Special vanilla extract from Williams-Sonoma is ideal for baking

As rarefied as chocolate can be, vanilla is right there with it. It’s been called “the world’s most popular flavor and scent.”

What we know as “vanilla extract” is the fragrant liquid laboriously derived from the seed pods (called “beans”) of the vanilla orchid. Overly sweet vanilla flavorings abound, but the real extract has a unique aroma and distinct taste — rich, deep, comforting. It’s the world’s most expensive spice, after saffron.

We found a blend of two types of vanilla in a bottle of Nielsen-Massey’s Madagascar and Tahitian extract, made for Williams-Sonoma. While vanilla extract is commonly used in baking, in recent years it’s become a favorite ingredient in craft cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks.

Also, it’s a fine add-in to waffle, pancake and french toast batters, in fish and chicken dishes, and in salads. And — get this — as a drizzle over vanilla ice cream.

$27 for 8 ounces.