What is it about homemade gifts?
The thought? The person? The sentiment?
For me, these are the very best gifts one can receive. I’ll take handcrafted over handbag any day.
Making vanilla sugar is very simple: it’s all about the beans.
How do I pick the right vanilla bean?
There are many types to choose from. Here are 3 common varieties:
- Tahitian– floral aroma with a rich, fruity flavor
- Madagascar Bourbon– sweet aroma and delicate flavor
- Mexican– full bodied, rich and smoky
(I should be a sommelier).
My preference is Tahitian or Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans. Their flavor profile is perfect for cooking and baking and does not overpower. Mexican vanilla is good, but too strong for my taste. Really, it’s personal thing. Play around. There are no rules.
What’s the difference between Grade A & Grade B vanilla?
Just like meat, eggs, and maple syrup, vanilla beans are graded too (who knew?).
Grade A: also known as ‘gourmet’ or ‘prime’ these beans are considered high quality. Several factors determine quality, however the most important is moisture content. Grade A beans are very moist. They’re soft, plump, and have a shiny appearance.
Grade B: these beans have a low moisture content. Their appearance can be stiff, cracked, and dry.
Hmm… so which one would you choose? Grade A sounds like the way to go, right?
Grade A is best for cooking. Their plumpness will yield lots of seeds. It’s also more $$$.
Grade B is best for extracts and sugar. Their low moisture content will not dilute the extracts or make sugar clumpy. Although their appearance is not as desirable as Grade A, these beans still pack plenty of vanilla flavor.
Bottom line: different grades are used for different things.
How to cut & store vanilla beans
To open up a vanilla pod, slice it in half lengthwise to reveal the seeds. Use the back of a knife to scrape them out.
To maintain freshness, tightly wrap your beans in plastic wrap and store in an air tight container. Depending on the grade, they’ll stay soft for up to a year.
So, what do I use this stuff for?
Vanilla sugar is great in coffee, tea, or sprinkled over oatmeal and yogurt. Use it to bake cookies, make salted caramel sauce, add to jam… the list goes on. My favorite is with fresh strawberries and creme fraiche.
Feel free to experiment with different types of sugar too. Brown sugar, muscovado or rapadura would be nice.
Vanilla sugar will keep indefinitely when sealed in an air tight container or jar. As your supply dwindles, top it off with more sugar. Throw in additional vanilla beans as you collect them. Replenish and reuse.
And if you’re making this for the holidays, do it now. The longer it sits the better it will taste!
- 2 c. granulated sugar
- 2 vanilla beans
- Place the sugar into the bowl of a food processor.
- Using a sharp pairing knife, slice the vanilla beans in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds using the back of the knife. Add to the bowl. Reserve the pods.
- Pulse the sugar and vanilla seeds until well incorporated. Pour into a large bowl. Add back the empty pods. This method can also be done by hand.
- Store your vanilla sugar in an airtight container until ready to use.