HomeSponsoredFlecks of Flavor: Ground Vanilla Done Differently by Robert Wemischner

Flecks of Flavor: Ground Vanilla Done Differently by Robert Wemischner

Sponsored by Tahitian Gold Co.

What’s black, tiny, and full of flavor? If you answered Tahitian Gold ground whole vanilla beans, you’re on the right path to infusing everything from bonbons to diplomat cream and from tropical fruit coulis to ice cream. Listening to a raft of pastry chefs from San Francisco to Paris,  one is convinced that this easy-to-use product has a mighty effect on the full range of sweet goods. Just think about how much flavor can be contained in a fleck estimated at 1/1000 of an inch. How can something so small be so impactful? The answer lies in the proprietary process that Tahitian Gold uses to grind vanilla beans at their peak of flavor. Unlocking the cell walls of properly cured vanilla beans in ground form leads to the best and most thorough transfer of vanilla’s true flavor.

Using ground vanilla is much like adding any other ground spice to a product. And as a bonus, it can hold its own under the high heat of the oven, and if used a bit generously, makes a strong visual impact that announces its presence before one even tastes the resulting dessert. Pound for pound, ground vanilla beans outshine whole beans in flavor nuances and intensity. And they eliminate the laborious process of scraping beans of indeterminate quality.

Ask Helena Boyd, Production Supervisor at award-winning Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream in San Francisco, about her commitment to ground vanilla, she says: “We add it directly to the liquid bases of our ice creams, featuring it in several different flavors, from Secret Breakfast to Tahitian Vanilla to Chocolate XXXL and Black Sesame. She adds, “When making ice cream with just a few key ingredients, every ingredient must shine. In our Secret Breakfast flavor, ground vanilla from Papua New Guinea brings the perfect level of sweetness, marrying beautifully with the bourbon and buttermilk, underpinning its richness.” At a dosage of nine g per four-gallon batch, the ground vanilla is an economical addition, yielding just enough floral personality without overwhelming the flavors of the other ingredients.

Another convert, Aimeric Davy, owner of Fleur de Cocoa in Los Gatos, California, recalls his vanilla-scented childhood: “I use as much as I can in my millefeuilles, tarte Normande and canelés, and have fond memories of simple Sunday breakfasts of crêpes subtly flavored with vanilla and rum.”  He continues: “I love the true vanilla flavor that the ground beans yield, using it in small economical doses. Infusing the ground vanilla in liquid bases overnight pays high dividends in the finished product.”

Heading the pastry prog at cafés in Paris, Faycal Houadek likes to feature ground vanilla made from Madagascar beans. “Working the magnificent and highly perfumed ground vanilla into my seasonal fruit tarts elevates their flavor to another level. The ground vanilla marries particularly well with autumn fruits. At several Parisian cafes, Houadek fashions classic desserts, including a vanilla-perfumed custard filling for a millefeuille. He says, “In a place that takes its pastry seriously, using this form of vanilla adds magical, economical layers of flavor.”

French-born pastry chef, educator, sugar artist and chocolatier Stéphane Tréand, owner of Francium Chocolate in Tustin, California, loves the complex aroma of ground vanilla. “It’s so easy to dose with predictable results. I find that for each vanilla bean, I use one and a half to two or three g of ground vanilla bean, and particularly like how it elevates nougatine and marshmallows. It’s perfect when you don’t want to add moisture to a preparation.” He cautions, “Due to its potency, the ground vanilla should be used judiciously. Too much overtakes the flavor of everything else in a dessert or bonbon.” At Francium, Tréand has introduced a line of bite-sized bouchées featuring nougatine, ganache, praline and marshmallow, enrobed in dark chocolate. He says, “Lollipops and clusters of caramelized almonds in chocolate each gain from the subtle but alluring presence of vanilla. I also love it in a tea-flavored ganache, and it elevates a simple sablé dough to gourmet status.” Stephane Tréand’s pronouncements say it all.

For information on Tahitian Gold vanilla products, visit https://tahitiangoldco.com

Exotic Cake by Faycal Houadek, Pastry Chef, La Mere Catherine, Le Cadet de Gascogne and Café Louise, Paris, France

Layers of genoise alternate with a mascarpone-enriched Diplomat Cream. At the heart of this multilayered dessert is a taste of the tropics with clouds of whipped cream atop.

Yield: 16 servings

Diplomat Pastry Cream

  • 300 g granulated sugar
  • 200 g cornstarch
  • 480 g egg yolks
  • 1 lt cream
  • 2 lt milk
  • 2 g Tahitian Gold Madagascar Ground Vanilla Beans
  • 15 sheets gelatin, soaked in ice water
  • 1 kg mascarpone

1. Mix the sugar and cornstarch to blend. Add the egg yolks and beat until lightened in color.

2. Bring the cream and milk just to the boil. Add the hot liquid to the sugar, cornstarch, and egg yolk mixture, whisking until well blended. Blend in the ground vanilla. Return the mixture to a clean heavy-bottomed saucepan and whisk until thickened and smooth.

3. Remove the gelatin from the ice water, squeezing out the excess liquid, and then add to the cooked pastry cream. Whisk to dissolve thoroughly into the mixture. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly over the pastry cream and then refrigerate until cold.

4. Once cold, beat in the mascarpone. Return the finished mixture to the refrigerator, covered, until ready to assemble the dessert.


  • 200 g whole eggs
  • 125 g granulated sugar
  • 125 g cake flour
  • 11 g baking powder

1. Whip the eggs and sugar until pale.

2. Sift the flour with the baking powder. Gently fold into the beaten egg mixture until just incorporated – do not overwork the mixture. Pour onto a sheet pan lined with parchment and bake at 338°F (170°C) for about 20 minutes. Cut into 16 circles that are 4ʺ (10 cm) in diameter and 1.4ʺ (3 cm) thick.

Mango-Passionfruit Insert:

  • 10 fresh mangoes, peeled, pitted and puréed
  • 10 fresh passionfruit, scraped and sieved to yield purée
  • 1 lt coconut milk
  • 50 g granulated sugar (optional), depending on sweetness of the fruit
  • 50 g agar agar
  • 1 g Tahitian Gold Madagascar Ground Vanilla Beans

1. Bring fruit purée and coconut milk to boil. Add agar agar and boil, whisking to dissolve completely.

2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the ground vanilla. Mix to disperse well. Place an equal amount of the mixture in each of sixteen 1.5ʺ(4 cm) round silicone molds and freeze until firm.

Chantilly Cream

  • 1 lt heavy cream (35% fat content)
  • 150 g confectioners’ sugar
  • 500 g mascarpone
  • 1 g Tahitian Gold Madagascar Ground Vanilla Beans
  • 5 g yellow food coloring powder

1. Whip the cream and confectioners’ sugar to thicken lightly. Add the mascarpone and ground vanilla and then divide the mixture into two equal parts. To one part, add the yellow food coloring powder, leaving the other part as is.


1. Place the sixteen 4ʺ (10 cm) metal ring molds onto a sheet pan. Line each ring with food grade acetate strips.

2. Place a circle of genoise in the bottom of each mold. Pipe in a layer of Diplomat Cream and then, using a small offset spatula, spread the cream to the edges of the ring. Then place another circle of genoise on top of this Diplomat Cream layer. Then pipe more Diplomat Cream over the genoise, spreading this layer out to the edge of the ring. Center the frozen Mango-Passionfruit Insert in the cream, pressing down lightly so that the fruit insert is well seated. Pipe the remaining Diplomat Cream over each insert. Then place the yellow and plain Chantilly Cream into separate pastry bags. Pipe out the mixtures as you wish to create a pleasing design.

Gourmet Praline Bar by Stephane Treand, M.O.F., Co-owner, Francium, Tustin, CA

Yield: 40 bars

This multilayered confection is a symphony of textures and flavors with a base of buttery sablé cookie. Caramelized nuts and milk chocolate combine for a center layer, and marshmallow tops things off. The bars are then enrobed in dark chocolate.

Sablé Viennois

  • 420 g cold unsalted butter
  • 68 g egg whites
  • 165 g confectioners’ sugar
  • 500 g high-gluten flour
  • 2 g sea salt
  • 2 g Tahitian Gold Whole Vanilla Bean Paste Madagascar, Bourbon Premium   

1. Put all ingredients in a food processor and mix for about 30 seconds. Rest for a few hours in the refrigerator.

2. Roll out the dough to a thickness of 4 mm. Bake at 340º F (171°C) for about 15 minutes. Cool and place in a half sheet pan-sized metal frame as the base for the multi-layered bar.

Hazelnut-Almond Praliné

  • 500 g granulated sugar
  • 130 g water
  • 100 g glucose
  • 375 g almonds, whole
  • 375 g hazelnuts, whole
  • 2 g Tahitian Gold Madagascar Ground Vanilla Beans
  • 15 g ground coffee
  • 400 g milk chocolate, melted
  • 120 g cocoa butter
  • 200 g hazelnut paste
  • 15 g ground coffee                                               

1. Cook sugar, water, and glucose in a copper pot to 246ºF (119°C). Add the almonds and hazelnuts and keep stirring on the stove until caramelized. Immediately pour the mixture out on a Silpat to cool down.

2. Break into pieces and then process to a paste in the food processor. Add the ground vanilla and ground coffee. Continue processing until a soft paste texture is achieved.

3. In a bowl, mix the melted milk chocolate, cocoa butter and hazelnut paste and warm to 113º F (45°C). Add to the praline mixture, combine well and then temper to 75º F (24°C). Pour the tempered mixture over the baked Sablé Viennois and let set for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Vanilla Marshmallow

  • 440 g granulated sugar
  • 145 g water
  • 135 g glucose
  • 190 g invert sugar
  • 250 g gelatin mixture (36 g gelatin powder dissolved in 214 g water)
  • 6 g Tahitian Gold Madagascar Ground Vanilla Beans

1. Cook the sugar, water, and glucose to 230º F (110°C).

2. Place the invert sugar, gelatin mixture and the ground vanilla into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Pour the hot syrup into the bowl and whip for about 10 minutes. Then pour the mixture over the praline layer in the frame. Let set overnight and cut into 4ʺ x 1 1/4ʺ (10.16 cm x 3.17 cm) bars.

3. If you desire, enrobe the bars with tempered dark chocolate and put a chocolate decoration on top of each bar.

Secret Breakfast Ice Cream by Helena Boyd, Production Manager, Humphry Slocombe, San Francisco, CA

Breakfast for dessert, anyone? This ice cream, named with a bit of tongue in cheek, fills the bill. Somehow the cereal component here may ease the guilt.

Yield: 1 quart

Corn Flake Cookies*

  • 250 g all-purpose flour
  • 6 g baking soda
  • 3 g Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
  • 227 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 200 g granulated sugar
  • 220 g brown sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 56 g Corn Flakes

*Note: You will only be using 2 ounces of the baked cookies. The remainder of the dough may be scooped and frozen for future use.

1. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.

2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer or beating by hand with a wooden spoon, cream the butter with both sugars until smooth and well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Add the flour mixture a little at a time, beating just until incorporated. Fold in the Corn Flakes. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours and up to 2 weeks. 

3. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Scoop golf ball-size portions of the dough onto ungreased baking sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Bake until deep brown, about 30 minutes for crisp cookies. Transfer to wire racks to cool. If they are still soft when cooled, flip them over and bake for 5 minutes more. (For softer cookies, bake for 12 to 15 minutes.)

4. When the cookies are cooled and crisp, roughly chop and set aside. Store whole cookies in airtight containers at room temperature and chop as needed for future batches. They are best enjoyed on the same day, but good for at least 3 days before they start getting stale. 

Ice Cream Base

  • 480 g heavy cream
  • 240 g buttermilk
  • 6 g Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
  • 3 egg yolks from medium-size eggs
  • 200 g granulated sugar
  • 120 g bourbon
  • 2 g Tahitian Gold Papua New Guinea Ground Vanilla Beans

1. Fill a large bowl or pan with ice and water. Place a large, clean bowl in the ice bath and fit the bowl with a fine-mesh strainer.

2. In a large, heavy-bottomed, nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, buttermilk and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until hot, but not boiling.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until well blended.

4. Remove the cream mixture from the heat. Slowly pour about half of the hot cream mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Transfer the yolk mixture back to the saucepan with the remaining cream mixture and return it to medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula and being sure to scrape the bottom of the saucepan so it doesn’t scorch, until the liquid begins to steam, and you can feel the spatula scrape against the bottom of the pan, 2 to 3 minutes. (The mixture should reach 180°F/82°C.) Remove the custard from the heat and immediately pour it through the strainer into the clean bowl you set up in the ice bath. Stir in the bourbon and ground vanilla. Let cool, stirring occasionally.

5. When the custard has totally cooled, cover the bowl tightly and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or, preferably, overnight.

6. When you are ready to freeze the custard, transfer it to an ice cream maker and spin according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Right after spinning, fold in 57 g of chopped cookies. Transfer to an airtight container, cover, and freeze for up to one week.

(This article appeared in the Fall 2023 issue of Pastry Arts Magazine)

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