Friday, May 24

Vanilla Sugar--What Is It, and How Do I Use It?

Ahh, vanilla beans...the pod that keeps on giving.  It's been a few weeks since I posted that I am using the leftover vanilla beans from my extract to make vanilla sugar, something that has been floating around the culinary internet universe for a while now.  Alton Brown has even posted a "recipe" for it on the Food Network website.  If it's made it onto Good Eats, then it's definitely worth exploring, in my opinion!  It's absorbed some of the vanilla bean flavor, and is now ready to use.
So what is it?  It's pretty much what the name implies: white sugar infused with vanilla bean flavoring goodness.  How do you make it?  Easily!  I took the clean jar that I steeped my extract in, and once it was completely dry, I added three cups of white sugar while dropping in my vanilla bean pieces intermittently.  I dropped in one and a half beans total.  I screwed the cap on and shook it, and lo and behold, began to see caviar specks amongst the sugar crystals.  I opened the jar and inhaled, and it smelled like sweet heaven and sugar.  Oh, so good.  One thing I've noticed, though, is that the beans still have moisture in them, despite the fact that I let them sit out and air dry for several days before adding them to the sugar, and this has caused the sugar to clump together.  I've spread the sugar out on a tray to hopefully evaporate the moisture in the sugar, and then I will store it in a container without the beans.
You can use this in place of adding vanilla extract to your recipe, or you can leave the vanilla in and use it as you would regular sugar.  Why not sprinkle a little on your corn flakes in the morning?  Or in your coffee or tea?  Or try it as a substitute for sugar in my French toast casserole recipe:

½ loaf of Texas toast, torn into pieces
4 eggs
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons vanilla sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 stick butter (unsalted is preferred)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup pecans (optional, we didn’t use)

Directions: Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray (don't skip this step--we learned that the hard way).  Spread the bread pieces evenly in the pan, then mix together in a separate bowl the eggs, half and half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  You could add more spices, or additional spices, if you would like here.  Pour this mixture over the bread, and toss the bread to coat the pieces.  Cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and allow to sit in your refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, melt the butter, then mix in the brown sugar.  Pour this evenly over the bread mixture, and then bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown on top.  You can also sprinkle more spices over the casserole before baking it for a little extra deliciousness.

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