Every baker needs to have a jar of vanilla sugar in their pantry. This flavored sugar gives so much depth to everything it touches, from cakes, cookies and custards, to a nice cup of tea or coffee. Vanilla sugar is so easy to make and it's such a good thing to have on hand. I almost always use a fresh vanilla bean and scrape out the numerous seeds (I like to think it's vanilla caviar), but if I've used a bean to infuse something like a crème anglaise or crème pâtissière , I save it and add it to my jar of sugar; there's no reason to throw away a spent vanilla bean.
The split vanilla bean in the foreground was used to make a crème pâtissière. I make sure the bean is completely dry before mixing it with my granulated sugar. The rule of thumb for me is 4 cups of sugar for every vanilla bean (you can use superfine sugar with great results).
Drop your bean into a jar with a tight fitting lid; add sugar to cover. If you're using a fresh vanilla bean, split it in half lengthwise and scrape out your vanilla 'caviar'. Mix it well with the sugar in a large bowl and then fill your jar.
My early 20th century Ball Jars are perfect for this. Let your sugar cure for at least a week before you use it.
Vanilla sugar is one of those secret ingredients to use whenever you want to give your baked goods that certain je ne sais quoi . I use it as a substitute for regular sugar in so many of my baked goods and the results are always delicious. Pancakes have never tasted so good when you use vanilla sugar in the batter. I guarantee you won't be making ordinary pancakes ever again if you do! Remember to give the jar a good shake every few days because it does tend to clump. When you run out of the sugar, simply refill it. The vanilla bean will keep infusing your sugar for many months. Once the potency begins to wear out, start the whole process again with another bean. Vanilla sugar is one of my must-haves and I certainly hope that it becomes one of yours too. Make some today if you don't already have a jar!