I had long conversations with WB's head chef. She wanted to adopt my daughter's Boston Terrier.
I told her about my subbing cognac for the brandy and she informed me that WB uses cognac when he make the cake for personal use. But he didn't want his book to look too pretentious so he suggested brandy.
I use 2 Tbsp of Hennessy cognac, use a combo of vbp and homemade, and make my own half and half from heavy cream and whole milk.
Prima, yes, the vanilla is far superior. It's a combination of tasting different beans, the Grey Goose, or any top shelf vodka, and the correct ratios. I cannot begin to describe the taste that is like nothing you have ever tasted.
These fine vanillas would probably transform a box mix.
I still use a combination of NM VBP and my own for a few reasons. First, the vbp, with little alcohol, does not evaporate in a baked good like extract. Second, vbp has the consistency of syrup, allowing much more to be added than extract, which is watery. It doesn't make European buttercreams watery and it doesn't change the consistency of a batter. Last, vbp is subtle and extract is strong. I personally love the combination.
Another note, NM is far superior in taste to Silver Cloud, which, to me, has some bitter tones.
I hav a wholesaler who wants to distribute mine, it's that good. Pm me for the information on the ratios and the beans I found. I even have an organic one in the works.
Joanne Chang is a Harvard chemist and Gesine Bullock-Prado, sister to Sandra, is an attorney. You would enjoy reading their books. I read cookbooks like novels and study the method of these fabulous bakers. I think the brains of the baking community are going to make great contributions to this field.