Swapping Vanilla Bean for Extract

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I have one vanilla bean and a recipe that calls for 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Do I need to bite the bullet and get some vanilla extract or can I make do with what I have?

Let us get this straight. Someone says you need a Chevy to get where you're going and you wonder if your Mercedes will do in a pinch? It will. The only question is, will you be sorry you put the miles on the Mercedes instead going out and renting a Chevy?

A vanilla bean is a lovely source of vanilla flavor — indeed, vanilla extract is made by soaking the beans in an alcohol solution and allowing it to age.

If the recipe you're making has some liquid that is heated, you can toss in the vanilla bean and allow it to infuse the liquid with flavor. Fish the bean out afterwards, and you can rinse it, dry it, and, if it still smells strongly of vanilla, use it again next time. If you want stronger flavor, however, you can cut the bean lengthwise with a knife and scrape out the seeds with the back of the knife into your recipe. Toss the bean pod in, too. But when you fish it out near the end of the process, you won't have anything that you can use again.

If your recipe is oh, so fussy or delicate, and you are worried that the teaspoon of liquid vanilla is vital to the recipe, add a teaspoon of water, milk, or whatever liquid is appropriate to compensate for the dryness of the bean.

Now vanilla beans tend to be very expensive; real vanilla extract tends to be expensive, too, but it is overshadowed by the beans, which we have seen well above $12 per bean. (We are of the opinion that you are foolish if you spend $12 for a vanilla bean, but then we find the cost of some automobiles hard to justify, too.) If you bought beans in bulk for a reasonable price (say, $1.50 to $2.50 per bean) and you are down to your last bean, you may not want to sacrifice all its virtue for a recipe that only calls for one teaspoon of extract. You may, however, feel perfectly justified in steeping it in the liquid, rescuing it for another use, and also not needing to run to the store for a bottle of vanilla extract.

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