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Beanilla vanilla sugar and sea salt

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Vanilla reviewed: Tahitian vanilla sugar, Tahitian vanilla sea salt
Cost: Beanilla provided this sample for review.

Brent at Beanilla sent these samples a really long time ago, but because these kinds of products don’t fit within my normal vanilla evaluation procedure I took some extra time to consider them.

Tahitian Vanilla Sugar ($7.99/6 oz)

This product uses tahitensis vanilla from Tahiti and Papua New Guinea. I usually make vanilla sugar by exposing sugar to fresh or post-extract beans, and then removing the pods before use. In contrast, this vanilla sugar appears to be made by adding ground pods to sugar. This gives the sugar a light and dry texture, whereas homemade vanilla sugar can be dense and sticky. It has a light, fruity Tahitian vanilla flavor that doesn’t overwhelm.

In my experience, vanilla pulver becomes spongy and noticeable in baked goods such as cake, and can actually throw off the texture a bit. If you need instant vanilla sugar this may be good for you, but I recommend buying some of Beanilla’s excellent Tahitian vanilla beans and making your own.

Tahitian Vanilla fleur de sel (sea salt) ($9.25/2 oz)

I really enjoy trying different salts. This is a French fleur de sel mixed with ground tahitensis vanilla from Tahiti and Papua New Guinea. The salt is very moist and has a gray-brown color. It smells strongly of vanilla and has a piquant, mineral quality. The taste of the salt itself is very clean and strong, without any lingering mineral flavor. The vanilla flavor is well-balanced and not overwhelming, but I find the fruitiness of Tahitian vanilla to be an odd pairing with such a strong salt.

This is an interesting product because might not be something easily done at home.  The delicate structure of sea salt might not hold up to the moisture and stickiness of post-extract beans. I’m not sure if you can simply extract the vanilla flavor into salt by leaving some beans in the bag, the way you can with sugar.

I had a hard time thinking of how to use this in the Vanilla Review test kitchen. I asked Brent at Beanilla for some advice, and he said:

The salt is used by professional chocolate makers and pastry chefs. Because both salt and vanilla beans are often used to bring out the flavor of savory dishes, our tahitian vanilla Fleur De Sel can be used in a large variety of dishes. I have also used the salt on meats like pork tenderloin.

The best use I’ve found so far is in Rosemary Sea Salt truffles. The vanilla melds nicely with the chocolate, and the salt brings out the savory flavor of the rosemary. Lining cocktail or margarita glasses also sounds like a good idea.

Beanilla India and Indonesia planifolia vanilla

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Vanilla beans reviewed: India planifolia, Indonesia planifolia.
Cost: Beanilla provided this sample for review.

Beanilla’s excellent Madagascar, Tonga, Mexico, and Papua New Guinea vanilla beans are already featured on this site. Recently, they added India and Indonesia grown planifolia pods. Brent at Beanilla sent these vacuum-packed samples for review. Rarely do you find two beans with such different and distinct aromas, it’s an exciting and obvious contrast.

India planifolia (Grade A – $36.50 for 8 ounces, 1/2 pound)

More and more India vanilla is coming on the market. Two years ago it was difficult to track down, but in the past six months I’ve evaluated several samples.

Beanilla’s India vanilla beans are dark brown in color. The skins have a beautiful texture, the smoothness and sheen of the pods are evidence of expert curing. The pods are well-shaped and very flexible.  These vanilla beans are turgid with caviar.

Inside, the vanilla pods are oily and gooey. Sticky strings form as the bean is pulled apart. The aroma is dark and rich, with strong overtones of chocolate and prune. There’s a large yield of thick, moldable, and very oily caviar in each bean.

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Indonesia planifolia (Grade A – $35.98 for 8 ounces, 1/2 pound)

Indonesia vanilla beans are often picked too early, and the curing process is typically hasty and unrefined. Gourmet Indonesia vanilla is rare; there’s only one other example on this site.

Beanilla’s Indonesia grown beans are black in color. The pods are flexible, but flat and not plump. The skins are moderately oily and only moderately supple, but these are still among the best cured Indonesia beans I’ve evaluated.

The caviar is pillowy and light. It has plenty of moisture, but isn’t especially sticky. Caviar yield is moderate. The beans have a spicy, cinnamon aroma that is a noticeable contrast to the India beans’ chocolate notes.

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Malaysia Vanilla

Monday, April 7th, 2008

These videos show vanilla beans being grown and cured, via the Malaya Spice/Rentak Timur website. These are not in English, but the video is interesting and many English words are used.

Part 1

Part 2

Beanilla Trading Company (

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Vanilla beans reviewed: Tonga (‘Eua), Mexico, Madagascar, Extra Long Papua New Guinea Planifoli. PNG Tahitensis.
Grade: Gourmet/Grade A beans.
Cost: provided these beans for review.