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Say I get me some vanilla beans and, say, I am dabbling with pudding at the time. All recipes I've encountered require vanilla extract to be added to the pudding, my question is - if I want to use real vanilla beans: would that be better and how do I decide how much beans to use?

Also, how do I use them? Do I use just the beans or the entire pods?

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Slice the pod in half, long ways, carefully. Run your knife blade down the length,scraping the tiny seeds (very tiny) from the inside of the pod. What you collect will be sticky and not look like much, but it is very potent. Place what you collected into your pudding mixture while cooking. One pod should be plenty. You can also toss in the whole pod at this point, but then remember to take it out before the pudding sets up. Alternately, toss the scraped pods in a jar of sugar to create vanilla sugar for other uses.

  • thanks! But you say one pod for pudding, but how much pudding? Does the pod itself really give anything to the pudding? – mathgenius Oct 6 '15 at 15:48
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    @mathgenius How much are you making? I was thinking home kitchen quantities. Most of the flavor resides in the seeds within the pod, but the pod itself certainly will provide flavor (that's where the seeds were). I've also see recipes of folks chopping up the pod itself and adding to custard bases...I guess it depends how much vanilla flavor you like. Experiment to determine your preference! – moscafj Oct 6 '15 at 16:20
  • Well, I'm still experimenting, but let's say 2780ml of pudding mixture. – mathgenius Oct 7 '15 at 4:34
  • @mathgenius that's a bit more than what I was imagining. You may need to up the bean quantity. Again, depends on your desired level of vanilla flavor. – moscafj Oct 7 '15 at 21:43
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    Substitution ratios vary from 1 bean per 1 tsp. of extract to 1 inch of bean to 1 tsp. of extract. – Debbie M. Oct 8 '15 at 14:58
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In my experience, vanilla beans have more flavor than extract. The flavor of ice cream or pudding is better when made with a bean than with extract. I'm not sure why, but I imagine not all of the aromatic compounds from the beans come out in the extract. For instructions on how to use, see moscafj's answer.

  • Interesting, I have the opposite observation. Usually extract adds more flavor, it seems to me that it doesn't develop well enough when you add seeds only. Pudding can be an exception, when cooked long enough, not a quickly-heated egg pudding. But in general, I went from using my vanilla beans in baking to making extract with them which I then use. – rumtscho Oct 7 '15 at 14:06

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