Many ingredients are used around the world for cooking of all kinds, and some cuisine types such as Indian, Chinese, French, Latin American, and others are some of the most popular. In the United States, at least, many Americans regularly shop for good ingredients for home cooking, anything from soups and casseroles to grilling meat or tossed salads. This includes ethnic foods as well, with Mexican, Chinese, Indian, Italian, and Greek/Mediterranean being particularly popular. Plenty of ingredients for these goods can be found, but some home chefs and professional cooks are looking for some truly high end ingredients. Some Americans base their livelihood on their cooking, such as restaurant or hotel chefs, bakers, caterers, and more, and these professionals always need the finest ingredients and cookware to get the job done. Acquiring stoves and ovens, pots and pans, graters, meat pounders, and more is the topic of hardware, and getting a culinary education is another entirely. A third major sect is, of course, the ingredients themselves. And some of these ingredients, such as vanilla beans, dried morel mushrooms, and edible gold leaf sheets.
Higher-end cooking may be done for four and five star hotels and resorts, cooking for celebrities, major brand name bakeries, and more. No ordinary ingredients at the local grocery store will do; rather, these chefs are professionals, and through their employers, they may find wholesale ingredients to suit their needs and make the finest dishes possible.
Vanilla is a fine place to start. Vanilla is popular for its mild but sweet and creamy flavor, and it’s often a key ingredient in baking pastries such as cakes, doughnuts, and more. Bakers often have the greatest need for vanilla, and they may make good use of vanilla extract while baking a cake. A bakery preparing to make a wedding cake, for example, will certainly have vanilla on the recipe. Some ordinary Americans often use “vanilla” as a term for something mundane and unremarkable, often as a contrast to something more dazzling and flashy. This is not entirely wrong, but then again, it’s likely that most people would dearly miss vanilla if it were to suddenly disappear for some reason. After all, many baked goods get their sweetness and flavor from vanilla extract as an ingredient, and vanilla ranks as the most popular ice cream flavor. Far from being “boring and bland,” vanilla is a sort of keystone ingredient that makes delicious baking possible, and it can allow a cake or other treat to come together.
What about the science of vanilla? This is the only edible member of the orchid family, out of nearly 25,000 orchid varieties and some 10,000 hybrids as well. This plant comes in a few varieties, with one of them being grown on Madagascar. This plant grows with distinct long, brown, thin beans that can be harvested when ripe. The bean is dry and hard and may seem unappealing, but in fact the extract could be considered one of the world’s favorite ingredients. What is more, pure vanilla extract contains 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans per gallon during the extraction process, as per the FDA’s guidelines. American shoppers and chefs alike may purchase these dry beans in glass jars, and make use of their extract during cooking. Such beans may last a long time while in storage.
Another classy ingredient is edible gold leaf, often used to decorate cakes similar pastries. Gold leaf may be a popular accent for a wedding cake or an anniversary cake, and is mainly used as visual flair but is perfectly edible, too. Edible gold leaf is in fact made of real gold, but it’s very thin and therefore both easy and safe to eat. Gold will not dissolve in the mouth, meaning that it won’t make any unpleasant metallic taste in the mouth when eaten. It will pass safely through the body, too. Gold leaf is expensive by weight and material, like any gold, but it’s so thin that most Americans can afford at least a little bit of it. Gold leaf is thinner than paper, making it a fine choice for inexpensively decorating a fancy cake. It’s a bit crunchy and flavorless, but can make for great flair.