I have recently discovered vanilla bean paste and its amazing! I first saw it in Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals series. It kept popping up in his puddings so I thought I’d try it. I didn’t realise I needed another alternative to vanilla pods but it seems that sometimes we just don’t know what’s good for us!

I bought the one Jamie Oliver uses which is Nielsen-Massey’s Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste. I was a bit sceptical at first as I do get a lot of pleasure from scraping the seeds from a vanilla pod and then using the empty pod to make vanilla sugar. However, this is a delightful alternative. Its much thicker than vanilla extract, its actually a syrup. The seeds are suspended in the syrup and create a great look and taste to any baked goods. It tastes incredible but is so strong, its almost like a liqueur. It’s best to use it sparingly but as it’s a bit strong to pour liberally. 1 tablespoon of paste is equal to 1 vanilla pod.

It can be used in anything that requires a vanilla pod. So custard, crème brulee, cinnamon rolls, ice cream etc. I used it at the weekend simply folded through whipped double cream. I stirred it through gently so there was a ribbon of beautifully speckled black vanilla seeds swirled through the perfect white of the cream. And it tasted incredible. Like the best vanilla ice cream (Green & Blacks), melted. Once I’d stopped myself eating it with a spoon (!), I used the cream in my Victoria Sponge Cake and it really paid off.

This should be a staple in any baker’s cupboard.

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