For a baker, a selection of different vanilla extracts can cause heart palpitations (from excitement, of course). I have yet to find that perfect vanilla extract that encourages me to stop trying new ones. Recently, while browsing around Williams&Sonoma, I came across Nielsen-Massey brand vanilla bean paste. I had seen it before online, but thought it was kind of “gimmicky”. Seeing it in the store, and turning the bottle from side to side, watching the contents ooze back and forth in true molasses fashion, I was now intrigued. I asked one of the sales representatives if she knew what the exchange rate for the paste was in comparison to regular extract. She said “1 for 1, but if the recipe calls for a vanilla bean, the exchange rate is 1 tablespoon of paste for one vanilla bean”. She expressed to me that it was her favorite way to add vanilla to recipes, as it has the contents of the inside of a vanilla bean, without all the fuss. She quickly rang me up and I was out the door with yet another vanilla extract product.
I put a few of my other vanilla extract products in this post simply for a visual comparison. As you can see, the paste being on the far right, it is thicker, and has the vanilla bean seeds in it. As such, it can benefit your baked goods with a more natural look, as the seeds with be visible in frostings, whipped cream, ice cream, cakes, etc.
Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste
Origins: Madagascar Beans
Contents: Sugar, Water, Vanilla Extract, Vanilla Beans, Gum Tragacanth (A Natural Thickener)
Shelf life: 3 years
You get the feel of a real vanilla bean as you can see the seeds, the flavor is unique and stronger than most vanilla extracts. It holds its potency, even after baking and adds warm overtones to your creations. Relatively inexpensive for vanilla extracts as it can be purchased for $9.95 for a 4 ounce bottle, which should last you a great while.