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I bought a bottle of vanilla extract today, and only when I reached home I realised that it contains 35% alcohol!
: I'm a complete beginner at baking and this is the first bottle of vanilla extract I bought, I had no idea it contained that much alcohol. Is this normal or did I buy the wrong type? Is it okay to use this to make cookies for my dd? And is it okay to use this to bake stuff for a friend with a weak liver (she told me something about having to stay away from alcohol of all sorts)? Please help!
 

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Most vanilla extracts are made by soaking vanilla beans in bourbon or some other alcohol. So it's normal, but you can buy vanilla flavoring made with natural flavors without alcohol in it. You use them the same way. For your own use and giving to dd, I'd wouldn't worry about it since you usually use only about a tsp per batch of cookies, but if your friend is really sensitive to alcohol, you may want to get the stuff without alcohol in it.
 

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The alcohol in the extract burns off when subject to high heat like baking or other forms of cooking, so really I can't imagine any way that it would have an effect on your friends health. However, you might want to ask/tell her just in the interest of full disclosure.
 

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The alcohol content is a non-issue for the reasons that pp's posted above, but if you're really, REALLY worried about it, just go get some vanilla beans and use them instead of extract. Split the beans lengthwise with a paring knife and scrape out the gummy stuff inside, and fold that into your dough or whatever. It takes a few beans, but the flavor is much better.
 

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I wouldn't use a vanilla extract made from "natural flavors". That is the food industry term for something made from a certain set of elements on the periodic table that happen to taste like something natural.
 

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There are generally 3 types of "vanilla" available as an extract. You usually can't find more than 2 at any given store though. Real vanilla extract is usually in an alcohol base which evaporates with heat, but sometimes you can find it in a sugar syrup base. It all depends on choosing the lesser of two "evils", I suppose. I prefer the alcohol based ones because I think they have a cleaner flavor in baked goods, and they're usually cheaper (and last longer on the shelf).

The cheapest of all is "imitation vanilla", which is usually in an alcohol base, and is a product I would recommend avoiding. Often made in Mexico, it has been linked with all sorts of health issues.

In specialty stores you can sometimes find vanilla paste which is a vanilla bean/sugar paste. It works, if you don't mind the added sugar.

But, the best taste of all will come from a fresh bean (it should be soft, not crunchy) scraped into your recipe (as a pp indicated), I've never needed to use more than one (and sometimes only 1/2).
 

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I prefer the alcohol base because it evaporates out when cooking. I don't use sugar or corn syrup or anything like that. If I had to get vanilla extract with one of those in it, I would have to leave it out of the recipe.

I also use beans when it works for the recipe. For example, my custard recipe says to scald the milk. I can slit a bean and put it in during that process. If there is nothing for the bean to soak in to release its flavor, I usually use vanilla extract in alcohol.
 
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