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— Pat Perusse, MD
Pleasant Hill Grain Baking Glossary
Vanilla Extract – Vanilla extract is a solution primarily containing vanillin, but also hundreds of other compounds. Vanilla extract is derived from the Vanilla species of orchid flowers. Vanilla pods from the orchid flower are softened in liquid and then percolated in a solution of ethyl alcohol and water to produce vanilla extract. Most vanilla extracts today are produced in Mexico, Tahiti and Indonesia. Vanilla extract is used to flavor baked goods and to add a pleasant scent to perfumes. It is also used in aromatherapy. Coumarin, a compound derived from the tonka bean, is sometimes mixed with vanilla extract to lower production costs. Coumarin smells and tastes much like vanilla, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned its use because it causes liver damage. Imitation vanilla extract contains only vanillin, usually of synthetic origin. (See our coumarin-free Mexican vanilla extract.)
Vital Wheat Gluten – A substance with flour like consistency made from hydrated wheat flour and then processed to extract the gluten apart from the wheat starch. The gluten is then dried, and ground back into powder. Vital wheat gluten, when added to bread dough, will improve the gluten development, which makes the dough more elastic. Vital wheat gluten is especially helpful when baking bread with flours of low protein content, such as rye flour. (See our vital wheat gluten.)
Vitamins – Molecules essential in small quantities for life, which cannot be synthesized in adequate quantities by the body. Vitamins must be consumed through diet from nutrient-dense food or by synthetic supplements. There are currently 13 known vitamins needed by the human body, four of which are fat-soluble (only usable within the presence of fat), and nine of which are water soluble (only usable within the presence of water).