A lot less often than you’d think. Which is why I only go out in search of one when I need it. Lots of pastry preparations call for vanilla, few of which would benefit in any significant way from real vanilla bean. Cookies, bars, cake batters and tea breads fall into this category. Creamy things like custards, mousses and puddings, on the other hand, improve astronomically with the addition of vanilla bean, mostly because they tend to be quite fatty (if they’re done well) and fat, as we know from this week’s posts, are great at conveying subtle flavors to the senses.