Saturday, March 22, 2014

Replenishing Vanilla Sugar

As I was getting ready to bake a large batch of cookies a few days ago, I reached into my pantry for some vanilla sugar and noticed that it was lacking in fragrance.  A very faint aroma of vanilla was still present, but it wasn't what it should have been.  Since I was already planning on adding a vanilla bean into one of my cookie doughs, I thought it would be best to replenish the existing vanilla sugar that I keep in one of my antique Ball jars.  It's so simple to do this and worth the few minutes it takes to make a perfect vanilla sugar. Vanilla sugar enhances so many desserts, cookie doughs, teas and even coffees.  I absolutely feel it's a must-have pantry item for all bakers.


For most recipes that call for vanilla extract I generally use my extra-infused vanilla essence (this is vanilla extract with a plump vanilla bean in the container), but if I want to make the recipe even more special, I boost the flavor by adding vanilla sugar in place of the regular granulated sugar.  I know of some bakers who love to use vanilla paste in their doughs no matter what and I don't blame them, because those flecks of vanilla bean make cookies look so enticing and taste extra scrumptious.


Let's replenish our vanilla sugar!

As I was making a cookie dough I decided to enhance it by splitting a vanilla bean in half and using the paste.  The mixer was creaming the butter and sugar at this stage, so it was time to add all of that delicious paste into the mixture. 

When splitting vanilla beans, you want to use a small paring knife to slice it lengthwise down the middle.  Expose the vanilla pod and scrape out the paste using the dull end of the knife.  You can clearly see how the paste just clings onto the knife tip.

Here is the vanilla bean that's been cleaned out.  In the Ball Jar I have vanilla sugar that needs some freshening up.

Place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and pour the vanilla sugar from your jar. Strain it well.

Pieces of an old vanilla bean have hardened, bits of sugar have clumped and turned solid.  All of this needs to be removed and discarded.

You can see how much 'sweet detritus' was removed from the vanilla sugar. Pour the vanilla sugar back into the jar and embed the vanilla bean in it.  Seal the jar tightly.  

Cure the vanilla sugar for about one week, shaking the jar from time to time, and use it in your next cup of coffee or creme anglaise for a boost in flavor and aroma.


Look in your pantry and check to see if your vanilla sugar needs replenishing and freshening up.  If you don't have a vanilla bean or two in your cupboard, buy some the next time you're at the grocery store.  Making and replenishing vanilla sugar is one of the easiest things in the world, yet it's one of the best things you can add to a batch of cookies to make them stand out above the rest.  Assemble some this weekend!

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