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    Entries in vanilla goodness (8)

    Monday
    Dec212015

    Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies

    I gave Vanilla Sugar to most of my friends and family this year, so I decided I should probably create a recipe that uses it. These Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies are just the thing. They’re simple, but with a fantastic vanilla flavor, chewy texture with just a bit of crunch from the sugar, they are anything but boring.

    Here’s what you’ll need: 

    • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
    • 1 ½ cups vanilla sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
    • 3 cups flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • ½ cup vanilla sugar for rolling 

    Be sure all of your ingredients are room temperature before you get started, then preheat your oven to 350°. Drop your two sticks of butter into the bowl of your mixer.

    Beat them for a minute or two until the butter I nice and soft and fluffy.

    Add 1 ½ cups of vanilla sugar and beat for another minute.

    Add one egg and beat until it’s incorporated.

    Scrape everything down and add the second egg and the vanilla.

    Mix again, until everything is completely incorporated.

    Now it’s time for the dry ingredients. For cookies, I usually just add them on top. The only time I bother to mix the in a separate bowl first is if there are lots of different spices or something. So go ahead and add the flour, baking soda and powder, and salt.

    Mix just until it’s combined. Your dough should be soft, but not sticky.

    I used a scoop that is about 1 ½ tablespoons, but size doesn’t matter. You can make them whatever size you like. For smaller cookies, subtract a minute from the cooking time and for larger ones, add a minute. Whatever size your balls are, drop them into a bowl of vanilla sugar and roll them around until their coated.

    Place them on a parchment lined sheet pan. See the little black seeds from the vanilla sugar? That’s what makes these cookies so delicious!

    Leave plenty of room between the cookies because they will spread as they bake.

    Now into the oven for 11 – 12 minutes.  When they’re done, they won’t be browned, but they’ll puff up nicely and start to get cracks over the surface.

    Allow them to sit on the pan for 5 minutes, then move them to a rack to finish cooling… except for the one you eat for ‘testing’ purposes. 

    I will be enjoying the holiday season in San Diego, because in my world, there is nothing better than a sunny beach on Christmas Day. What is your favorite holiday tradition?

     

    Monday
    Nov092015

    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?