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Nielsen-Massey Tahitian Vanilla - is it worth the cost?

post #1 of 9
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My husband runs one of his family's restaurants. I am able to use his distributors to purchase some of my ingredients in bulk. I recently asked him to price out vanilla for me, and his distributor had Madagascar Bourbon vanilla, 32 oz, for $23, and Tahitian vanilla, 32 oz, for $48. After doing a bit of research, I had him order the Madagascar Bourbon for me. When it came in, I was thrilled to find out that the brand name was Nielsen-Massey!

After doing some more research, I found out that Tahitian vanilla can be hard to find, as it is produced in smaller quantities. However, the earlier research I did said the Tahitian vanilla doesn't do well in high heat applications, such as baking, but is better suited for custards, ice cream, fruit desserts, etc.

I'm curious if any of you use the Tahitian vanilla. If so, do you save it for more "special" applications? Due to the cost, it definitely would be considered more "gourmet" but if it imparts an absolutely wonderful flavor, it may be worth it.

Thanks for any input you an provide! Examples of how you use it would be greatly appreciated.

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Don't bite off more than you can chew.  One day you may not be able to swallow.

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post #2 of 9
I make a lot of homemade ice cream and my husband's favorite flavor is vanilla. He's kind of a vanilla snob, in fact. So, after reading all the great comments on the specialty vanillas, I purchased some Nielsen-Massey vanilla and also vanilla bean paste. I was so excited to use the paste in a batch of ice cream. I asked my husband what he thought - without saying why I was asking = and he said it was okay, but the flavor was a little weird! I went on to try both the extract and the paste and can't honestly see much, if any, difference between them and the pure vanilla extract that I buy at Costco.... which I think is very good.

The following might get me stoned, but I'll share this anyway. A few years ago, America's Test Kitchens - for which I have great respect - did a comparison study on numerous vanilla products. The Nielsen-Massey came out very high for flavor..... but so did a good quaity IMITATION vanilla product. I was shocked when I ready the article in their magazine. Their conclusion was to save your money and buy the less expensive imitation vanilla!

Bottom line is that I think you just have to experiment and maybe do some side-by-side comparisons - if it's really important to you. For something that totally depends on the vanilla flavor - like a creme brulee - I prefer to steep vanilla beans in milk or cream. But for my cakes, I'm going to stick with the affordable and good Costco pure vanilla.
We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. Winston Churchill
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We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. Winston Churchill
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post #3 of 9
I've seen the comment also about imitation vanilla, but it was in the context of a baked good. Because extract is 35% alcohol, it tends to bake out to a degree, leaving very little flavor in the baked product. But many people will still be able to taste the chemical aftertaste that will not bake out. But if it is in a box mix or doctored box recipe, the chemical taste will already be there, so it won't matter.

Vanilla bean paste has very little alcohol so its flavor remains. Another way to fix this is to be more heavy-handed in baked products. This is why you add the vanilla last in custards and puddings, so that it won't bake out.

Fine vanillas can be most appreciated in desserts or components that are not heated or ones where the vanilla is added last. Here is where the differences can be tasted and enjoyed.

I saw a big difference in taste when I started using vanilla bean paste (NM). I now use a combination of vbp and homemade vanilla extract. If you ever make your own, you will find how much flavor the commercial extracts lose and how much it changes in taste in the processing.
post #4 of 9
I love Nielson Massey, that's all I use but I don't fork out the cash for Tahitian. I can tell the difference, but very few other people can when you put it in a baked good.
post #5 of 9
I got Sonoma's Tahitian/Madagascar vanilla blend since I'm not ready to dish out the cash for NM Pure Tahitian vanilla. It's nothing spectacular especially when I add it to a cake, it tasted like regular vanilla extract. I think it does better in my SMBC so these days I do a 50-50 mix of the Sonoma blend and NM vanilla bean paste in SMBC.

If you can get your hands on the Sonoma blend try it before you spend the big bucks.
post #6 of 9
I use nothing but Nielsen-Massey. The regular vanilla, the paste, the bean, you name it. I won't use others now that I've been using that.
post #7 of 9
I use nothing but Nielsen-Massey. The regular vanilla, the paste, the bean, you name it. I won't use others now that I've been using that.
post #8 of 9
I've tried both Madagascar Bourbon and Tahitian vanilla. I guess it just depends on what you're looking for if it's worth it or not.

Tahitian vanilla has more of a fruity note to it. I think it works best with lighter more delicate flavored recipes. Madagascar vanilla has a much bolder and richer flavor. So it works well with flavors like chocolate or vanilla (if you want a rich vanilla flavor).

Personally... I almost always use Madagascar, it works best with most of my recipes. However, if I make a lemon cake, for example, I tend to use Tahitian.
I would suggest buying a small bottle of Tahitian and giving it a try.
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post #9 of 9
Certainly you need to consider whether or not it taste better or if there is a significant quality difference. We are all about quality ingredients, so yes, this would impact my choice on what vanilla to use.

But also an important component in selecting any/all ingredients:

How much will it impact the cost of your products?

Not at all?
few pennies?
a dollar?
five dollars?

And how do you go about passing that cost on to your customer?

and lastly - you know your customers better than any of us. Is that ingredient important to them, and are they willing to pay more for your products because you are using it?

We face these questions every day. We decided to target our product to a select type of customer (which makes advertising campaigns simpler too). Our goal customer enjoys premium products with quality ingredients and understand that there is a cost associated to that.
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The King of Pops
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