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Vanilla and the world’s tastiest pastries: A grand love affair

From profiteroles to maritozzi, vanilla plays an important role in creating some of the world’s most delicious pastries.

There’s a reason millions of people all over the world can’t start their day without their favorite morning pastry. There’s something about delicious dough filled with sweet filling that just sends the taste buds on an exciting adventure.

There are literally thousands of pastries out there, with infinite variations, and yet, most of them come down to a few basic ingredients: eggs, flour, butter, sugar, sometimes yeast, sometimes milk. And more often than not – vanilla.

It’s all about the filling

In order to discuss vanilla’s connection to some of the world’s famous sweet dough delicacies, the most obvious place to start is pastry filling – also known as crème pâtissier.

Crème pâtissier, which was probably invented in the 18th century, was first cited in a French cookbook written by chef François Massialot. This creamy filling, which is made from eggs, milk and starch, is thicker than other cream custards, which makes it ideal for filling pastries. Crème pâtissier works with just about any pastry that requires filling – and is open to changes in sugar levels and spice additions.

Most crème pâtissier recipes include vanilla. Just a gentle touch of natural vanilla does is all it takes. The list of French pastries that have crème pâtissier can make your head spin: eclairs, profiteroles, religieuses, and more.

Tha magic of the vanilla seeds. Pic by: Snir Levy

Since we’re on the topic of French pastries, it is worth noting that not all of them have a creamy filling – but even those who don’t may have vanilla. Our favorite example is the canelé, a custardy pastry that has a slightly burnet exterior and a fluffy interior. One can taste hints of vanilla in every bite of this Bordeaux-based delicacy.

Pan Dulce and Mexican vanilla

We can’t mention pastries with vanilla without talking about Mexico, simply because Mexico is where vanilla originated. Millions of people from Mexico – and all of Latin America, for that matter – absolutely love pastries known as Pan Dulce, which translates into “Sweet Bread”. Pan Dulce is a pastry category that includes many different pastries, who all resemble small round breads and are incredibly delicious.

With filling or without, many Pan Dulce recipes include natural vanilla for extra flavor and fragrance. Perhaps the most famous Pan Dulce is the concha, a shell-shaped pastry that comes with different toppings. Other well-known Pan Dulce favorites include cuernos, besos and sweet empanadas.
Pastries that were born for Vanilla

Pan Dulce.

If we had to think of pastries that are a perfect match for vanilla, our list would be very long. Vanilla flavor simply enhances any custard, cream or dough. The fact that it is considered the world’s most beloved flavor doesn’t hurt either.

We won’t be writing a list, but to finish things off, we will be mentioning two countries and their delicious pastries: Italy and Portugal. Italy, which rivals France in terms of pastry making and the culinary arts in general, is home to some of the greatest pastries on earth. These include the cannoli with its fried dough exterior and creamy filling, the Rome-based maritozzo with its brioche bun and loads of sweet cream, and the lesser-known but just-as-delicious sfogliatelle, which originated in the Campania region. Ask any Italian pastry chef, and he or she will tell you: vanilla flavor is essential to the filling that is inside these pastries. It’s more than just flavor. It’s tradition.

Moving to Portugal, we can’t wait to take a bite out of the famous pastel de nata. Made from egg yolks and a pinch of vanilla, this small tart pastry is one of Portugal’s national treasures. In fact, it is so iconic that it was named as one of the country’s seven wonders of gastronomy. With a yellowish custard that resembles a thick crème brûlée, pastel de nata is widespread in many countries around the world – and still worth traveling to Portugal for.

Pastries and natural vanilla: a love story for the ages

The pastry-vanilla connection is inseparable, and an abundant supply of vanilla beans in the kitchen is absolute prerequisite to baking. Yet if you go online to look up pastry recipes or baking videos, you’ll find that many use vanilla extract to achieve a vanilla flavor. The reason for this, as we all know, is the rising price and scarcity of high-quality natural vanilla.

St. Honoré cake. Pic by: Snir Levy.

At Vanilla Vida, our goal is to make natural vanilla available for the world’s pastry chefs, restaurants, cafés, and just about anyone who wants to bake something delicious at home. Natural vanilla is disappearing from the shelves due to climate change and other reasons, but our data-driven technology and scientific agricultural practices are here to bring it back. We believe everybody deserves natural, high-quality natural vanilla inside their favorite pastry – and we’re dedicated to making this a reality.