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Vanilla - Glossary Term

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Dried vanilla bean
Vanilla is a flavoring that comes from vanilla beans, which are the fruit of an orchid plant. Vanilla has a sweet, aromatic flavor and is available in the form of vanilla beans, vanilla powder or vanilla extract. Vanilla extract is a liquid form of flavoring made by soaking dried vanilla beans in water and alcohol based solution and then allowing it to age for several months. The vanilla powder is made by grinding the dried vanilla beans into a fine powder. The powder holds its flavor better when heated than the extract but is harder to find. It can generally be found in cake decorating supply stores, gourmet markets and through specialty mail order services. Vanilla beans are found in well-stocked supermarkets and specialty stores, while vanilla extract is available in most food stores. When selecting vanilla beans, look for moist round, well formed beans that do not appear to have dried or aged excessively. The bean should be pliable and definitely not brittle.