Why is vanilla added last

bbstxDecember 1, 2013

In almost every recipe that I've ever seen containing vanilla extract, it is added as one of the last ingredients.

Is there a scientific reason for adding the vanilla last or is it just a tradition?

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Because it has an alcohol base which evaporates quickly when added early - and much of the flavor evaporates with it. You might try powdered vanilla or vanilla bean paste if you need/want to add it early. -Grainlady

    Bookmark   December 1, 2013 at 8:53AM
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Thanks, GL. I have no need to add the vanilla early, I was just curious why it always seems to be added at the end of the recipe.

I bought some powdered vanilla at Penzey's once, more out of curiosity than anything else.

What about baked goods (cookies, cakes, etc)? Doesn't most of the alcohol evaporate as the things bake?

    Bookmark   December 1, 2013 at 9:12AM
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For recipes that are cooked on top of the stove, you add the vanilla when cooking is completed, off the heat - or at least that is what I have always heard since college classes. Cooking or boiling the vanilla in high heat can cause evaporation and a breakdown of the properties that make up vanilla.


    Bookmark   December 1, 2013 at 9:57AM
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For things like cakes and cookies: (Information from America's Test Kitchen) the "flavor and aroma compounds in vanilla begin to bake off at around 280- to 300-degrees F. Cakes can rarely exceed an internal temperature above 210-degrees F, but cookies become much hotter as they bake."

So they suggested you use pure vanilla in cake, but use imitation vanilla in cookies, because imitation vanilla will maintain the vanilla flavor in higher heat.


    Bookmark   December 1, 2013 at 11:04AM
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Imitation vanilla? Interesting. I always think of imitation vanilla as something vile and to be avoided. Guess not. Wonder if powdered vanilla would be different?

Since most of my baking seems to be cookies, I suppose I ought to pick up some imitation, but I'm really having a hard time even writing that.

Today is the day that my homemade vanilla is supposed to be ready. Haven't opened it yet. I've read I can let it go much longer than 2 months and the flavor will improve, getting more mellow and less alcohol-y the longer it sits.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2013 at 11:18AM
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Do you remember some years back America's Test Kitchen did some testing, and even retesting later, which showed that for things not cooked on stovetop, the imitation vanilla was best, and even mentioned that their choice was that bottled by a national pharmacy. I remember going to get some and found that several others had heard the same thing as they were out and said there had been a run on it. Got some later. I couldn't tell the difference in my cookies.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2013 at 1:48PM
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I use real vanilla. Imitation has an odd taste - great aroma, but just doesn't taste as good as the real stuff to me.

Imitation vanilla is made of wood. I have used it in the past but not lately. ATK/CI show their ignorance and personal bias far to often for me to worry much about what they have to say. I use real vanilla extract in cookies and it is fine.

Vanilla flavoring is a mixture of real vanilla and imitation vanilla. But real vanilla extract is cheap enough at places like Aldi, Trader Joe's, Costco, Sam's Club, etc, that I don't feel the need to economize on an ingredient of which you use so little - so a bottle of it lasts a looooong time.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2013 at 2:43PM
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I, too, recently bought some CVS imitation vanilla after reading the results of America's test kitchen. They have repeatedly tested pure extract v imitation and imitation wins. They have had the most trained and sophisticated testers and they do no expect the imitation to win, but it does.

So I added the 99 cent imitation to my vanilla shelf. Pure vanillin.

Just google it.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2013 at 2:44PM
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Tasted my homemade vanilla extract. YUK!!! Very sharp smell and flavor. I think I'll let it continue doing its thing for a couple of months more.

CVS was the ATK winner? I'm not a CVS fan, but I may have to give it a try.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2013 at 3:01PM
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Well, this is the first I've ever heard of imitation vanilla
Being the best to use in cookies.
Of course I realize there are a LOT of things I've never heard of.
But I do want to add my thoughts here.

I had a bottle of imitation vanilla once,
Bought when the budget was really REALLY tight.
Used it in some chocolate chip cookies.
Everything else used was exactly the same as
hundreds of other times I'd made that recipe.
Sure could tell the difference,
They were awful!
Even my CC cookie monster grandson wouldn't eat more than one.

That bottle sat in my pantry for quite a long time,
I never got up the courage to try it in anything else,
so I finally pitched it.

I don't t think it was the brand,
as it was either Adams or McCormick.


    Bookmark   December 1, 2013 at 4:09PM
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Oh, dear, Rusty. That is what I was afraid of.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2013 at 4:22PM
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I use pure powdered vanilla (made from 100% ground vanilla beans) in some of my homemade "convenience" foods (make-ahead mixes). It gives pure vanilla flavor without any alcohol. I think one of the problems with some vanilla extract products (real or imitation) is that they can be too "boozy" tasting. As teetotalers, we don't particularly care for the alcohol taste.

When you add vanilla paste you get pure vanilla flavor from vanilla beans without being diluted with alcohol, although there are some additional ingredients (Nielsen-Massey has sugar, water, vanilla extract, vanilla beans in it). It's very intense, expen$ive, but has it's place and use you might miss using vanilla extract. One tablespoon of paste = 1 vanilla bean OR 1 T. vanilla extract.

My personal experience with homemade vanilla is that it works best as a stand-alone flavor (vanilla pudding, vanilla ice cream - things without a lot of other strong competing flavors) because it's not as intense as commercial vanilla. It can also have a "boozy" taste to it. In order to get really intense vanilla flavor from homemade vanilla, leave at least one of the beans long (I actually prefer leaving most of the beans long). You can pluck the bean out of the bottle and strip ("milk") the luscious dark liquid out of the bean by pressing it between your thumb and index finger and pulling the liquid out of the bean. Pop the long vanilla bean back into the bottle and use it like this many more times - although the intensity diminishes each time you strip the liquid out of it.


    Bookmark   December 1, 2013 at 4:49PM
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Last weekend when I was at the local Harris-Teeter store, I spotted a small display of Madagascar vanilla, store brand "HT Traders" for $2 a small 2 fl. oz. bottle. It is an extract not a flavoring and cost way less than the same size McCormick brand.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2013 at 7:52PM
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