I wait all year for the first weekend in December to make my first batch of holiday cookies. Now my youngest son, and sometimes my oldest will bake with me. Everyone's favorite part is always adding the vanilla extract. I've always been obsessed with vanilla and it seems I've passed it on because the vanilla is the only part the boys will fight over. This obsession meant I had to get the vanilla for our Vanilla Bean with Green Tea cookies just right.
Vanilla, grown from a beautiful orchid, is one of the most complex flavors in the world containing over 150 aromatic components. It also has to be hand pollinated and the pods must be hand harvested which accounts for the high cost. Every pod is examined daily to determine when it's ready to harvest because they ripen individually. Each vanilla region has a distinct flavor and after sampling all the vanillas, I concluded that Madagascar was my favorite for its rich, less smokey flavor. My testing also reaffirmed my love for the seeds which we ultimately included in Late July's blend.
In the end, I found a supplier even more passionate about vanilla than I am, Lemur International. Not only did their vanilla have the best flavor, but their commitment to sustainability and giving back to the growers at the farming cooperative in Madagascar was impressive.
I consider it a great honor to make food for other people, whether it's holiday cookies with my sons or on a larger scale through Late July and the ingredients that go into both are what make the end result special. Every ingredient has a story and I'm always willing to share ours. If you're ever curious about any of our other ingredients just email us. Happy baking!