The price of natural vanilla extra is climbing, and with higher demand and lower production, it's likely this trend will continue for many years. If you want to know why the prices are increasing, click on our previous post here.
We went looking for other options to see how bakers who use a lot of vanilla can get creative to save money. Here are our ideas and reviews of these options.
1. Buy at warehouse clubs. This is not earth-shatteringly creative, but it's actually the best and most practical option that we found if you must use real vanilla in your recipes. We found the best price per ounce from our local Costco, but Sam's Club also has a good price.
2. Use artificial vanilla in baked recipes. According to experts and our own tests, almost nobody can tell the difference between real and artificial vanilla in baked goods, especially when the vanilla is not the predominant flavor in the dessert - like chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies, recipes featuring cinnamon, molasses, ginger, lemon, almond and orange.
3. Save real vanilla for non-cooked recipes, like frosting and ice cream. You may also want to use real vanilla for baked goods where vanilla is the star flavor.
4. Skip the vanilla in recipes where you don't really taste it. Again, just leave it out of recipes for chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies, and recipes featuring cinnamon, molasses, ginger, lemon, almond and orange. Vanilla extract is typically 35 percent alcohol, which evaporates, so the amount of liquid you will be eliminating from recipes should not effect the baked results.
5. Don't bother with vanilla powder. We tried the powder made from dried and ground vanilla beans, and found that their flavor was not very strong. It looks pretty, especially in something like ice cream, but it was not a cost-effective way to add vanilla flavor to baked goods.
6. Make your own extract from vanilla beans. We are making our own extract right now and the recipe is below. It is definitely cheaper to make your own, but that doesn't figure in the time element. It takes about 6 months to achieve the same vanilla flavor using the conservative recipe below. You can get extract sooner, but you'll need to double the number of beans. Don't believe people who post that they had great extract in 6 weeks!
MAKE YOUR OWN VANILLA COSTS
$18.....750ml (approx 25 ounce) bottle of cheap vodka
$24.....10 Grade B vanilla beans (prices vary)
$42 for 25 ounces = $1.68 per ounce
Costco's 16-ounce bottle costs about $33, which is $2.06 per ounce. If you want faster results and/or plan to dilute your vodka to achieve an industry-standard vanilla extract alcohol level*, your will need to add more beans, thus adding to your total cost.
7. Make your own vanilla using "used" Grade A vanilla beans. This is the most cost effective way to make your own extract. If you use vanilla beans in a recipe, throw your discarded bean pods into some vodka and let them soak. You'll need patience for this option, as it, too takes many months for the extract to be ready. But the real cost to you is just the cost of the vodka, as you were planning to use the beans anyway.
8. Make vanilla sugar using spent vanilla pods. This is one of the easiest ways to add some vanilla essence to your desserts. It's best for when vanilla is the star of the dessert, but can be used in any recipe. Simply store your spent, dried vanilla pods in a tightly sealed container of granulated sugar. Your sugar will take on the vanilla scent and flavor.
RECIPE FOR inexpensive HOMEMADE VANILLA
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