended. Add ice cream stabilizer. Emulsify using an emersion blender. In a separate bowl, whisk together yolks and sucrose. Temper the two mixtures together and cook to an Anglaise Base (approx. 185 degrees Faranheit).  While hot, add Salted Caramel and Milk Couverture. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Strain. Chill mixture to below 40 degrees Faranheit. Pour in remaining amount of Heavy Cream. Stir until well blended. Chill minimum of 4 hours to allow full maturation of flavors. Note: This is a high butter fat Ice Cream. Run this base accordingly in your Ice Cream Machine or Paco Jet.

Praline Powder
7 ounces Callebaut PRA Praline Paste 50%
 1 ½ ounces Tapioca Maltodextrin

Using a Food Processor, blend the two ingredients together until a fine dust is achieved. About 1-2 minutes. Pass through a Tami, if necessary. Store this powder in an airtight container.


Crab Cakes with Vanilla Remoulade
(Serves 4)

Vanilla Remoulade Sauce
8 ounces mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 Tablespoon Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract

24 ounces (or more) organic vegetable stock or chicken stock
2 Tablespoons butter
8 ounces polenta
white pepper to taste
salt to taste

Crab Cakes
12 ounces canned or frozen lump crab meat
4 ounces plain dry bread crumbs
2 ounces mayonnaise
1 egg
4 ounces plain dry bread crumbs
1 finely chopped green onion
3 Tablespoons finely diced red bell pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract

For the sauce, combine the mayonnaise, tomato paste and vanilla extract in a bowl and mix well.  Chill, covered in the refrigerator.

For the polenta, combine 3 cups stock, the butter and polenta in a large saucepan and stir to combine.  Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until thick and creamy, adding additional stock if the polenta becomes too thick.  Season with white pepper and salt.

For the crab cakes, rinse and drain the crab meat, discarding any shell fragments.  Place ½ cup bread crumbs in a shallow dish.  Combine the crab meat, mayonnaise, egg, ½ cup bread crumbs, green onion, bell pepper, parsley, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper and vanilla extract in a large bowl and mix well.  Shape into patties.  Dredge in the bread crumbs to coat.  Spray a nonstick skillet with oil and heat over medium-high heat.  Place the crab cakes in the hot skillet and cook until crispy and golden brown.

Serve the crab cakes with the polenta and Vanilla Remoulade Sauce.

Vanilla Lobster Supreme with Pasta
(Serves 4-6)

32 ounces organic vegetable stock
4 ounces white wine
½ teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tablespoon Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract
2 whole garlic cloves
1 leek, rinsed and coarsely chopped
2 bay leaves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons clarified butter
3 Tablespoons cake flour
½ teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Powder
8 ounces heavy whipping cream, warmed
24 ounces cooked fresh or thawed frozen lobster meat, coarsely chopped
Hot cooked bow tie pasta
Chopped parsley or freshly grated Romano Cheese for garnish

Combine the stock, wine, Worcestershire sauce, vanilla extract, garlic, leek, bay leaves, nutmeg, paprika, white pepper and salt in a large saucepot.  Simmer for 1 hour.  Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl and set aside.

Place the clarified butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and vanilla powder.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, whisking constantly.  Add the strained stock mixture gradually, whisking constantly.  Cook for 20 minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken, stirring frequently.

Add the warm cream and lobster to the sauce.  Cook until heated through.  Place the pasta in a serving bowl.  Spoon the lobster sauce over the pasta.  Garnish with chopped parsley or freshly grated Romano cheese.


Cherry Vanilla Coulis

10 ounces fresh, tart pitted cherries with their juice
3.5 ounces sugar
½ Tablespoon cornstarch
3 Tablespoons Madeira
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ split vanilla bean
2 Tablespoons cold butter

In a 11/2 quart saucepan, combine the cherries, their juice, the sugar, cornstarch, and salt.  Allow them to sit for at least 30 minutes so that the sugar can draw out more of the juices.

Bring the cherry mixture to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring constantly but gently so as not to break up the cherries.  Raise the heat to medium and boil for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the liquid and cherries are bright red and the juices are thickened but still fluid.  Add the cold butter in small pieces, then the seeds of the vanilla pod.  Rinse and dry the pod for future use.  Pour the mixture into a bowl.  Allow it to cool to room temperature.


Vanilla-infused Simple Syrup

16 ounces sugar
9 ounces water
3 vanilla pods, scraped and seeded
½ teaspoon salt

Combine the sugar, water, vanilla seeds, vanilla pods and salt in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a scald then remove from heat.  Allow to cool to room temperature.  Remove the vanilla pods and rinse for use in another recipe.


Essential Vanilla Buttercream Icing
(large batch – makes 24 cups)

32 ounces fresh egg whites

64 ounces sugar

96 ounces unsalted butter (room temperature)

2 Tablespoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon Vanilla Paste

¾ teaspoon vanilla powder

1.     Combine the sugar with enough water to make like wet sand in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Once boiling stop stirring and brush down sides occasionally with brush dipped in water and cook to soft ball stage (240*F/ 116*C).
2.     Meanwhile mix the fresh egg whites with some cream of tartar and put in large electric mixer with whip attachment. Whip on lower speed until frothy then increase speed and beat to medium peaks
3.     When the sugar syrup reaches soft ball, add it to the whipped whites to make Italian meringue by adding in a steady stream while whipping on medium speed.
4.     Whip the meringue on medium high speed until cooled to room temperature.

5.     If butter is not very soft, cut into cubes. Add butter a little at a time, mixing in fully incorporated after each addition and scrape down bowl as necessary. Blend in the vanilla extract, vanilla paste and vanilla powder and adjust to taste.     

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