Homemade vanilla sugar is an easy way to flavor all your baked goods and desserts with the aroma of real vanilla. It's made with white sugar and fresh vanilla pods.
Are you looking for a way to upgrade all your dessert recipes and baked goods? One of the best ways to do that is by using real vanilla sugar. Whether you're making a delicious crème brulee or an easy, no-churn homemade ice cream, vanilla sugar will provide incomparable depth of flavor and an intoxicating aroma which will dazzle your taste buds.
It's also a lot easier than using a vanilla pod each time, because instead of cutting and scraping the vanilla pod and then infusing your liquid with it, all you have to do is open the jar and scoop out some of your homemade vanilla sugar.
But what is vanilla sugar? It's regular white sugar mixed with the tiny black seeds from the inside of the vanilla pod. These seeds contain all the natural aromatic compounds which will give real vanilla flavor to all your confections.
Pure vanilla contains about 25% of the aromatic compound vanillin but it also contains hundreds more organic components that add to the flavor and fragrance (in Madagascar vanilla beans there have been identified more than 170 volatile aromatic compounds while there are more 250 compounds present). In contrast, imitation vanilla contains only vanillin and nothing else. For more info about vanilla you can read these vanilla FAQ's from beanilla.com.
But real vanilla is more expensive than the cheaper imitation one. If you want to save some money I suggest using the imitation vanilla in recipes where it is used not as the basic flavor but more as a way to intensify the res aromas. These are mostly recipes that contain chocolate, cocoa, caramel or coffee. These olive oil and tahini chocolate chunk cookies for instance, will be amazing whether you use real or imitation vanilla. In recipes where you want the vanilla to be the star, like this easy white chocolate and vanilla bundt cake, then it's better to use the real thing.
What is vanilla sugar made of?
Vanilla sugar contains two ingredients: white sugar and vanilla beans. Once you scrape the vanilla seeds from the inside of the vanilla pod, you mix the seeds with the sugar and you let the sugar infuse for at least one month. You can also add the remaining of the vanilla pod for extra aroma.
I don't suggest using brown sugar or any other sugar like coconut sugar, for the only reason that these sugars already have their own flavor which will alter the taste and aroma of real vanilla. White sugar is the perfect blank canvas for the pure vanilla scent to shine.
What can you do with vanilla sugar
Use vanilla sugar in all your sweet recipes, by replacing a portion of the sugar that the recipe calls for. Some recipes where you can use it:
- Chewy sugar cookies from food52.com
- Crunchy olive oil sugar cookies
- Greek rice pudding (rizogalo)
- Easy Greek milk pie with phyllo (bougatsa)
- X-mas scented cake with fluffy vanilla buttercream
- Lemon and coconut olive oil cake
Types of vanilla
Did you know that there are over 150 types of vanilla in the world? The most known are Indonisian, Madagascar (or bourbon vanilla),Tahitian, and Mexican (Mexico is the birthplace of vanilla). Mexican vanilla is bold and spicy. Madagascar vanilla is rich and creamy. Tahitian vanilla is more ethereal and delicate with a fruity and flowery aroma. Indonesian beans have a smoky, woody flavor and aroma.
There are 3 things to take into consideration when you want to determine the quality of your vanilla beans: the moisture content, the lenght of the bean, and the general condition. Grade A (also known as gourmet grade) vanilla beans are very moist and you can actually see the oils should be visible on the surface of the pod. These beans are very soft to the touch, plump, and flexible. They are also typically over 6 inches (15 cm) in length. A good vanilla bean should never look dry, dull, or tough.
Can you substitute vanilla sugar for vanilla extract?
Yes, of course! The strength of your homemade vanilla sugar will depend on the the quality and the quantity of the vanilla beans you will use, and on how much time you will let it mature. The easiest way to calculate how much you need is to stick a note on the jar saying how much vanilla pods you used per cup of sugar.
If you use 3 cups of sugar and 3 vanilla beans, then half a cup of vanilla sugar will be equal to one dose (or half a vanilla bean), meaning it will be enough to flavor one cake or one batch of cookies. If you let your vanilla sugar mature for over 6 months you may end up using even less, since the aroma will be stronger.
Commercially produced vanilla sugar (usually found in packets) is different from your homemade vanilla sugar because most of the times it will contains only vanillin.
Can Homemade Vanilla go bad?
Because vanilla sugar is almost 100% sugar, it will keep without spoiling for a loooong time (I've kept it more than 2 years without any problems). In fact it's best to let it mature for at least 6 months inside the jar before you start using it. The flavor becomes more intense and full.
My vanilla sugar is damp, is it still good?
It is natural for the vanilla sugar to seem damp, because the vanilla pod and the seeds contain a certain amount of moisture. In fact, if the vanilla is best quality, it will have more moisture. This moisture will be absorbed by the sugar over time something that will cause it to become damp (just make sure the jar seals very well to prevent any moisture coming from the outside).
It can also become a little darker in color. This is normal and it will not affect the taste or any other aspect of your baking. If the sugar forms any lumps you can break them with a fork but it may even not be necessary because they will break down once added in a liquid or a cake batter.
How to make vanilla sugar
- 3 cups white sugar
- 3 vanilla beans
- Split the vanilla beans lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds with the tip of the knife
- Add the sugar and the vanilla seeds to the bowl of a food processor, and process until the seeds are evenly dispersed throughout. You can do this in batches if your food processor is small.
- Transfer the vanilla sugar to a jar and tuck the empty pods into the sugar. Store in a cool, dry place for at least one month.