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Substituting Vanilla Extract for Vanilla Bean

 Can I use vanilla extract instead of vanilla beans?

 Of course. Many cooks and especially many cookbook writers want you to slit open a vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds and add them (and often the bean, as well) to the dish you're making (plucking out the pod at the end). Many discerning palates find this produces a richer, fuller flavor than adding vanilla extract. It's also exponentially more expensive, and many average-Joe palates can't tell the difference.

In fact, the devil-may-care folks at Cook's Illustrated recently shocked much of the food world with the heresy that you might as well use imitation vanilla in your cooking as the more expensive pure vanilla extract. They argued that vanilla constitutes such a teensy part of your finished dish — and based on extensive taste tests by their super-discerning palates — that there was no appreciable difference in flavor.

Now, people who are concerned that imitation vanilla is generally made from chemically treated by-products of the paper-making industry may still have a slight inclination towards natural vanilla extract. Vanilla extract is made by soaking chopped up vanilla beans in a solution containing at least 35% alcohol, after which the solution is aged for several months. But in terms of flavor, if you can use imitation vanilla in place of real vanilla extract, you should at least feel fine about using real vanilla extract instead of vanilla beans.

Simply add a teaspoon or two of extract in place of the vanilla bean. If you are concerned that your recipe is particularly delicate and the addition of an extra teaspoonful of liquid will cause it to fail, decrease another low-flavor liquid in the recipe by the same amount.

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