I can’t tell you how long I have had my eye on Vanilla Bean Paste. That’s why when I came across an advertisement from Nielsen-Massey looking for someone to try the product and review it, I was on it like sticky on candy. And, I knew I had to call in my favorite cousin, Kelly, to help in the taste testing. I love to bake, but I normally stick to the basics. Kelly, on the other hand, is a gourmet cook. Together, I felt we could we could give this bottle of vanilla bean paste a run it would not soon forget.
Being a baker and a firm believer of making everything from scratch, I have been making my own vanilla extract for years (have I ever mentioned the standing joke around my house – If you eat my desserts, we’ll call you a cab.) What Kelly and I did was put the two to a taste test, and that began with an old fashion “stick your finger and lick it” test. The Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste (check out the picture) is very thick, almost like molasses, and true to its claim, has a lot of vanilla beans. It also has an extraordinary flavor that had it not been for Kelly, I would have stood there all day and continued to “dip and lick”. That sounds sort of dirty, but this vanilla paste is sinfully good – all-by-itself.
Did I mention Hubby wanted to get in on the act? Before Kelly and I could gather the ingredients needed to make our pate’ a choux, Hubby was already stirring in a pot. Hubby is famous for his Southern Pecan Pralines and Peanut Butter Fudge. He decided that his taste tasting would involve Coconut Pralines and he was determined to use the vanilla paste first. There was definitely a little competition going on in that kitchen!
This is the recipe for Hubby’s Pralines.
Southern Pralines (The best in all the world)
5 cups sugar
1 can condensed milk
1 can (large) pet milk
1 stick butter (the real thing)
3 cups chopped pecans (or coconut)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (NOT imitation extract)
Will take approximately one hour of stirring and makes approximately 60 pralines (if you don’t taste test before they’re done)
Start with a high fire, then lower to a med/low flame. Stir constantly. Melt butter and add sugar, condensed milk and pet milk.
After approximately one hour, mixture will begin to thicken and turn to a caramel color. Once it forms a ball with a slightly crusty coating in a bowl of cool water, mixture is ready for the pecans and vanilla (or substitute same amount of grated coconut in place of pecans). Add these, stirring constantly. Cook a short time longer.
Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper that has been placed on top of newspaper. Stir every so often to keep mixture from hardening as you are dropping it onto the wax paper.
The following recipe is the one we used for the profiteroles and cream filling. We made a simple ganache’ of cream and melted chocolate for the topping.
Vanilla pastry cream recipe
Prep Time: — | Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes |
Servings: Fills 1 standard pastry recipe | Difficulty: —
- 1 ¼ cups whole milk
- 3 egg yolks
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a small saucepan, warm the milk over low heat until it is just hot enough to steam. While the milk is warming, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, flour, and cornstarch until the mixture is completely smooth.
Once the milk is steaming, add half of it, whisking constantly, to the egg mixture. Add the milk and eggs back into the hot milk, continue stirring, and heat it for 1-2 minutes, until the custard reaches 170F on a digital thermometer and is very thick. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla extract, and chill before filling pastry.
Pate a Choux basic recipe ( puff pastry )
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup eggs (4 large eggs)
1. Bring the water and butter to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, add the flour and stir rapidly. The flour will absorb the water quickly and a dough will form and pull away from the sides. Keep stirring to continue cooking the flour and cook off some of the water, another minute or two. Transfer the paste to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a bowl if you’re using a hand mixer. (If you want to mix the eggs directly into the dough in the pot, let it cool slightly, 4 or 5 minutes, or cool off the pan itself by running cold water over its base if you will be mixing the eggs in that pot. You don’t want to cook the eggs too quickly.)
2. Add the eggs one at a time mixing rapidly until each is combined into the paste. The paste will go from shiny to furry, slippery to sticky as the egg is incorporated. The pâte a choux can be cooked immediately at this point or refrigerated for up to a day until ready to use.
Pipe or spoon choux paste into hot oil for doughnuts and cook for 5 minutes or until done. Spoon or pipe it onto a baking sheet (see above, remember to press the peaks down with a moistened finger, they can burn) and bake in a hot oven (425 for 10 minutes, 350 for another half hour or so, is ideal) for cream puffs, profiteroles, and gougers. Or pipe into simmering water for Parisienne gnocchi (remove when they float, then saute in brown butter with an additional garnish of your choice, excellent recipes in Bouchon for all of these preparations).
Now, I am the chocoholic in the family, so this is what my profiteroles looked like (and I enjoyed every bit of them.) To stem the objections to my “globs of chocolate”, I also “drizzled” the chocolate on top of some of the profiteroles. I’ve started thinking as of late, that I may want to be permanently laid to rest in Hershey, Pennsylvania. I’ve heard the air quality is sublime and the aroma simply cannot be matched anywhere else in the world. I think that would be a happy resting place for a chocoholic such as myself.
In conclusion, I have to highly recommend hunting down Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste. It has a rich intense flavor that cannot be duplicated with an extract. It has a heavy dose of vanilla pods within the dark syrup that will add a richness to any dish you use it in. It is worth whatever it costs and the trouble it takes to find it. It is THAT good.
You can play the Rafflecopter for a chance to win a bottle!
Disclaimer / Disclosure: I received a complimentary bottle of Vanilla Beans with no obligation for a positive review. No compensation – monetary or in kind – has been obtained for this post.