Should I just use multiple sources, vanilla extract & bean?
The strongest vanilla flavor will come out of using the tiny black seeds from a vanilla bean. For example, if you're making a pudding, I would scrape out the seeds from the pod and add them to the pudding before cooking. The vanilla bean seeds will be tiny black specks throughout the pudding and will release their flavor when cooked. If you need even more vanilla flavor after that, stir in a high-quality pure vanilla extract.
The method depends on what you're making, though.
I think I recently saw someone adding the seeds to the sugar in the recipe and rubbing them in with their fingers, rather than adding them to the liquid, to get the strongest vanilla flavour.
Sorry, yes, I wasn't clear; plevee's right. Rub the vanilla seeds into the sugar as you put the pudding together, then cook the pudding. I don't know whether that would affect the amount of vanilla flavor that comes out in the pudding. Does adding it to the sugar, not the liquid, somehow increase the amount of flavor the vanilla will release?
You can also use vanilla sugar, as well as adding seeds from the bean. Vanilla sugar can be found in some imports stores and I saw it at my local Pensy's. Or you can make it: bury a vanilla bean in a 5# bag of white sugar for 2 months. When you open it after 2 months, the sugar will be distinctly vanilla-flavored.
I use mexican extract which I think is very good. For what little do with with that. .
But, the major application I use for is steaming lobsters. A tsp or so in the stock liquid for steaming adds a wonderful back note, perfume to the lobsters. Not really a taste in the mouth. More of of smell, a hint, that hits your nose in a subtle way.