Life's better with cake and a sprinkle of fairy dust
200 Madagascar vanilla beans from France arrived in my mailbox this morning.
I knew the parcel had arrived before laying eyes on it. A heady whiff of vanilla greeted me as I turned the key to my mailbox. The vanilla scent was so strong it had permeated the thick vacuum-sealed plastic packaging and seeped through both the bubble wrap and cardboard box.
As I cut open the package, I whooped with joy.
200 plump, moist, insanely fragrant pods.
How to tell if you’ve got a good bean? The shape, size, colour, aroma… could be any of these qualities but for me, it’s the ‘oiliness’. The dark, greasy moistness exuded by the beans. It paints your fingers dark brown and sometimes, leaves tiny flecks of black seeds, the ‘caviar’ of the bean.
Time to make vanilla sugar!
Why vanilla sugar?
All you need are:
I grabbed a bunch of beans, about ten, and a half bean left from baking a sponge earlier, which meant I could make approximately 21 cups of sugar. I had only about 10 cups of sugar, so I figured I could make a stronger sugar that will be ready to use immediately or I’d just use less when substituting regular sugar.
Some recipes say to split the bean and scrape the seeds into the sugar, adding the pod to infuse for 2 weeks. I’d say pulverise the entire bean with the sugar! There’s tons of flavour in the pod that is easily extracted by grinding the whole bean finely. I processed all the beans with half the sugar, sieved the light grey vanilla sugar into a large container and topped up the jar with my remaining white sugar. Then give everything a good shake up and we’re good to go.
Not everything gets pulverised, so sieve the bigger pieces out, then place the sifted stuff into one of these nifty little disposable tea bags from Japanese supermarkets like Daiso and place inside the sugar jar. The next time before you pulverise another batch of beans, just add the contents of the tea bag so nothing goes to waste.
To use for baking and desserts, simply replace 1/4 of the required amount of granulated sugar in your recipe with vanilla sugar.