The Queen of Beans: Vanilla-Scented Sugar

| April/May 2005

Makes about 1 pint

Placing a vanilla bean in a pint jar of sugar transforms the sugar into a pleasing, fragrant addition to cakes, cookies, custards, whipping cream and all sorts of sweets. If you do a lot of baking, make this in larger quantities — a quart or half-gallon jar — and use it often.

• About 2 cups sugar
• 1 vanilla bean, cut into 3 or 4 pieces

1. To prepare scented sugar, fill a clean pint jar that has a tight-fitting lid about one-third full of sugar. Place 1 or 2 pieces of vanilla bean in the sugar. Cover the vanilla bean pieces with sugar so the jar is two-thirds full. Add another piece or two and cover with sugar to fill the jar, leaving about 1/2 inch headspace. Seal with lid, shake jar and place on a shelf in a cool, dark place.

2. The sugar will be ready to use in two to three weeks and will become more flavorful with age. As the sugar is consumed, add more plain sugar to take its place and it will take on the fragrance in the jar. You can also use the beans for other uses right out of the sugar.

3. Since vanilla beans contain moisture, the sugar will absorb some of it and perhaps cake together or harden. If this happens, just use firm pressure to crumble it with your hands, or the back of a wooden spoon.

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