Grand Cru Bora-Bora Tahitian Vanilla by Alain Abel

November 3rd, 2010 | Posted by greg in Daily life...

What more striking words could be possibly packed in one sentence to make you smell that beautiful vanilla through your screen?

Mr. Alain Abel, artisan vanilla grower from Tahiti, came to visit us at the hotel and left us some of his Grand Cru Vanilla. I never quite looked at Vanilla from that angle, but the way Abel was describing it was a bit like wine making. Every word and expression he used showed he was a passionate artisan, looking after his product and being himself involved in the everyday delicate handling of the production at the estate, taking care of every little details affecting the quality of the end product.

When we compared both vanilla, from Tahiti and Madagascar, the superior quality of the Bora-Bora crop was obvious. Fat, soft, full of seeds and with a very soft, caramel-like vanilla flavor, very round finish. Although the Madagascar was longer; longer doesn’t mean better, right? ;)

We normally use Madagascar Vanilla in everyday baking, so I had to put the native Tahitian crop to the test in what I thought was a pretty good ground for expressing its flavors,  a flan pâtissier. And just to make it a bit more interesting, I prepared a separate base of sable Breton and a semi-pris of apricot with maple syrup.

The recipes…

The Breton shortbread

120 gm White Sugar

135 gm Butter

3 gm Sea Salt

55 gm Egg Yolks

180 gm Cake Flour

4 gm Baking Powder


Mix the butter, sugar and salt as a smooth paste. Add the yolks and mix well. Finally, mix the baking powder with the flour and add to the butter. Mix until the dough forms a dough. Wrap in plastic film and store in the fridge for 1 hour before using. Roll the dough at 3mm thickness and bake it in rectangle mold.

The apricot semi-pris

200 gm Apricot puree

20 ml Maple syrup (real one please :) )

1 pc Gelatin leaf

5 gm Yellow pectin

5 gm White sugar


Mix the pectin and the white sugar. Soften the gelatin leaf in cold water. Warm the apricot puree with the maple syrup. Stir in the sugar-pectin mix and cook it until it boil once. Drain the water from the gelatin and melt it in the apricot puree. Pour it on a flat tray lined with plastic and freeze. Once frozen, cut rectangles and place directly on a plate.

The flan pâtissier

500 ml Fresh Milk

150 gm White Sugar

1 pc of Tahitian Grand-Cru Vanilla

50 gm Cornstarch

3 pcs Egg

190 gm Double Cream


In a bowl, mix a small part of the milk with the cornstarch. In a pot, boil the milk, sugar and the vanilla bean split in half. Once boiled, add the cornstarch and the eggs to the milk. Cook the mixture to a thick consistency, at around 80°C. Add the double cream and mix well. Prepare a tray lined with plastic. Remove the vanilla bean and pour the mixture on the tray at a thickness of about 1.5cm. Allow to cool (this is important not to have large bubbles on top of your flan) and bake for 30 minutes at 180°C. Once golden brown, allow to cool completely before cutting the flan into rectangles fitting your sable Breton.

Although the price of the Tahitian Vanilla is way more than its Malagasy cousin, it’s obvious that you’re paying for quality and not for a pseudo good product with a brand name. Very well done Mr. Abel!

When serving, sprinkle a little sea salt over everything… Enjoy! :)

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