Don’t settle, Vanilla matters and will make a huge difference.
If your recipe calls for vanilla extract, replace it by a real bean and throw away the cook book. Comparing vanilla extract to a real vanilla bean is like comparing a Cupcake to a Canelé; there’s just no contest.
Vanilla beans will bring the subtlety and richness that characterizes vanilla to your pastries instead of a soulless overpowering taste. My experience with beans however is that they’re not equal. I would take any bean against extract but the bean you get at your supermarket is usually all dried up. I was lucky enough to travel to some places where they cultivate them and there is just nothing like a well preserved moist vanilla bean. Not only does the texture change but the aroma varies quite drastically from one area of the world to the next. The ones from Madagascar are very good but the ones from Tahiti are, in my opinion, unbeatable.
If you can’t get your vanilla “fresh” from the source, I found a great place online through Amazon
<a href=”http://back40forums.com/tenant.php?blogid=7546″><!– prudish –></a>