Devoted bakers will want to know that ground vanilla, prized by professionals for its depth and intensity, is now available to home cooks, from Madagascar Select importers. (Madagascar is where some of the world’s most fragrant, best-quality vanilla beans come from.)
I tried ground vanilla against vanilla extract in crème anglaise, butter cookies, and rice pudding—in all cases, it delivered bigger, deeper flavor than extract (for every teaspoon of extract, substitute 1/4 teaspoon ground vanilla).
Madagascar Ground Vanilla leaves coarser bits than the telltale pin-dots of a scraped vanilla pod. You’ll notice this in puddings and doughs; custards will need straining. For my money, scraping out the insides of a vanilla bean is still the best way to get full-tilt vanilla flavor, but Madagascar Ground Vanilla is a fragrant, flavorful, and convenient alternative to extract. A 1/2-ounce jar is about $10; a 2-ounce jar is about $22. To order, visit www.deananddeluca.com.