Category Archives: Ingredients

Not So Simple Vanilla


Vanilla Beans

Vanilla Beans

I’ve always really liked vanilla.  Even though it’s the most popular flavor, I don’t think it’s appreciated enough.

First, vanilla deserves recognition for being so botanically interesting.  Vanilla comes from the fruit of an orchid and it’s unique in that it’s the only orchid variety to have an edible fruit.

And vanilla is the most labor intensive agricultural product.  That’s why it’s so valuable and expensive.  In his book, Vanilla: Travels in Search of the Ice Cream Orchid, Tim Ecott explains that one U.S. importer of vanilla has to store his vanilla bean shipments in separate warehouses, miles apart.  The vanilla is worth so much that if it’s all stored in one location and something happens to that warehouse (such as a plane hitting the building), the company would be ruined.


Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract

Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract

Vanilla is remarkably complex.  Beth Nielsen, Chief Culinary Officer at Nielsen-Massey, a leading producer of vanilla and flavors, compares vanilla with wine.  The flavor profiles of both wine and vanilla vary depending on the growing region.  She typically uses Mexican vanilla in recipes with chocolate or in spicy dishes.  When using fruit, particularly berries or cherries, she adds Tahitian vanilla.  Madagascar Bourbon is the most popular type of vanilla and it’s her “go-to-gal” as it has the most universal flavor profile and will enhance any recipe.

Let’s not take vanilla for granted!

Coffee Supercharges Desserts

Lake Champlain Coffee Truffle Dark Chocolate Bar

Lake Champlain Coffee Truffle Dark Chocolate Bar

A day without coffee is………….…a day with a headache.  I need  coffee.  However, I also love the taste of coffee and firmly believe that a really good cup of coffee is one of life’s little pleasures. 

But the fun begins when you add coffee to desserts – it pairs beautifully with chocolate, and it shines when starring in coffee-centered desserts.        

Apparently I’m not the only one who likes coffee=flavored desserts.

Coffee is the fifth most popular ice cream flavor for Haagen-Dazs.

Graeter's Mocha Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Graeter’s Mocha Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Graeter’s, a Cincinnati-based ice cream company, founded in 1870, offers two coffee ice cream flavors — Mocha Chocolate Chip and Coffee.  Mocha Chocolate Chip is so popular that it’s one of Graeter’s six core flavors offered in grocery stores outside of the Cincinnati area.  (Luckily I can find pints of Graeter’s Mocha Chocolate Chip ice cream in my local supermarket in Manhattan.)  While the company had contemplated offering just one coffee ice cream — Mocha Chocolate Chip — there were enough fans of Coffee to convince the company to keep offering both coffee ice cream flavors.

In desserts, coffee does not always hog the spotlight.  When baking with chocolate, adding a small amount of instant espresso powder accentuates the chocolate without imparting a coffee flavor to the baked goods. 

Whether it’s in cake, pie, chocolate bars, or ice cream, I sure like coffee in my desserts!

Chocolate Opera Cake from Michel Cluizel - with a pleasantly strong coffee flavor

Chocolate Opera Cake from Michel Cluizel – with a pleasantly strong coffee flavor