Vanilla, vanilla, vanilla

Posted on January 2, 2006 by Aun

Happy New Year!

I hope all of you had a wonderful, delicious and fun-filled New Year’s Eve feast. S and I had the pleasure of dining at a friend’s house. She had engaged the services of chef Jimmy Chok for the night. Jimmy whipped up an amazing 6 course feast for the 16 of us gathered together: seared scallop on a wakame tart; braised pork belly topped with a fried egg on a portobello mushroom; lobster ravioli in lobster bisque; Atlantic cod with vanilla leeks and salmon roe beurre blanc; lamb shank and porcini wrapped in phyllo pastry; and warm molten chocolate cake. It was a fantastic meal, enhanced by great company.

For New Year’s day, S prepared a real treat for me. As I’ve written in the past, I’m not a huge chocolate lover. Quite the opposite in fact, I adore vanilla. And I’m constantly pestering S to try out recipes that feature this delicate, clean, creamy and utterly refreshing flavor.

A few months ago, we received a fantastic gift from some dear friends. It was a copy of Boulevard, a beautiful cookbook by Nancy Oakes and Pamela Mazzola, who run a very acclaimed restaurant of the same name in San Francisco. The book is gorgeous, full of inspiring recipes and stunning pictures. One recipe in particular that really excited me was called Vanilla, Vanilla, Vanilla. And ever since discovering it, I’ve been asking S to make it.

Boulevard’s Vanilla, Vanilla, Vanilla is no simple dessert. In fact, it’s three desserts plated together. It consists of a creme brulée, a Bavarian timbale, and an ice cream sandwich, all flavored with vanilla.

In order to make her hubby a really happy camper on the first day of 2006, S strapped on her apron a few days ago and started making this amazing trilogy of desserts for me. Another reason why she was eager to give this a try was because we’d been given some vanilla beans from both Madagascar and Tahiti and she’d been looking for a way to use both in order to do a good taste comparison. She decided to use the Madagascan vanilla for the ice cream sandwich and the creme brulée and use the Tahitian vanilla for the Bavarian timbale.

The creme brulée was probably the simplest of the three desserts to make. It’s your typical custard, enhanced through the addition of real vanilla, set in small ramekins and then flamed right before serving. To give this classic dish a novel touch of umaminess, we added a pinch of vanilla-infused fleur du sel to the sugar that was sprinkled on top of each custard and crisped. The ice cream sandwiches were made with vanilla ice cream and vanilla shortbread cookies, both of which S made perfectly.

The third dessert was the hardest to make but, in my opinion, the most interesting. It’s a vanilla cream custard–held together with gelatin–sitting on top of a chocolate mayo cake base and filled with a hot fudge sauce. The Bavarian creams were molded and cooled in small cups. A small hollow was then dug into the bottom of each custard. The chocolate sauce was poured in and a chocolate mayo cake round affixed to the top of each one. This went back in the fridge to cool and then unmolded, cake side down, when ready to serve. The Timbale looks like a vanilla custard on a cake base. But when you cut into it, hot fudge flows out.

To help me devour these delectable desserts, S invited a few friends to join us. All of us loved the desserts. S and one of our guests decided that they preferred the taste of the Madagascan vanilla to the Tahitian. Honestly, I couldn’t tell the difference. I was simply too busy moaning in gustatory pleasure.

What a way to start the new year!

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his bouncing baby boy!

What Others Are Saying

  1. eatzycath January 2, 2006 at 9:44 am

    oh my, truly delectable – CH, you’re very lucky indeed!

  2. slurp! January 2, 2006 at 3:26 pm

    I read somewhere that Madagascar ones are less heat stable (i.e it alters its chemical structure quickly when heat is applied) and hence used in recipes that doesn’t call for much heating.

    Not too sure about Tahitian but it is said that indonesian ones are more heat stable and hence suitable for baking etc etc. It’s less refine then Madagascar but it doesn’t lose flavor as quickly as Madagascar.

    Whatever it is, have happy & wonderful New Year 2006!

  3. lakeside girl January 2, 2006 at 4:20 pm

    Hellooo! Just droppin’ by to say hi and lookin’ forward to those delectable entries of yours. Yummy!

    And yes, i’ve linked you. Thanks and happy new yr too! =)

  4. Maya January 3, 2006 at 2:08 am

    Happy New Year 2006! I have been your reader for quite 2 months, and have been inspired by your writing, recipes, photography and everything else in between. Great job! I noticed that you’re in many food blogs’ favorite, and I found out myself. I enjoyed reading your blog..what an amazing comraderie and food community that’s out there. What a small world, isn’t it? Wish you many many more new and exciting things in the new year…I’ll reading more :-) I’m a food lover! I have the passion to cook but it’s still much inside of me…maybe one day I’ll be able to let it out, with better space and time. Thank you for sharing…it’s been a delight.

    A hello from Antibes, So. of France.

  5. J January 3, 2006 at 2:08 pm

    hi, happy new year! s, how you indulge him! that looks utterly fabulous – i love how everything has got precision-engineered edges ;) now that you’ve used both varieties of pods, would you say there is a significant difference?

  6. S January 3, 2006 at 3:15 pm

    J, as you know, I knew CH was The One when I found out that he, too, owned a leveler.

    There is a definite difference between the Madagascan and Tahitian beans. It was obvious when I was infusing the milk for the bavarian. The Tahitian smelt more subtle and floral, but not in a way I found particularly appealing. It didn’t have the mouthwatering perfume of the Madagascan which makes me instinctively think of sugar, butter, milk and cream. Perhaps it’s a Pavlovian response, but I much prefer the depth and pronounced flavour of Madagascan vanilla. Tahitian vanilla also has a low vanillin content and isn’t considered ‘true vanilla’, at least in Ian Hemphill’s book.

    Apparently Indonesia is starting to produce bourbon-grade vanilla. I’d love to try some. Question is: how do you identify the real deal from the rip off? The beans I bought when I was last in Bali were cheap but did not exactly impress me. Did see some in Phoon Huat the other day, though.

    Anyway, apparently CH’s most earth shattering vanilla ice cream experience involved one flavored with Tahitian beans. I will use the bean I have left to help him re-live that gastronomic moment. Will let you know if it tastes dramatically different next to the Madagascan vanilla ice cream that’s still sitting in our freezer.

    By the way, Iranian saffron does smell much more aromatic.

  7. cin January 4, 2006 at 12:33 am

    That Bavarian timbale sounds exquisite and I can picture the ot chocolate fudge oozing out…mmmm! Happy New Year to you both.

  8. Vivilicious January 4, 2006 at 1:34 am

    CH, you are one lucky devil and S., you go girl! May your 2006 be filled with even more delectable delights!

  9. radish January 4, 2006 at 5:50 am

    wow, that looks amazing and delicious. I too am a huge lover of vanilla – it’s my absolute favorite flavor. But I also have a deep love of dark chocolate… So when I find something that marries that two in utter perfection, I’m going to be a happy. Happy New Year

  10. Chubby Hubby January 4, 2006 at 3:40 pm

    Eazycath: Yah, aren’t i?

    Slurp: Thanks for the info and well wishes. It’s interesting that Madasgascan vanilla is less heat stable.

    Green Apple: Thanks. Happy New Year!

    Maya: Thanks. You should check out the food blogs I’ve linked to as well. My favourites! All are mouth-wateringly good.

    Cin: MMMMM… and I was so happy that S had made a few extras. Made a good breakfast the next morning ;-)

    Vivilicious: Thanks. I plan on eating my way through 2006 as well!

    Radish: You should try the Bavarian Timbale. Dark chocolate sauce in the centre, vanilla custard around and a chocolate cake base. It was am awesome combination.

  11. diva. January 4, 2006 at 8:02 pm

    Hello! I hope you don’t mind but i’ve linked you to my own food blog. I’m amazed and completely blown away by your blog and the pics!! WOW. I’ll keep reading cos now i’m a big fan. :D

  12. commoneo_sensus January 5, 2006 at 2:57 pm

    errr how to get vanilla beans in singapore? if you dont mind telling me?

  13. S January 5, 2006 at 3:08 pm

    Hi commoneo_sensus,

    Not a problem. If you want really high quality beans, try http://www.bats.sg You can email them by clicking on their ‘contact us’ button. But I don’t know if they will retail small quantities. Alternatively, I’ve bought them at Culina (http://www.culina.com.sg/). Phoon Huat also sells pods from Indonesia (I saw them in their chiller). The important thing is to make sure that the pods have been stored properly. They should feel sort of soft, not rock hard.

  14. Anonymous January 5, 2006 at 10:34 pm

    hello, im from singapore and i saw a packet of vanilla pods in cold storage sold at about 11 dollars. was just wondering if this is the norm price for vanilla pods or are there places that sell vanilla beans at cheaper prices?

  15. S January 6, 2006 at 2:33 pm

    hi anon,

    Would that be $11 for 1 pod? Whether it’s a reasonable price really depends on where the pods are from, and the condition they are in.

    I haven’t bought pods recently (only because I’ve been spoilt by gifts from generous friends), but I do remember paying around or more than $20 for 2 to 3 Madagascan pods from Culina. Yes, every time I buy them I gasp at the cost. I might be completely off (and I apologize if I’m wrong), but I think Phoon Huat is selling 2 pods from Indonesia for around $4. At the Bencoolen Street outlet, they store them in the chiller at the back. I haven’t tried these beans yet, but they looked pretty moist.

    I hope this helps!

  16. Kosmonaut January 8, 2006 at 11:55 am

    Mmmm, vanilla. Check out my vanilla pics here

  17. Alex January 10, 2006 at 11:46 pm

    I’ve always loved vanilla as well. Many people are shocked when I tell them I don’t like chocolate that much.

    This sounds like quite a recipe wish I was as lucky to have someone make it for me!

  18. Anonymous January 11, 2006 at 12:52 am

    My fave is Nielson Massey Madagascar Vanilla Paste which comes in a jar (as featured in your photo). It’s highly aromatic and the best I’ve ever used!

    Was glad to recently find out that Shermay’s Cooking School in Chip Bee (www.shermay.com) sells both the paste and extract.

    The paste is perfect for ice-cream, creme brulee and custard since it has the vanilla seeds and it’s convenient as it’s used straight from the jar!

  19. MM January 20, 2006 at 1:06 am

    That looks so delectable that my weight automatically increased just eyeing it. Er … how does one score a makan invite? *sheepish but shameless grin*

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