Archive for February, 2010

Vanilla extracts: Alcohol vs Alcohol-free

There seems to be an ongoing fixation on alcohol-free vanilla extract in the raw food world. To one aspect of it, I can understand the approach to a sense of ‘purism’ of it, though, I find it somewhat over-emphasised and exaggerated, causing people to fanatically searching out of their way for it with very little understanding. So let me share with you what I have learnt from Rully, a lovely vanilla-expert-lady from the company I work for, whom I have been endlessly consulting (or annoying her) with, in choosing superior vanilla bean types for Q’s extracts and whole beans.

The development of alcohol-free vanilla extracts is really for those who cannot or do not wish to tolerate alcohol into their diets (i.e. halal labeling purposes). Alcoholic vanilla extracts do not mean they are inferior to alcohol-free ones; on the contrary, they are far more superior in terms of the extraction process as well as being the best carrier substance for its aroma.

Both versions undergo the same initial process of extraction using alcohol; water based solution in the extraction process is sometimes used for certain ingredients, however, using water solution on vanilla to extract it is almost as good as wasting it (kind of like..  having purchased a new clothing item and get it ruined the first time you wear it out. It’s heartbreaking). Where the processes of the two kinds differ, is in the finishing step. To make the extract alcohol free, a solution of propelyne glycol (or sometimes glycerol) is added. Then, there you have it.

The drawback in alcohol-free vanilla extract is the loss of its aroma. Try smelling the two together if you ever get the chance to, and you’ll notice the big difference.

So unless you really must (or wish), there is no real value in using an alcohol-free extract.

And if you really think about the servings of it..

Standard alcohol content in vanilla extracts: 35%

1 teaspoon = 5 ml = (*0.35) = 1.75ml of alcohol

1 tablespoon = 15ml = (*0.35) = 5.25ml of alcohol

Will you really be affected?


Q got its raw honey. yeah.

Earlier this week I started asking maybe too many questions to my boss about the raw materials our company gets. Luckily (I think) she finds herself nice enough and knowledgeable enough to share what she knows and put me through names who are heads of the departments. I added a list of people on the company internal chat program and presented them a hungry brain.

The next day, the vanilla expert woman whom I had been speaking on chat with, came to the office with 2 sample bags of whole vanilla beans (oh my God), fermented cacao beans, and 2 mini amber bottles of raw honey. I spent a great deal of time inhaling the bag of vanilla beans.

The foreseen release of this line of raw food ingredients was planned for the coming year, but it looks like everything is falling into place much sooner than anticipated. I spent half a day designing the 5 product labels I’m quite happy with, and calling the brand.. *drumroll*..


The photograph of chinese shot glasses was of 4 raw honey contenders from which I were to make a selection that will be the filler of Q’s raw honey. I had them chilled before tasting and testing its consistency, partly because they’re tastier cold (to me); another reason being is because sweetness dissipates on the palate the colder the food is, and my feeling tells me they are going to be used quite plentiful in chilled desserts.

I did pick a winner. It’s not one I would necessarily call a favourite, but it was the most sweet and neutral tasting. As a sweetening ingredient, I find the neutral qualities more appealing to work with and I believe they would yield more successful dishes. The other honeys each had its own distinct taste that originate from the single type of flora the bees had been collecting their nectar from, which still tasted pretty darn interestingly good.

Which label comic is your favourite?

the book tweets

the book decided to board on the tweet train and record the mess in progress.

Tis in season: Rambutan

this is how i roll my lunch in the office. bought the bunch for Rp. 25,000 (US$2.5), and that is why i love Asia.