Pro chefs and casual cooks alike will soon create confections for the holiday season. The best-loved delicacies will have one of the world’s most popular flavors in common – vanilla, with its heady, aromatic taste combined with sweet, fruity and floral scents.

Americans consume about 1,200 tons of vanilla beans a year. Vanilla is exciting and comforting, sexy and simple all at the same time. But not all vanilla is the same, and it pays to know the different kinds before you begin your seasonal baking.

The flavor is extracted from vanilla beans which are grown in four locations around the world – Madagascar, Indonesia, Mexico and Tahiti.

Madagascar beans are creamy, sweet, smooth and mellow and work well in rich foods and in recipes that call for high heat, like cookies. Indonesian vanilla is typically a lower quality vanilla which has smoky, woody flavor notes and is often sold in supermarkets and warehouse clubs as just “Pure Vanilla Extract.”

Mexican beans are spicier and complement chocolate, cinnamon, cloves and other warm spices. The fourth kind of bean, Tahitian vanilla, is more delicate and works best in cooler cooked foods like refrigerated and frozen desserts, fruit pies and sauces, smoothies and shakes.

Confectioners, bakers, chefs of fine restaurants and home cooks make sure they have vanilla like Nielsen-Massey Vanillas on hand to perfect their holiday baking. Nielsen-Massey Vanillas Inc. is known as the producer of the finest vanilla because it uses an exclusive cold extraction process, which slowly draws out the delicate and distinctive flavors of the vanilla beans. (ARA)

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