my favorite ingredients
Baking is a science. You must measure all ingredients accurately and have the right ingredients to have a successful dessert or pastry experience. When baking, quality ingredients result in a quality dessert. There are numerous fine quality ingredients depending on what you are baking. I would like to start with one of the top 5 of my favorite ingredients in the kitchen. The ingredients is vanilla. I am a vanilla snob. Ask anyone who has ever taken one of my baking classes, they are now vanilla snobs as well.
Imitation vanilla is not real vanilla. It is made with vanillin. Vanillin is a powder that is formed on the outside of the vanilla bean during the curing process.It is made synthetically and used to flavor imitation vanilla extract. Imitation vanilla is less expensive than pure vanilla extract but has a harsher quality and bitter aftertaste. it is also necessary to use larger amounts to achieve the desired vanilla flavor.
I say nonsense to imitation vanilla, if you want to be a good baker use good vanilla. Pure vanilla extract is made by aging chopped vanilla beans and alcohol. There are three common types of vanilla beans:
Bourbon Madagascar-named after the region which they are grown. These beans have a rich sweet flavor.
Mexican- They are produced in the Veracruz region of Mexico. They have a rich, smooth flavor.
Tahitian- These beans are grown in Tahiti. They are sweeter, softer, wider and more floral than the other varieties.
I prefer the Bourbon Madagascar variety and the Tahitan variety. They are sold locally at Whole Foods in the baking section. I like to buy the vanilla bean paste. It is vanilla extract with some of the beautiful vanilla pods left in the extract. When making a fluffy whipped cream, creme brulee or vanilla ice cream the sign of a great dessert is seeing the specks of the vanilla in the dessert. Try a good vanilla the next time you bake. I promise you will notice a delicious difference.
Cindy Schwanke is the full time culinary instructor at College of the Canyons. She has helped grow the culinary program into a well respected, competitive culinary establishment. She has done various cooking workshops, community service projects and fundraisers to promote the college and the culinary program.
Cindy’s first love is pastry. She has worked in bake shops for over 20 years. She started in retail bakeries, then moved on to working in hotel, restaurant and catering kitchens.
Cindy has worked at Hyatt Hotels, Four Seasons Hotel, Smash box Studios, Spago restaurant and retail outlets. Cindy has her degree in Culinary Food Management. Her specialty is pastry and has won numerous medals in pastry competitions.
Cindy is a member of the American Culinary Federation and travels around the state promoting the pastry arts. “Everyone asks me why I became a pastry chef. I think it is because my fondest memories are when I was a little girl, my great grandfather and great grandmother would chop huge sugar blocks into small cubes for their daily coffee. This ritual would take place every Sunday morning at the breakfast table. This memory inspired me to work with sugar”.
Contact Information for Cindy:
Culinary Arts Instructor
College of the Canyons