Wednesday, November 13, 2013

La Vanille

Choux a la crème vanille but it's not.
It's a choux a la the vert, framboise by Laurent Duchene.

 
Where ever did the expression 'plain vanilla' come from?
 
There is absolutely nothing 'plain' about vanilla. I was given two pods to paint at Frederic Cassels. That's PODS not beans please.
 
I didn't know vanilla pods come from orchids. How plain is that?
Europeans first discovered vanilla in Mexico when Cortez offered them unsweetened cocoa with added the black pod or tlilxot chitl.to temper the bitterness. Mexico held the monopoly on vanilla cultivation until the 19th century because of the local Melipona bees used for pollination. Vanilla didn't arrive in France until 1812 and then was used only for decorative purposes. Not till 1836, a Belgian botanist, Charles Morren discovered by chance the process of artificial pollination. A t the same time a slave on Reunion Island crushed a vanilla flower in his hand and a few days later it turned into a pod. This simple manual method is still used today. Each orchid flower is pollinated by hand one by one. Who knew vanilla required as complex a process as wine or chocolate to grow and develop. More information here
 
There were quite a few vanilla suppliers at the Salon du Chocolat.
As usual I got sucked in and bought a glass tube of 10 Bourbon Madagascar pods(10 euros) though I don't bake at all, from Tahitian Vanille du Tahiti.
And I bought a Balsamic-vanilla spray vinaigre which I can actually use, though not this intriguing jar of dehydrated seeds. Must remember to take up baking soon with all these gorgeous ingredients offered.
The absolute Mecca for Vanilla is Epices Roellinger at 51 bis, rue Sainte-Anne 75002. There are two other shops in Brittany.
A whole floor is devoted to a treasure trove of rare vanilla pods.
 
I must go back and find out more.
 
The newest issue #10 of Relais Desserts is devoted to La Vanille to pique my curiosity even further. Many of the recipes are and the cover are by MOF pastry chef Laurent Duchene. Late yesterday I went out on a mission to the 13th arr. 2, rue Wurtz.
 
Searching for vanilla infused desserts though everything looked supremely tempting.
 
Safe and sound at home after surviving rush hour chrush. I must try to set out earlier on these missions.
 
I did forget to notice Duchene's baba au rhum graced the new issue's cover...hmmm.
 
Inside Relais Desserts this smashing photo by photographer Laurent Fau of a mille feuille sitting on a bed of vanilla pods.
If you have the free Relais Desserts app you can see if your local patissiere is a member and run pick up a copy of the latest (free)fabulous issue. And if you bake you're set up for the holidays: glace vanilla et soupe de fruits exotiques, Riz a l'imperatrice, cake vanille, choux a la crème, and crème brulee.  
Meanwhile I'll head back to Laurent Duchene for the baba and to Epices Roellinger for further vanille investigations.

18 comments:

  1. You don't have to bake to have vanilla pods! I look at it like aroma therapy. To inhale its essence is to feel wonderful! (with zero calories) The site of Epices Roellinger is fantastic. How wonderful to be so intensely into spices & to be surrounded by them & to tell their stories! Best of luck on all your Missions!

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    1. The spice shop is an Aladdin's treasure trove.
      I never thought of the aroma therapy angle

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  2. I agree...I am offended when I hear someone use the phrase "plain vanilla". I think it's beyond fabulous!
    Keep up the good work, Carol. Thank you for the delicious blog!

    Barbie

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  3. OH WOW.. I can smell the vanilla. Yummmm.. when I was young my parents used to buy napoleons from a little french restaurant when we went to visit my Grandmother who lived in LA and I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I ate them. That vanilla cream in it was to die for. :)

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  4. oops. that was a bakery not restaurant.

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  5. Why bake, when you have all those beautiful patisseries on your doorstep.... la creme de la creme.

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  6. The only thing that equals my love of vanilla?
    Lovely watercolors:-)
    C'est beau Carol...
    I am hooked on the pods and the paste:-)

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  7. You put a pod in you sugar jar and you always have some "sucre vanillé"

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    1. I put mine in my hot chocolate mix. They have become very dry...must go make some hot chockie to see if it's infused..

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  8. You did not know Vanilla pods come from orchids? ;-)
    And I read "after surviving crush hours" - be still my heart, Carol knows how to take the most delicate pastries on a ride all over town!

    You know my newest kitchen gadget: a Vanilla pod mill!
    Fantastic, a few turns and, voila', the tiniest Bourbon vanilla specks on my yogurt!

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    1. Non-bakers are idiots. What more can I say.

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    2. Loads of vanilla info here including making your own extract!

      http://zoebakes.com/2011/03/08/how-to-use-a-vanilla-bean/

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  9. Now you are talking my passion! Vanille over chocolate any day. When we come back, I want to visit Epices Roellinger. And don't forget Shalimar with its wonderful vanilla top notes.

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    1. I plum forgot I'm wearing Guerlain Ode de Vanille!

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  10. Indeed - why on earth 'plain vanilla'? A friend asked for vanilla macarons apologetically this week, saying 'even just vanilla'. It's one of my all time favourites! And so is your opening dreamy watercolour, Carol.

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  11. Vicki1:45 PM

    I have had a love affair with vanilla since childhood (and the fascination of how something can smell so delicious and yet taste terrible right out of the container...an experiment with yucky results!).
    Vicki

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    1. I grew up on gingerbread and oatmeal cookies so vanilla is exotic for me...

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