Holiday Gifts for the Cook or Baker (Or For Your Own Kitchen)

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Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans from Beanilla (Screencap via Beanilla)

Vanilla Beans

You can’t really bake without vanilla. It’s a key flavoring in most desserts. Most of us use vanilla extract, but not everyone has had the experience of working with actual vanilla beans. The sweet-smoky-woody-floral fragrance and flavor of real vanilla beans is miles beyond even genuine, pure vanilla extract. They will make you forget that vanilla has become a synonym for bland.

Hint: Don’t throw out vanilla pods after you’ve scraped out the beans! But the pods in a clean jar, fill the jar with sugar, and soon you’ll have fragrant vanilla sugar that you can use in recipes or to sprinkle on your oatmeal. They will keep flavoring sugar refills for years.

For the socially conscious, certified organic, fair trade and kosher whole vanilla beans from India  are available via Mountain Rose Herbs, an Oregon-based company that also sells the other kind of herbs that are only available in states such as Oregon.

And our pal Penzy’s sells most excellent Madagascar vanilla beans and Mexican vanilla beans that come in their custom-labeled glass jars. Highly recommend.

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Beanilla has premium vanilla beans from all over the world. They also sell their beans in bulk, for that big-batch baker. More cookies!