Vanilla sugar is a flavored sweetener consisting of sugar (usually refined white sugar) and split vanilla bean pods or the scraped seeds from those pods. In either case, it can be a great way to add the vanilla flavor to drinks and baked goods without the drawbacks that can come from using extract or vanilla beans. Here are some of the best ways to use vanilla sugar:
As a topping
One of the most popular ways to use vanilla sugar is as a topping that is sprinkled onto baked goods as a finishing touch. It would not be possible to use another form of vanilla such as vanilla extract for this purpose. When used as a topping, vanilla sugar enhances the appearance of a pastry item and gives it an extra crunchy texture.
Vanilla sugar is used as a topping for vanillekipferl, which are Austrian crescent cookies traditionally served during the winter holidays. It also works as an alternative to cinnamon sugar for French toast or waffles.
For making simple syrup
The point of using simple syrup is to sweeten a beverage without needing to dissolve sugar crystals first. Vanilla sugar dissolves in water to make a syrup just like plain sugar. The only difference is the vanilla flavor. Vanilla simple syrup can provide a new twist on cocktail recipes that require simple syrup. Use it in whiskey sours, mojitos, and daiquiris.
One early American application for vanilla simple syrup made from vanilla sugar was in drugstore soda fountains where it was used to make phosphate sodas, which first became popular in the late 1800s. Along with the sweetness and vanilla flavor, the syrup can be clear and will not affect the color of the soda.
As a general purpose table sweetener
You can use vanilla sugar as a sweetener at the table as an option alongside or instead of plain sugar. Because of the simple flavor profile, vanilla sugar makes a great all-purpose sweetener. Vanilla and sugar make a versatile flavored sweetener that works in a range of applications ranging from lattes to oatmeal. It works as an alternative to plain sugar as well as to maple syrup and even honey.
As a baking sweetener
Vanilla sugar can replace two ingredients that show up in many recipes for baked goods. You can use it instead of sugar and vanilla in everything from cake batters to cookie doughs. It accomplishes the same thing as vanilla extract without adding moisture or alcohol to your recipe. The taste of alcohol can be a problem for some people, so vanilla sugar can make a good alcohol-free extract alternative.
To replace vanilla beans
Use vanilla sugar in a recipe as a substitute for vanilla beans. The main reason you might need a substitute is that vanilla beans are expensive. They are among the most expensive spices in the world along with saffron and mahlab. Two vanilla beans can make multiple cups of vanilla sugar depending on how strong you want the vanilla flavor to be. As a result, your vanilla investment goes further.
In ice cream
One of the early documented uses of vanilla sugar in the United States was in making ice cream. Vanilla sugar can be a great way to add both a true vanilla flavor and sweetness to your homemade ice cream. Not only does it save you money, but it also saves you the trouble of having to add multiple ingredients or scrape the seeds from vanilla pods.