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    Entries in gimme some sugar baby (25)


    Vanilla Sugar - The Season's Sweetest Gift

    I’ve made flavored sugar a few times in the past. There was lime sugar, orange sugar, and grapefruit sugar. I’ve also mentioned vanilla sugar a time or two, like in my vanilla bean bread pudding, but I’ve never posted an actual recipe for it. This year, however, I’ve decided to give it as a holiday gift to all of my friends and family. (Shhh, don’t tell them. It’s a surprise.) Not only is it a fantastic thing to make just to have on hand in your own house, but it really is a wonderful homemade gift. It needs time to age, though, so you’ll want to get started soon.

    Here’s what you’ll need: 

    • Organic sugar
    • Vanilla beans 

    Yep, that’s it. Just two ingredients. That’s why it’s more important than ever that they’re really high quality. You really do want to use organic sugar for this. As for the vanilla beans, personally, I think you can’t beat Penzeys Mexican Vanilla Beans. (Have I mentioned that Penzeys opened a store like 5 minutes from my house?!)

    So first of all, you need to decide how much vanilla sugar you’re going to make. I needed to make 27 bottles. Each of my bottles holds 3 cups, so my mixer can handle doing 4 at a time. I recommend using 3-4 cups of sugar per vanilla bean. These 24 ounce jars are perfect. For me, that meant each batch was 12 cups of sugar and 4 vanilla beans. Measure your sugar into the bowl of your mixer and set it aside.

    Next, slice each vanilla bean down the middle, leaving it intact for about an inch at one end.

    Then, open up each half and carefully slide the back side of your knife along the length of the pod, scraping out the tiny seeds from within.

    Look at that gorgeousness. I think these little seeds are far more deserving of the moniker ‘black gold’ than any caviar.

    Drop the seeds into your sugar.

    Then, with your paddle attachment, mix on low speed for about 5 minutes or so. The vanilla should be nicely broken up and dispersed throughout. If you don’t have a stand mixer, this is going to be a bit more work. You could do it in a bowl with a whisk and elbow grease, or you could put it into a larger container with a lid and shake, shake, shake. Either way, you’re looking at quite a workout if you’re doing more than one or two jars.

    Place a (now empty) vanilla bean into each jar.

    You’re going to want to use a wide mouth funnel. If you’re using wide mouth jars, I highly recommend this one. It fits perfectly. Ones that fit regular mouth jars are a bit easier to come by.

    Pour the vanilla sugar into the jars.

    You want to fill them quite full because they’ll settle a bit as they sit.

    And there you have it, homemade, and seriously amazing vanilla sugar. (Your whole kitchen will smell like vanilla for hours to come.)

    Just pop on a lid and put it somewhere safe for at least a month. The longer the better, really. Aren’t they pretty? Vanilla sugar is a great gift for just about anyone. It’s fantastic for sweetening coffee or tea, or you can use it in place of regular sugar in any recipe.

    Now, if you were to buy vanilla sugar (if you can even find it) it will just be regular sugar that has had vanilla bean pieces sitting in it. Sure, it will taste slightly like vanilla, but the aroma won’t overwhelm you when you remove the lid, and it won’t have all these beautiful vanilla seeds dancing through it.

    What is your favorite homemade gift to give or receive?



    Sweet Madeleine

    A different kind of cookie.

    Very soft and cake-like. Cakies!

    These are one of those fancy seeming french food things that people are scared to try making. But there's no reason to be afraid of these plain little things.

    And they are quite plain. I have no idea how they got their reputation. Gossip is a crazy thing. Someone somewhere probably heard something out of context and misinterpreted the statement and then of course went running off to tell everyone they know. Who all of course did the same thing.

    I once made a joke about gossip that turned into a rumour: some editor had left a publisher and I commented about the gossip flying and jokingly made a ridiculous speculation; a few hours later someone started a thread on the forum where I'd made the joke about the editor going off to do the very thing I'd joked about. She's see my speculation repeated on some other forum, but not as a joke! I think it even made it to a blog or two.

    I laughed my ass off. I'm still proud of that one.

    Also proud that I managed to make nearly 7 dozen madeleines in about 2 hours. And that includes dishes.


    **these are the quantities for about 2 dozen**

    **I tripled the recipe!!**

    • 2 eggs
    • 2/3 c sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 1 tsp lemon zest
    • 1 c flour
    • 1/2 c butter

    There is absolutely nothing fancy or difficult about this ingredient list.

    You also don't need fancy tools or mixers or anything to make them.

    First thing you should do is melt the butter.

    Next, sift the flour.

    I'm usually not an advocate of the sifting step, but in this case, I think it's a good idea. Old school baking recipes were done by mass (weight) not by volume, and when you sift the flour, you lighten it. A cup of packed flour weights a lot more than a cup of sifted.

    There, that's the toughest part of this recipe. Sifting flour. OMG AN EXTRA STEP!!!

    I sifted mine into a bowl and let it hang out there until I needed it.

    Measure a tablespoon or so of butter out of the half cup that you melted, and add it to a bit of flour in a small bowl.

    Rather than butter and flour your pans, you're going to use this mixture to flour-butter them. I am loving this idea. I covered the leftovers and put them in the fridge; I'll let you know how it works out on the next cake I bake!

    Crack the eggs into a big bowl, add the sugar and stir with a wooden spoon. You don't even have to beat them. No whisking. Just stir. So unfancy.

    Once the eggs and sugar have been stirred to a bright yellow, add the lemon zest and vanilla.

    You can leave the zest out, or replace it with orange, if you'd prefer. I'm contemplating replacing it with lavender flowers.

    Spoon the sifted flour into the measuring cup, and level the top. Trust me, this way, it will weigh a lot less than if you'd just spooned it from the bag.

    Again, a plain old stir is all you need to do to get the flour mixed into the batter.

    Pour the remaining butter around the edges of the bowl and once again, stir it in.

    You should end up with a sticky feeling batter that makes a wide ribbon when you lift the spoon from the bowl.

    When you let the batter rest for a minute, it will thicken, but as you stir it, it will start to feel thinner.

    So, we've used all the same basic ingredients that are in pretty much every other cookie, but we've put them together in a very different way. That's what appealed to me about this recipe. Cream-butter-and-sugar-add-eggs-and-vanilla can get a bit mindlessly repetitive when you bake cookies almost every weekend.

    Plus, the pans. I'm not fond of single use implements, and the shape is a very distinctive part of madeleines. I borrowed these ones from a coworker, but I'm pretty sure I'll be buying a set of my own. These things are way too easy, fun, and tasty to never make again.

    Rub the flour-butter mixture into the molds while the oven preheats to 375. A little hotter than usual.

    Drop a tablespoon or so of batter into each spot. Underfilling these things is better than overfilling them.

    If your molds are completely full, bake them for 15 minutes. If partially like these ones, only 12 or 13 minutes is enough.

    The edges will be crispy, the shell side golden, and the strange bump that forms on the top (which is apparently some kind of madeleine requirement) will be soft and buttery.

    And then you dust them with powdered sugar.

    I don't seem to have a light enough touch to "dust" anything.

    They are tasty without the sugar too!

    I can't help but wonder if the first ones were baked in the shells they resemble.