What is the difference between single fold and double fold vanilla extract? If I use double fold, will my DIY extract be ready faster? Is the taste difference really that substantial?
To regulate "Pure" vanilla extract claims, the FDA issued guidance on how pure vanilla extract should be made. If the extract isn't made according to these specifications, it is not pure and must be labeled "Artificial" or "Imitation". Once you step into the world of "Artificial" and "Imitation", the varieties of extract increase substantially and the number of additives within the extracts become difficult to manage. That's why making vanilla extract (or any kind of flavor extract) at home is the best way to ensure that your extract is pure and your ingredients are clean and healthy.
Back to the FDAs guidelines for "Pure" vanilla extract. The formulation is simple: You need 13.35oz of vanilla beans for every 1 gallon of 35% alcohol. That is single fold. A double-fold vanilla extract simply doubles the FDA's required minimum. (26.7oz of vanilla beans for every 1 gallon of 35% alcohol)
Does double fold mean that the extracts will be ready in half the time? It could, but it's complicated and here is why. If you use twice the required amount of beans, and then you extract them for half the time, you are effectively only getting a single fold extract. You will need to wait an entire year for the double fold benefit of complete extraction from all of your beans. If you are simply looking for ways to speed up extraction, perhaps exploring the Sous Vide Method would serve to provide you what you want without the added bean costs.
How does double fold taste? It's twice as sweet. Twice the vanilla beans, twice the vanillin, the same volume of alcohol as single fold and extracted for the same amount of time as single fold. It's a vanilla lover's heaven. It's extremely concentrated vanilla taste. Most importantly, it allows you to add twice the amount of sweetness to any recipe without increasing the moisture content. In other words, if you want to double the amount of vanilla using single fold extract, you would double the number of teaspoons used. With double fold, you can double the sweetness without doubling the teaspoons of liquid.
If I make double fold extract, can I cut the amount of extract called for in recipes by half? Yes you can, but most don't. The point of a double fold extract is to provide added vanilla sweetness to all of your cooking applications. If you plan to cut your double fold extract in half in all of your recipes, then stick with single fold.
The following chart will summarize how many beans you need to make single fold extract. If you want the added sweetness of double-fold extract, simply double the amount of beans listed in this chart.
Weighing the beans on a kitchen scale is always the best way to make sure you get the bean-to-spirit ratio accurately. However, if you like to keep your beans whole and don’t want to cut them, it means that you will usually have either too few or too many ounces of beans in your spirit. At home, that is absolutely fine.
On average, there are 6-8 vanilla beans in an ounce. (While this is “average”, larger vanilla beans may be just 1-3 beans/oz and smaller beans could be 15+ beans/oz.) No two beans are the same so if you are going by bean count only, you will almost assuredly have either too many or too few beans. Weight is the best way to ensure a positive outcome.
The nice thing about making your own vanilla extract is that you can add more or less beans as you'd like. You can try different beans with different flavors. You can blend beans. You can try different spirits. Most importantly: Have fun!
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