Cupcakes

Cupcakes made by Beth Marrs

One of my favorite hobbies is baking. Now that I am an “empty nester”, there is a limit on how often and what sort of foods I can bake. Baking bread every week helps satisfy that need to bake but I also love reading about cooking and baking. Yesterday I read an interesting blog on the King Arthur Flour website. The blog had directions for making cupcakes out of your favorite cake recipe. This blog included some information that I had not heard before so I thought that it would be fun to share that information.

Most cake recipes will make great cupcakes. I had never thought of making angel food cupcakes or chiffon cake cupcakes and apparently, they do not make great cupcakes. I think with the difficulty of making those cakes, you would be happier with the full sized version.

It has been a while since I have needed to make cupcakes so I had not realized the variety of cupcake pans available. When the kids were home, I think that the mini cupcakes would have disappeared too quickly. Making jumbo cupcakes might have made the kids happy but would not have made enough cupcakes for everyone to have more than one.

It does not matter what size pan you choose, you will want to fill the wells in the pans most of the way full. King Arthur Flour says to fill them about 4/5 full. I did not know that the baking temperature affects the shape of the top of the cupcake. Using a lower temperature like 325° (but a slightly longer baking time) will yield a flatter topped cupcake. Sometimes this is desirable depending on how you want to decorate the cupcake. Baking at a lower temperature will also allow the outer rim of the cupcake to brown a bit. If you want a nice, domed top to the cupcake, bake at 375°. This higher temperature activates the baking power in the cake and results in a more even crumb inside the cake. You will also shorten the oven time for the cupcakes.

I have always wondered how to calculate the baking time for cupcakes and King Arthur Flour has some tips for that, too. They say to reduce baking time by 5% if your recipe called for 9” pans and you plan to bake at the same temperature listed in the recipe. If your recipe called for a 9”x13” cake pan, reduce baking time by as much as 40-50%. However, the most important thing they recommend is recognizing when the cupcakes are done cooking. The surface should be lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center should look crumb free when removed. The cupcakes should spring back if lightly touched. If you have a thermometer, you can insert that and if the temperature is between 205° and 210° the cupcakes are done.

This makes me want to leave the office and go home and bake some cake. Or cupcakes.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Liquid Smoke, that Controversial Condiment

Liquid smoke is a condiment that invites controversy.  Barbecue purists roll their eyes and say “no way.”  Health groups consistently voice concern over possible health risks. Yet despite all the ‘nay’, there is a strong ‘yay’ with marketing trends showing that the condiment is growing in popularity as a flavor additive.

Liquid smoke is made by channeling smoke from smoldering woodchips through a condenser that quickly cools the vapors causing them to liquefy.  The water-soluble flavor compounds in the smoke are trapped within the liquid while the insoluble tars and resins are removed by a series of filters.  The results is a clean, all natural smoke-flavored liquid that provides a cookout-like flavor when outdoor grilling isn’t an option.

Ernest H Wright is credited with introducing liquid smoke in 1895.  As a teenager, he worked in a print shop and noticed the liquid dropping from the stove pipe that heated the shop tasted like smoke.  Years later as a pharmacist, he experimented and perfected the process of condensing hot smoke from a wood fire to create Wright’s Liquid Smoke which is still sold today and remains as a pure product, smoke and water.

Unless liquid smoke has added chemicals or ingredients, it is an all-natural product—just smoke suspended in water. (It should be noted that some brands add molasses, vinegar, and other flavorings so read the label to be sure that it is just smoke and water.)  Liquid smoke is used as a flavor additive in a whole host of foods beyond the little bottles on the grocery shelf.  It is the source of the smoky flavor in commercial barbecue sauces, bacon, hot dogs, smoked meats, cheeses, and nuts to name a few.  The process of adding liquid smoke or smoked flavorings to foods is justification for the use of the word “smoke” on package labeling.

What about the health risks?  Smoke, no matter the source, contains cancer-causing chemicals.  Some of those chemicals persist even in the extracts making liquid smoke a potential cancer risk.  Studies have shown that the amount of carcinogenic chemical found in liquid smoke depends on the type of hardwood used and the temperature at which it is burned. Other studies have shown that liquid smoke is less risky than food charred and cooked over smoke. A researcher at NYU found that controlled smoking plus an ensuing filtering process removed most, if not all, of these compounds. Therefore, most experts contend that the concentrations of the carcinogenic molecules in liquid smoke are far too low for any genuine health concerns as one would need to consume far more liquid smoke than most recipes call for to see any effects. Moderation is key with this magical ingredient, so use a light amount (1/4 teaspoon) in dishes for the safest route and if sediment is detected, let it settle and use only the liquid above it.

Liquid smoke has zero calories, zero fat, and most brands are low in sodium (about 10 mg per teaspoon), but it still brings an intense flavor like bacon.  Knowing that we should use it sparingly, it may be brushed on meats to add a depth of flavor or added to foods that generally rely on saturated fats and salt to bring out their flavor; thus it may add flavor for those on restricted diets who find that their food lacks flavor. Just a dash imparts that distinctive meaty, salty flavor that we know and love.   Taste of Home says “there is almost no sauce that wouldn’t benefit from a few drops of liquid smoke.  Adding a few drops to everything from your BBQ sauce to vinaigrette to your ranch dressing will help elevate your burgers, salads, and everything in-between.”

I’m inclined to agree with the barbecue purists–liquid smoke does not replace true smoke, but I enjoy using a little liquid smoke now and again when smoking or grilling is not possible or to step up the flavor of foods and sauces.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Ham tips

This time of year AnswerLine gets a lot of calls about ham. Ham is meat from the hind leg of pork. It can be fresh, cured, or cured-and-smoked. Hams are either ready to eat or not. Ready to eat hams include cooked hams and prosciutto. Hams that must be cooked will have cooking instructions and safe handling instructions right on the label and you MUST cook them. Typically you cook ham at 325 degrees for 10 minutes per pound or to an internal temperature of 145 degrees followed by a 3 minute rest time. To help keep ham moist and juicy during cooking, place cut side down and tent with foil.

Fresh refers to uncured leg of pork. It will have the flavor of a fresh pork loin roast or pork chops. “Fresh” will be part of the product name on the label. The color will be pale pink or beige as opposed to cured ham being a deep rose or pink color and country or dry cured ham being pink to mahogany in color.

Hams can be wet-cured, which is very common, in a brine solution containing water, salt, sugar and spices. During this process the solution is injected into the meat before cooking. There are three varieties of wet-brined ham. “Ham with natural juices” has little water added during the curing process and results in an attractive appearance with a velvety type texture. “Ham with water added” retains more water during the process and is good for steaks, thin slicing and shaving. A “Ham and water product” has the most water added to it and is most often found at the deli counter. It is a good choice if the ham is going to be served cold.

Hams can be dry-cured by rubbing salt and spices into the meat’s surface. They are known as “country-style” hams. Prosciutto is also made using a dry cure.

After curing some hams are smoked. This is a process involving hanging or heating the ham in a smokehouse to allow it to absorb smoke from either smoldering fires or generated smoke which gives added flavor and color.

When purchasing ham allow 1/4 -1/3 pound per serving if it is boneless and 1/3 -1/2 pound per serving if it is bone-in. If you end up with enough leftover ham you won’t be able to consume it within 3 or 4 days consider freezing the leftovers.

FoodSafety.gov has excellent information on ham storage and ham cooking.

 

 

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Knives

My son just purchased some new bread knives. It caused me to re-evaluate the knives I have in my own kitchen. Knives can seem like an expensive investment but having the right knife for the job can make your time in the kitchen so much more productive and efficient. Some people purchase knife sets. If you are going to use all the knives in the set, that is a good investment. For me there are three knives I find myself reaching for over and over. One is the Chef’s knife. It is very versatile being used for chopping vegetables, slicing meat, and mincing garlic and herbs. It can be from 5-8 inches long, typically 8 inches, and is considered the workhorse of the kitchen.

A paring knife is another knife I find I am constantly reaching for. It is usually 3-4 inches long and is perfect for peeling and coring as well as cutting small fruits and vegetables.

The third knife I use frequently is the serrated knife, or bread knife. It can be used for slicing crusty bread, of course, and also for cutting very soft fruits and vegetables, like tomatoes. They are usually 9-10 inches long and don’t sharpen very well so need to be replaced every now and then depending on how often you use them.

When you get ready to purchase knives, there are a few things to consider. Most importantly is your budget. Buy the best-quality knives you can afford and keep them sharp. A good knife, if cared for properly, can last a lifetime.

You will also want to hold the knife in your hand before you purchase. How it feels is basically personal preference. Look for a knife that feels like an extension of your hand. It should feel perfectly balanced, sturdy and comfortable in your hand with an ergonomic grip.

You may want to consider if the knife you are looking at is forged or stamped. Forged knives are created when a single piece of molten steel is cut and beaten into the desired shape. Forged knives have a sturdy blade with a heavy bolster (junction between blade and handle) and heel to protect the hand when cutting. They typically hold a sharp edge well. They are less flexible than their counterpart, stamped knives, and generally are more expensive than stamped knives. Stamped knives are created using a cookie-cutter type machine. They are usually the same thickness throughout, except at the cutting edge, and lack a bolster and heel. Their blades are generally lighter and more flexible and they do not hold their edge as well.

After you have purchased the knives that are right for your uses, remember to use them on the right cutting surfaces such as a plastic or wood cutting board. Using your knives on a plate, tile, countertop, etc will dull the blades. And using a sharp knife is much safer than using a dull one. Dull knives require more pressure to cut, increasing the chance the knife will slip with the force behind it.

You will also want to care for your knives correctly once you have invested in them. Leaving unwashed knives in the sink or putting them in the dishwasher are no-nos. Besides keeping your knives sharp, hand washing and drying them and storing them in protective sleeves will help your knives work their best and last as long as possible.

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Olive Oils

A frequent question at AnswerLine is “what kind of olive oil should I use?”  The question is often asked by those who are new to olive oil or those who have been advised to consider a Mediterranean Diet.  As they begin to navigate new territory, they find that there are a variety of olive oil choices. Choosing the olive oil depends on how much flavor is needed, what the cooking usage will be, and the available budget. It also helps to understand the classifications and common marketing terms used on olive oil labels.

Here’s a quick primer on olive oils from Fooducate, a blog sponsored by the North American Olive Oil Association.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is the most flavorful and the healthiest olive oil, because it is naturally produced without heat or chemicals. It retains healthy antioxidants from the olives. The range of flavors is very broad, similar to wines. The oil may be strong and peppery, mild and buttery, or anywhere in between. The natural variations result in a wide smoke point range, from about 350 degrees Fahrenheit to about 410 degrees Fahrenheit. This range is high enough for most at-home cooking. Extra virgin olive oil can be used for sautéing, grilling, roasting, baking and pan-frying. To highlight the many flavor profiles, extra virgin olive oil does best in cold applications like drizzling, dipping, dressings and marinades.

 First Press, Cold Pressed or Cold Extracted – Extra Virgin Olive Oils may use these marketing terms. Extra virgin olive oil is produced by crushing the olives without adding any heat or using any chemicals and in fact, all extra virgin olive oil is produced this way even if the label doesn’t call it out. Extra virgin olive oils might list the type of olive or olives the oil was made from, as well as the country or region the olives were grown. Like wine, these indicators help suggest the typical flavors consumers might expect from that oil. Some manufacturers blend different extra virgin olive oils together in order to offer a consistent flavor profile all the time. Also like wine, the best way to determine which ones to buy is through trying different oils with different foods.

Refined Olive Oil – During production, oil with high acidity or flavor or aroma defects will be refined to remove the defects, resulting in Refined Olive Oil. Refining removes odors and flavors using heat and physical or chemical processes. Most seed and nut oils are solvent-extracted and then refined; refined olive oil begins with the natural extraction from the olives and the following refining process for olive oil does not involve solvents such as hexane.

Olive Oil is a blend of refined olive oil with some virgin or extra virgin olive oil added back for flavor. Olive oil has a mild olive flavor, making it a great oil to substitute for other common cooking oils like vegetable oil and canola oil without changing the taste of the recipe. Because it is mostly refined, olive oil has a higher and more consistent smoke point range from about 390 degrees to about 470 degrees Fahrenheit. Baked goods made with olive oil have a light texture and stay moist longer than those made with other common cooking oils. Olive oil’s subtle flavor and heat resistance make it well-suited for dressings, marinades, sautéing, grilling, roasting, baking and pan-frying.

Classic or Pure Olive Oil is the same as Olive Oil and always refers to a blend of refined oil with some EVOO or Virgin Olive Oil added for flavor.

Other things to know about olive oil:

  •  The fat and calories are the same in ALL grades of olive oil.
  •  Olive oil does NOT get better with age. Look for the furthest out “best by date” when purchasing.
  • Store olive oil in a cool, dark place and tightly covered; under these conditions, it should remain fresh for about 18 to 24 months.  An open bottle of olive oil can also be refrigerated to extend its shelf life and such is especially recommended in hot, humid environments.  Refrigerating olive oil may cause the oil to become cloudy and even solidify; this will not affect the flavor or quality.  At room temperature, the oil will return to its normal consistency and color.  When stored properly, olive oil will be safe to consume after the “best date”.
  • Oil should be discarded if an off odor, flavor, or appearance is detected.
  • Olive oil is very high in monounsaturated fats and contains a modest amount of vitamins E and K. True extra virgin olive oil is loaded with antioxidants, some of which have powerful health benefits.
Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Fajita Seasoning

The temperature is so cold today that it is a perfect day to stay inside.  I like to take advantage of these kind of days to mix up some spice blends that I will use year round.  One of my favorites is a fajita seasoning mix from a recipe that I found on the internet years ago.  I have been making it ever since.  The combination of spices and the addition of cornstarch make great flavor and it thickens up sauces when used on both meats and vegetables.  I now provide jars of this seasoning to my extended family as well!  You can be assured that they let me know when their jars are getting empty!  There are many combinations of spices that can be put together, but here is the recipe that I use.

If you are interested in other spice mixes check out these recipes from North Dakota State Extension.

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Beth Marrs

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

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Chili – What is it?

Chili is a favorite soup or stew but no one seems to agree on what chili should be. There are as many ways to make chili as there are people who make it.    Some like it hot, some like it mild, some like it on top of a baked potato or mound of spaghetti, some say beans, others say NO beans.  However you like it, chili, served with a side of cornbread, cinnamon roll, oyster crackers, sour cream, cheese, or plain, is an American comfort food. To that end, chili even has its own national celebration day; the fourth Thursday in February is designated as National Chili Day.

While little information was found on the origin of Chili Day, it appears to have had a long history.  On the other hand, the origin of chili is credited to a mixture of chili peppers and meat known as chili con carne, Spanish for chili with meat.

In today’s world, there is no agreement on what chili should be or look like.  Many recipes use a combination of  tomatoes, beans or no beans, chili peppers and/or peppers, meat, garlic, onions, and cumin but the variations are endless and even include vegetarian and vegan varieties.  Despite popular belief, chili does not come from Mexico. Recipes have certainly been influenced by Mexican culture, but also incorporate elements from Native American and Spanish culinary traditions. Many historians believe chili originated in Texas where all three of these cultures intersected. Cowboys and the American frontier settlers made chili from a chili brick cooked in a pot of boiling water along the trail or in the frontier home for a hearty meal.  The brick consisted of dried beef, suet, dried chili peppers and salt, pounded together and dried giving the mixture a long shelf life. Chili was a popular food offering at the Worlds Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago where the San Antonio Chili Stand introduced Texas-style chili con carne to attendees.  Prior to World War II the popularity of chili lead to small, family-run chili parlors (also known as chili joints) popping up throughout the US with Texas leading the way.  Each parlor had its own claim to fame featuring a secret recipe or ingredient.

Chili adapts easily to quantity cookery making it a great food for crowds.  It also makes a great centerpiece for entertainment or as a fund raiser in the form of a chili cook-off.   Cook-off participants prepare their carefully-guarded and best chili concoctions to battle for judges’ or visitors’ approval to declare their recipe a winner!  While many chili cook-offs are a local event with prizes and recognition, it may also be a sanctioned contest leading to international fame with large prizes.

There are many ways that people enjoy the great taste of chili—soup, burgers, dogs, fries, just to name a few.  There are also regional ways to enjoy chili.  Cincinnati Chili is a favorite of many Ohioans.  Chili is spooned over pasta, usually spaghetti, and topped with shredded cheese, kidney beans, crushed crackers, and onions.  In New Mexico, one would commonly enjoy a bowl of Green Chili Stew or Chili Verde made with cubes of pork, Hatch chilies, tomatillos and other seasonings; it may be served over rice or corn tortillas or not.  St Louis also has a chili favorite known as the St Louis Slinger—a dish made with a ground beef patty, hash browns, and eggs covered with chili and topped with cheese and onions.  If one starts with a basic chili and adds a generous dose of Cajun seasoning and Louisiana hot sauce, one has an unforgettable New Orleans-style chili. Finally, there is the no-beans, no tomatoes Texas Red made with chunks of beef, beef suet, a variety of peppers, and seasonings.

Because chili ingredients vary so much, it is not possible to give exact nutritional information.  When meat, beans, peppers, onions, and tomatoes form the base of the soup, nutritional benefits may include vitamins A and C, protein, carbohydrates, and fiber.  Whatever the nutritional value, style, or recipe, chili is definitely an American classic and favorite to be enjoyed in various styles.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Resources for Instant Pot®/EPPC Users

A frequent question since the holidays has been, “Do you have any good recipes for an Instant Pot®?” If you got an electric programmable pressure cooker (EPPC) as a holiday gift, perhaps you, too, are in a quandary of what to do with it, too.

Instant Pot® is just one brand of EPPCs on the market but has become the ‘staple’ term when one is referring to an EPPC. However, in most cases when the question is posed, the person is actually referring to the popular brand, Instant Pot®. No matter how hard we fight it, ‘Instant Pot’ is a term that will almost certainly come up in conversation at some point. The New York Times’ article, The Kitchen Gadget that Spanned a Religion noted that this kitchen appliance has upended the home-cooking industry. As such, the resources for using an Instant Pot® or any other EPPC are everywhere. I will share a few sources that I have found useful as I learned to use my EPPC.

Instant Pot® recently released a list of recommended and authorized cookbooks for their EPPC. The cookbooks on the list cover a wide variety of food preparations, preferences, and dietary needs so it appears that there is something for everyone. That list may be accessed here. Needless to say, the recipes in these books would also likely work with any other brand of EPPC.

Besides the books, there are numerous websites that are good resources. Below are a few that I have found helpful and reliable.

Instant Pot – https://instantpot.com/

Amy and Jacky – https://www.pressurecookrecipes.com/

365 Days of Slow & Pressure Cooking – https://www.365daysofcrockpot.com/category/cooking-method/instant-pot/

Instant Pot Eats – http://instantpoteats.com/

Hip Cooking – https://www.hippressurecooking.com/pressure-cooker-recipes/

A Bountiful Kitchen – https://abountifulkitchen.com/category/instant-pot-2/

Ministry of Curry – https://ministryofcurry.com/instant-pot-recipes-2/

Two Sleeves (covers vegan, Keto, and Paleo interests) – https://twosleevers.com/

Last but not least, enlist the help of friends who may be “potheads” as devoted EPPC users are known. If you are a Facebook user, there are some community groups that you can join that offer a never-ending feed of advice, recipes, and inspirations.

I hope you will enjoy learning to use your new gadget regardless of the brand; who knows, with enough experience you might even become a devotee or pothead (those who use their EPPCs for virtually every kitchen task imaginable: sautéing, pressure-cooking, steaming, and even making yogurt and cheesecakes). While I enjoy my EPPC for some food preparations, I am not a total devotee as I find it is great for many things, but others, not so much—kind of like the microwave revolution of the 1980s or bread machine craze of the 1990s. I have enjoyed the adventure and have learned a lot along the way using books, internet sites, friends, and a Facebook group as my guides.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Baking bread

Baking bread is a creative outlet for me and satisfies that “need to bake”.  I started searching for the perfect white bread recipe last November.  I’ve been baking two loaves a week since then.  The first recipe I tried made a loaf that we thought was a bit dry.  I’ve been using this recipe since early December.  I like it and we always get a nice tender, light loaf.  It just takes me a short time to mix up the dough.  Proofing (or letting the bread rise) takes a couple of hours and baking takes about 35 minutes. 

I usually use my bread machine to make the dough for rolls and then take the dough out of the bread machine pan and shape and bake it. I like to use my mixer to knead the bread. Using the mixer for a specific time, 8 minutes for this recipe, ensures a similar result every time.

Of course, not every bread recipe requires kneading.  King Arthur Flour had this recipe as their recipe of the year last year.  My son made some when we were visiting last week and we enjoyed the nick crusty, rustic loaf.  If you want to try something super easy with guaranteed great results, give this recipe a try. This recipe would not be appropriate for a 4-H member to take to the fair if they allow it to raise for more than one day in the refrigerator.  Call AnswerLine if you have any questions about using this recipe.

I love to get some bread started early on a Saturday morning and let it proof while I’m doing laundry and other chores around the house.  This way we have some nice fresh bread to start the week, and a great treat of warm from the oven bread before lunch.  Try some homemade bread this weekend.  Or on a snow day.

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Vanilla

If you have done a lot of Holiday baking you probably noticed the price of vanilla has risen substantially in recent months. Vanilla is the world’s most popular flavoring. You can purchase it in two forms – pure and imitation. Pure is derived from seed pods of vanilla orchid vines and imitation is made in a lab. One percent of the world’s vanilla flavor is real and the rest is imitation. There is definitely a big price difference between the two.

Part of the reason the price of vanilla has gone up goes back to 2017 when a cyclone wiped out 30% of the vanilla orchid crop on Madagascar. Madagascar is an island that produces about 80% of the world’s vanilla beans so that made a big difference for production.

By FDA definition, pure extract means the vanilla flavor must come only from vanilla beans. For pure vanilla, the vanilla orchids are hand-picked. After harvesting they are cured, sweated, dried, and conditioned to fully mature their flavor. The beans are then soaked in an alcohol and water mixture and the flavor is extracted from the pod. FDA regulations require pure vanilla extract contain at least 35% alcohol. Additional alcohol content is also allowed. Imitation vanilla contains less alcohol or none at all.

Synthetic or imitation vanilla is flavored primarily with synthesized vanillin. Vanillin is the main flavor component of cured vanilla beans. Vanillin that is synthesized in a lab is identical at the molecular level to vanillin derived from an orchid so the taste is the same. Caramel coloring is also usually added to imitation vanilla. As I mentioned earlier, the FDA requires pure vanilla extract to get its flavoring from vanilla beans only. That FDA requirement relates to flavor only however. Some may contain a little sugar or corn syrup. Pure vanilla extract that has been stored properly in a cool, dark area will remain safe indefinitely. If it has been exposed to high levels of moisture and light it may lose some of its potent aroma and flavor over time or develop a hazy appearance but it will still be safe to use. Imitation vanilla will remain safe for 3 to 4 years if stored properly.

It is interesting that a couple sites I referenced, Cooks Illustrated and Epicurious, did taste testing of products that were made identically except for using pure vanilla in one and imitation in the other. In many instances the people doing the taste testing preferred the imitation vanilla over the pure. I think that definitely relates back to the molecular level of the vanillin being identical whether it was made in a lab or came from the bean.

It is also interesting to note that the compounds that make up pure vanilla flavor can’t survive high-heat cooking. So pure vanilla in cookies adds little because they are baked @350 degrees. Using pure vanilla in icings/frostings, puddings, custards, milkshakes and frozen desserts makes more sense as they are not heated at all or not heated to a high temperature.

Vanilla is one of my favorite flavorings so I have definitely noticed the price increase. After doing this research though I will try and use the pure for things I am not cooking to a high temperature and use imitation for the rest.

Happy Holidays!

 

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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