Make Vanilla Sugar
While the process of making vanilla sugar is simple, you might not be quite sure how to choose the right bean. There are many delicious varieties from around the world, each with their own distinct flavor. Many recipes call for vanilla sugar — it's a good idea to keep some prepared ahead of time so you don't have to wait weeks to use it.
- 1 vanilla bean (also known as a pod)
- 2 cups (450 g; 1 lb) granulated sugar (enough to half fill jar)
Choosing a Vanilla Bean
- Compare vanilla bean flavors geographically.
Though the most common vanilla comes from Madagascar, vanilla plants grow all over the world in areas close to the equator. Beans from different countries have their own distinctive flavors. All are delicious, but you can choose a vanilla by description or try different varieties until you find your favorite.
- Madagascar Bourbon: has a sweet aroma and delicate flavor; this is the most common vanilla found in stores
- Tahitian: has a floral aroma and fruity flavor
- Mexican: full bodied, rich, and smoky; may be too strong for some.
- Decide which grade of vanilla bean to use. Vanilla beans fall into categories of either Grade A or Grade B. Grade A beans are "gourmet" beans — plumper, moister, and more expensive. You might be tempted to splurge on a fancy bean for your sugar, but you don't need to. Splurging will be worth it for baking, but Grade B beans will be perfect for extracts and sugars. The drier bean means you’ll have a less watery flavor to your sugar or extract.
- Make sure the beans were picked at peak ripeness. If you see little splits in the end of the bean, that doesn't mean they're dry and undesirable. It actually suggests that the beans were picked at exactly the right time in their development for full flavor.
- Ignore white frost or crystals. If your vanilla beans have a frosty white substance on their surface, you might think they've gone bad — but you're wrong! The whiteness might suggest that the beans have been out in the air for some time, but it doesn't affect the taste of the beans at all.
Making the Vanilla Sugar
- Remove the beans from the pod. Using a sharp knife, slice down the length of the vanilla pod. Scrape the beans out of the pod using the back of the knife.
- Bury the seeds and pod in sugar. Pour 2 cups of granulated sugar into a container that has an air-tight lid, then bury the seeds and empty vanilla pod in the sugar. Use your fingers to spread the beans throughout the sugar to ensure even flavor.
- Let the vanilla and sugar sit somewhere out of the way. Make sure the container is sealed tightly, then let the sugar and vanilla sit for at least 1-2 weeks. The longer you set the ingredients sit together, the stronger the vanilla flavor will be in the sugar.
- Store your vanilla sugar appropriately. The ideal environment for any vanilla product is cool, dark, and dry. If you have a closet or pantry in your kitchen, that's a good choice. As long as it's stored properly, the vanilla in your sugar won't go bad, and you can store your vanilla sugar indefinitely.
- Don't refrigerate vanilla products, as the cold can encourage the growth of a mold specific to vanilla beans.
- Use your vanilla sugar.
Once your sugar has taken on the vanilla's flavor, you can substitute vanilla sugar into any recipe that calls for sugar! While it can't replace the strong flavor of vanilla extract, your sugar can add a subtle kick of flavor to many of your favorite dishes.
- Spread it over cut fruits for a light snack
- Add depth of flavor to your vanilla cake
- Substitute it for regular sugar in any baking recipe you think would benefit from vanilla
- Sprinkle it on top of cookies or muffins
- Sweeten coffee or tea with it
- Sprinkle it over regular or French toast at breakfast
- As you use the sugar, you can replace it with more. The beans will continue to release their aromas for up to two years.
- Be careful with the knife!