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The backbone flavour to many bakes and puddings, you can buy it in many forms. Here is a quick guide:

POD: these have the purest flavour. The best quality pods are plump, pliable and shiny. Store them in an airtight container so they don’t dry out. If you split them, the seeds will spill out and add tiny black specks to your dish.

PASTE: very concentrated and potent, with a large quantities of seeds, so use it sparingly. It’s handy to have in the cupboard and is easier to use than a pod.

EXTRACT: A powerful flavour “extracted” from pods. Being liquid, it’s easy to add to cakes and other bakes. For authenticity, check that the label says ‘pure vanilla extract’.

SUGAR VANILLA: vanilla scented sugar is available in small jars for adding to baking or desserts. You can make your own – it’s cheaper, and keeps for ages. Just tuck a vanilla pod into a big jar of castor sugar- after a few days it will have soaked up the perfumed scent.

ESSENCE: A cheaper flavouring that may not have actually come from pods.
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