Thứ Tư, 23 tháng 3, 2011

A few tips of Mikka Vanilla for choosing a good quality Vanilla bean

The best quality vanilla beans regardless of where they are coming from are dark skinned, soft and pliable.

■     They should have a rich aroma. You have to avoid beans with very little scent and beans which are smoky, brittle, dry or mildewed.

■     Mexican beans are very similar to Bourbon beans though they have a more mellow, smooth, quality and a spicy, woody fragrance. Tahitian beans are usually shorter, plumper, and contain a higher oil and water content than Bourbon beans. The skin is thinner, they contain fewer seeds, and the aroma is fruity and floral. They are often described as smelling like liquorice, cherry, prunes, or wine.

■     Bourbon beans from Madagascar and the Comoros are described as being creamy, and sweet, with vanillin overtones. When selecting vanilla beans, choose plump beans with a thin skin to get the most seeds possible. To test, gently squeeze the bean between your fingers. Pods should be dark brown, almost black in colour, and pliable enough to wrap around your finger without breaking. If the beans harden, you can soften them by dropping into the liquid of your recipe until softened.

■     Bourbon beans may develop a frosting of natural vanillin crystals over time. This is called “givre” in French (which means light frost), and it indicates that the beans are high in natural vanillin and are very good quality. These crystals are quite edible and very flavourful. If you are uncertain whether the beans are covered with crystals or mildewed, take them into the sunlight. The crystals are similar to mineral crystals and will reflect the sun's rays, creating the colours of the rainbow. Mildew, on the contrary, will be dull and flat in the light, and may also not smell very nice. If the bean is mildewed, throw it away as the mildew will spread to uninfected beans.

■     Use the strongly aromatic beans whole or split them, to get more flavour from the thousands of tiny seeds inside the pods.

■     Vanilla beans will keep indefinitely in a cool, dark place in an airtight container. Don't refrigerate beans as this can cause them to harden and crystallize. In the humid tropics where beans are grown, they are wrapped in oiled or waxed paper and stored in tin boxes.

■     Vanilla beans are graded by the growers by their quality. Generally it is not possible to compare grades between two different vanilla types, for example between Taihitan vanilla and Bourbon vanilla. However within one type it is an important factor. The top grade is grade A, followed by B and so on.

■     Vanilla beans are also graded by their colour. The best quality are invariable classed as 'black' although they are actually very dark brown. They are then graded down to red/brown which is the lowest quality. Be careful when buying vanilla as many unscrupulous sellers sell vanilla which is dyed black to make them look like a better quality than they are. Sometimes the sellers don't even know this until its too late...! Check that none of the colour rubs off on your hand as this is an obvious sign of counterfeit goods.