Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Yay, I got gifts!
Remember I blogged about the awesome vanilla beans I ordered a few weeks ago? Well, apparently, the nice folks over at Vanille Shop found my post and wanted to thank me for the pimping ;-)
So they sent me the sweetest letter and a little package containing a tube of their vanilla beans in addition to their new products to try (they are currently working on expanding their product range).
I received two little glass jars, one containing vanilla sugar and the other powdered vanilla.
Unfortunately, both the beans' tube and the jar holding the vanilla sugar were broken when they arrived.
Memo to the Deutsche Post: When something is shipped in a padded envelope, it might be a good idea not to cram it into the mailbox through a 1.5-inch slit.
Anyway, it was fine. I kept some empty tubes from their last shipment, so I just moved the vanilla beans over to one of those. The vanilla sugar was a little more tricky, because it had shards of glass in it, but I sifted it using a very fine sieve and put it into a screw top jar.
So what now? I've decided to review each of the products separately, just to keep it organized.
First up, the vanilla beans:
I've written about their beans, so you already know they're great. These were just as plump, long and moist as the ones I received last time. These particular beans have a strong floral and fruity fragrance, which renders them perfect for the peach mousse pie I intend to make for my mom's birthday this Saturday.
The beans are winners and I don't think I will ever buy vanilla at the grocery store again. These are a great deal and the quality is much better than anything you can find in a store here (and that includes most organic foods stores). If you scrape out the seeds, you will end up with about four times the amount you would get from a grocery store bean.
Secondly, vanilla powder:
15 g of finely processed whole vanilla beans (not dehydrated!). Nothing added.
I like that they use whole vanilla beans for this, because while we usually only use the seeds, the beans themselves have a lot of flavor and using both really adds another layer to the final product. I've wanted to add whole vanilla beans in the past, but have you ever tried processing just one of those little suckers in the food processor? Yeah, don't. It doesn't work. That's where this powder really comes in handy.
This stuff smells so good, you have no idea. I've only had the jar for like 3 hours and I've already opened it about a dozen times to smell it. It smells sweet, with a slight caramel note and fruity undertones.
This product can be used in place of vanilla seeds in all desserts, but I would especially recommend this for any baked goods that do better with powdered spices. Macarons come to mind, because adding liquids (like vanilla extract) to the batter may very well ruin them (believe me, it's happened to me...).
Personally, I think the vanilla powder needs to be highlighted as the main flavor. I'm considering using it in marshmallows or vanilla pudding.
Unlike scraped vanilla seeds, this powder can be sprinkled. If you're into candy making, it would be great sprinkled on top of lighter chocolates.
I will definitely add this to my next order, I just love it so much. You really should do the same, but make sure you only order as much as you can use up in a few months, because ground spices typically lose their potency quicker than their whole counterparts.
Thirdly, the vanilla sugar:
Here in Germany, we usually use vanilla sugar in baking rather than vanilla extract, so most people keep little bags of it around. Well, actually, the most widely available thing is vanillin sugar, which contains fake vanilla.
This, however, is the real deal.
It's made from their vanilla bean powder and regular granulated sugar (not confectioners' sugar), whizzed to the consistency of fine powder. I like that there's no starch in it, because I feel starch dilutes the vanilla taste quite a lot and it adds a weird...well, starchy taste that I don't appreciate too much.
As I said, the jar broke and I had to sift the sugar to get rid of the glass, but I'm very happy to report that in spite of quite a bit of vanilla sugar being lost in the nooks and crannies of the envelope, I still ended up with 32 g after sifting (the original jar said it contained 30 g). So they definitely give you your money's worth.
While I was sifting out the pieces of glass, I was standing in a sweet cloud of sugary vanilla fragrance. This is good stuff. I have the broken jar on my desk right now and yes, I did wipe the inside clean with my finger (then licked the sugar off).
Did you really need to ask?
I like the sugar's slightly greyish, sandy color, which shows me that there's quite a lot of vanilla in there. You can see tons of individual vanilla specks as well.
The vanilla sugar tastes sweet (duh!) and has a very pronounced vanilla flavor. It's not grainy at all and readily dissolves on the tongue.
Powerful food processors aren't as prevalent in this country as they are in the States and making vanilla sugar of comparable quality without one is pretty hard. So if you don't own one, this product is a great solution.
I personally will probably not order this product, since I go through vanilla beans like it's my job and I make my own vanilla sugar. I would, however, recommend it to anyone who doesn't.
This is almost too good to be used in baking, so I'll probably use my little jar of sugar to dust some waffles or shortbread-like cookies.
I'm off to the kitchen now to use up some of my new goodies. Thank you, vanilla people, for your kind and generous gift!