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Vanilla Pods Vs Essence

Asked by grahamcolin. Answered on 13th April 2014

Full question

I would like to make the Creme Brulee but don't have any vanilla pods. How much vanilla essence is equal to one pod? Thank you.

Our answer

Often delicate mixtures such as the custard in Nigella's Creme Brulee (from Nigella Bites and on the Nigella website) use a vanilla pod (bean) as the quality of the vanilla flavour noticeable and the vanilla flavour is infused into the cream as it heats. However vanilla pods are sometimes difficult to find and it is possible to use an alternative.

We would highlight that there is a big difference between natural vanilla extract and synthetic vanilla essence. Vanilla extract is made from liquid (usually a mild alcohol) that is infused with vanilla beans. Vanilla essence is a synthetic vanilla flavouring - it tends to be cheaper than extract but many people find that it has a harsher chemical taste than vanilla extract. So we would suggest that if possible you try and use a good-quality vanilla extract. The strength can vary according to the quality of the extract, and there may be guidelines on the bottle, but most people find that 1 to 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract will be the equivalent to one vanilla pod.

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