Optimizing Use of Vanilla Beans
Vanilla beans add a subtle yet full vanilla flavor and an appealing visual quality, that imitation vanilla can’t provide, to an infinite array of pastry and baked goods. With the expense of vanilla beans as high as it is, they should always be used to their fullest potential.
Whenever adding vanilla bean to a creamy mixture such as a ganache, mousse or crème Anglaise, the most flavor will be obtained through an infusion. The infusion may be hot or cold and may last from 30 minutes to 24 hours. For shorter infusions, it is best to do a hot infusion. The primary liquid is brought to a boil with the scraped vanilla pod. It is then covered with plastic wrap and set aside.
Even though a vanilla bean may have been used once, that doesn’t mean it can’t be used again. There are several ways to reuse scraped vanilla pods. One way is to leave the pod uncovered at room temperature. The other is to dredge the pod in granulated sugar.
Drying the pod is advisable if you wish to grind it into a powder. Some pastry chefs do this and use the vanilla pod powder in pate sucree or other cookie doughs.
Dredging the pod in sugar is a more versatile way to recycle the pod. When dredged, sugar will adhere to the pod and draw out any remaining seeds and essential oils. This is the process for creating vanilla sugar. Vanilla sugar can be replaced for all or part of the sugar in any formula. When pods are dredged in sugar they will remain somewhat moist. This is helpful because used pods may be applied in place of new ones for preparations such as pastry cream or crème Anglaise and more flavors will be extracted than if they were dried.