Making Vanilla Extract

Cutting Vanilla Bean
Splitting a Vanilla Tahitensis bean.

Most people don't know this but at Spro, we are committed to using great ingredients when making even the components of the products we offer you. One of the most important ingredients we use in the bakery is Vanilla Extract. 

Almost a year ago, we started a project making our own Vanilla Extract. This was in response to the continued increase in the cost of Vanilla. In 2017, a couple of serious cyclones hit Madagascar and nearly wiped out their production that year. In case you didn't know, Madagascar produces about 80% of the world's vanilla supply. The damage from cyclones started driving up the price which, in turn, increased the rate in which crops were either stolen or robbed, and the price just kept escalating. Where before Vanilla could be purchased at the farm for $10/kilo, it skyrocketed to nearly $500/kilo.

Where once upon a time, we would buy vanilla by the pound and use it freely, suddenly, we needed to be more conscious of our usage. One thing we didn't want to do with the increasing cost was to switch to an artificial vanilla flavoring. We wanted to maintain our usage of pure vanilla extract. 

It was last summer when old friend and pastry chef/chocolatier extraordinaire Kriss Harvey introduced me to SloFoodGroup in Honolulu, Hawaii, an importer of fine vanilla products and other exotic and precious food ingredients. For our Vanilla Extract, we source a blend of Vanilla Planifolia and Vanilla Tahitensis that are well suited to making Vanilla Extract because of the greater concentration of vanillin.

And the quality is readily apparent when you open the packaging. The beans themselves are moist and look slick. The aroma is strong and intoxicating. We take these beans, cut off the ends and then slice them open lengthwise to expose the seeds.

Those seeds are then left to infuse with Wheatley Vodka, produced in Frankfort, Kentucky by the Buffalo Trace Distillery by Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley. The vodka is distilled ten times, triple-filtered and bottled at 82-proof. It's a crisp and clean vodka that doesn't color the pure flavor of the vanilla beans.

From there, we keep the vodka and vanilla together in a cool, dark place for a minimum two months infusion time before checking to see if it's ready for use. Then, once ready, our bakery uses that Vanilla Extract to make the muffins, cakes, bread pudding and other baked goods that you enjoy and love.

We know that most places wouldn't go to this level of ingredient crafting but it is our firm belief that this is what makes the difference.

Come visit us again when you have some time!

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