I was wondering what alcohol content I should shoot for when selecting commercially prepared vanilla? I usually use Wilton, but saw a large bottle in Sam's that was 33% alcohol. That seemed like a lot. My Wal-Mart just took out all of the McCormick extracts and are using all Great Value. I wonder if that is just as good. The GV clear vanilla is 22% alcohol. I wasn't sure if alcohol contents varied between clear and dark vanilla either. Any thoughts?
Sorry, but I can't help you on the clear vanilla extract part of the question. I do not use anything imitation in my baking or cooking.
I found that unless the vanilla extract is made by a company that specializes in spices/flavorings, it usually leaves much to chance. For instance, a couple of years ago, I bought a bottle of vanilla extract at one of those club stores. When I got it home and looked at it under the light over the stove, I was extremely disappointed with it, as it was actually so lacking in vanilla that you could see through the bottle - it was almost all water and alcohol. I bought a small bottle of Watkins' double-strength and added that to it, to make it more useable. I make my own vanilla extract now, using the Barefoot Contessa's recipe.
As far as alcohol content, what you have there is a bit lower than the norm. Most brands of vanilla extract I have read the labels of have an alcohol content of 35% or better. In fact, lemon extract can go as high as 80% alcohol, which makes it desireable for painting on cakes.
I make my own vanilla extract now, using the Barefoot Contessa's recipe.
You got me curious, Theresa. I searched for that recipe and found it here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/vanilla-extract-recipe/index.html. Is this the same one you use? And you use vodka, not bourbon? I'd heard of people using both and wondered which was best. Also, I've never bought a bottle of vodka in my life. What kind should I get? I'm so excited to make this. I think it will be hard waiting the month it has to sit.
Oh, and if you don't use clear vanilla, how do you get your icing to be white? I'd love to know.
I can't get the link you posted to work, probably because the system has abbreviated it. That sometimes happens to me.
I do use the Ina Garten recipe that has 12 vanilla beans and 1 bottle of vodka.
My icing is never pure white, but very close. I make a pasteurized SMBC, which is slightly off-white, because of the butter content.
Yep - that's the recipe I found. That makes sense about the SMBC, too. I've also noticed that there are so many shades of "white" on cakes...and all great! Thanks for the help, Theresa!