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Tips for Better Baking: How to Make Vanilla Sugar (#43)

Many recipes call for split and scraped vanilla beans where you are supposed to split the vanilla pod down the center and scrape the beans into whatever you’re cooking.  Other recipes call for you to steep vanilla beans in a liquid to extract the flavor.  Both of these methods provide for great vanilla flavor but it can seem like a waste to throw the beans away when you’re finished.

Here’s a trick: instead of throwing the used vanilla beans away, you can use them to make vanilla sugar. All you need to do is dry the pods and then bury them in some sugar. It will take a few weeks for the vanilla to absorb into the sugar, but to get a head start, you could start with a whole vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the sugar. From there, you can continuously add any extra vanilla beans you have after using them in other recipes.

How to Make Vanilla Sugar | www.TheHungryTravelerBlog.com

Tips for Better Baking – How to Make Vanilla Sugar

Instead of throwing away used vanilla beans, dry them and use them to make vanilla sugar. Simply add a few cups of white granulated sugar to an airtight storage container (this is the container I use) then bury any excess vanilla beans into the sugar and seal with the lid. Let the sugar rest for 1-2 weeks and then use as desired. Continue to add more vanilla beans over time. Vanilla sugar can be used in place of granulated sugar in any recipe.

Bonus tip: For better quality and less expensive vanilla beans, try ordering them online instead of buying them at the grocery store.

To learn more tricks and become a better baker, check out my full list of  Tips for Better Baking.

Ginger Vanilla Fruit Salad

Ginger Vanilla Fruit Salad | www.TheHungryTravelerBlog.com

When I was 4 years old, I went through a phase where I only wanted to wear clothes with fruit on them. My mom searched far and wide and came up with several fruit outfits — t-shirts, shorts, jumpers and even a few pairs of pajamas — all featuring strawberries, cherries, pineapple, watermelon, and other fruit designs. It’s pretty impressive that my mom was able to find all of that considering this was before the days of online shopping. I’m not sure what brought this phase on but apparently I really loved fruit at the time and wanted to show my pride through my sartorial choices.

My weird fruit clothing obsession has passed but my love for fruit hasn’t. Unfortunately, it seems I am always disappointed when I come across fruit salad. It always looks so beautiful but the taste never matches up to the presentation. It’s usually cloyingly sweet with a sugary sauce or bland and boring with nothing to bring the fruit together.

Ginger Vanilla Fruit Salad | www.TheHungryTravelerBlog.com

I have fall and the holidays on my mind and I wanted to come up with a fruit salad that could hold its own on the holiday brunch table. I decided to turn to fall spices to create a simple syrup to bring all of the fresh fruit together. I must admit that I was at a bit of a loss on this recipe until I called my mom for help. Her suggestion of a little bit of fresh ginger and pure vanilla extract did the trick.

In this ginger vanilla fruit salad, the syrup adds flavor and personality to the salad but still lets the fruit shine. It has the warm, spicy taste of fall and the bright, festive flavors of the holidays.

Ginger Vanilla Fruit Salad | www.TheHungryTravelerBlog.com

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Cuban Flan de Leche

Cuban Flan de Leche

I love talking to people about their favorite recipes and the foods they grew up with. At my last job, we had some of the friendliest and most interesting produce delivery drivers. While I did not look forward to checking in the order and putting all of the produce away, I always enjoyed talking to Ben, Edward, and Ignatio when they delivered our order.

Ignatio grew up in Cuba and when I asked him about the food he grew up eating in Havana, he brought up cuban flan de leche immediately. One afternoon a few days later the kitchen phone rang and Ignatio said he was there with a delivery. We were not expecting anything but when I met him at the door he excitedly handed over a flan his auntie had made for us to try. It was, without doubt, one of the best flans I’ve ever had with a complex bittersweet caramel and a smooth, creamy custard.

I bugged him for the recipe and after getting it from his auntie and translating it, he proudly delivered it to work one morning with our produce.

Cuban Flan de Leche

Flan is a dessert found in many cultures and cuisines across the world (creme caramel in France, crema caramella in Italy, quesillo in South America) but most often associated with Spain and the countries it colonized during the early era of sea exploration. The signature of flan is the caramel used to coat the cooking mold and top the firm custard once it is released from the pan. This recipe comes from Cuba and the Caribbean influence is reflected in the use of sweetened condensed milk.

Cuban Flan de Leche

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