I know it’s after Christmas, and perhaps much of your gift giving is complete. However, homemade gifts are not for holidays alone. They make fantastic birthday, housewarming, shower or just because I care gifts. I waited a while to post this recipe (along with the soon to come infused brandy recipe) because I wasn’t about to give away gift ideas to my Christmas recipients. I don’t know if they’re reading right now, but when it comes to surprises, you can never be too cautious.
Last year I toyed with the concept of infused salts. This year, I opted to go a bit sweeter. The idea first came to me when I visited my friend and we were having coffee. She presented me with a pitcher of milk and bowl of sugar with some blackish flecks in them. “Oh, just some vanilla sugar”, she noted. What an adorable idea! With just a scraped vanilla bean and some ordinary sugar, you end up with a fantastically presented treat people will assume you bought at some swanky food market.
The beauty about infused sugars is you can use them for practically anything you’d use normal sugar for. Add it to tea or coffee, dust some cookies, or toss it in your baking batter. It adds a hint of extra flavor and makes every dish seem extra special.
For my Secret Santa gift this year, I knew my recipient liked to bake. In addition to some cookbooks, baking ingredients, homemade vanilla extract and jams just for fun, I wanted to give her a gourmet set of sugar. As with many of my projects, presentation is key, so the number of sugars in the collection was dependent upon the sized containers and box I could collect. Four was the magic number. From there it was simply a matter of what flavors to include. I stuck to “pure” blends, using only single ingredients, but feel free to experiment with different flavor combinations. Using the basic recipe below, I ended up with a deliciously varied collection of vanilla, lemon, cinnamon and lavender. What flavors would you play with?
Infused Sugars (Makes 1/2 cup)
- 1/2 c sugar, preferably unbleached or cane
- 2-3 tsp flavor agent, depending on desired intensity. Some flavors to consider:
- 1 vanilla bean, scrapped
- Zest of 1 lemon, preferably a Meyer lemon
- 1 1/2-inch cinnamon stick, roughly chopped
- 2 tsp dried culinary lavender
Using a clean coffee or spice grinder, pulse flavor agent until finely chopped. Add 1/4 cup sugar and pulse a few additional seconds until well blended. Be sure not to pulse the mixture too long or you’ll end up with mostly sugar dust.
Transfer flavored sugar to a small bowl and stir in remaining 1/4 cup sugar until well blended. Spread sugar on a large plate and allow to dry for a few hours (this is most important when using an ingredient with moisture like citrus zest or vanilla beans). Break apart any dried sugar clumps by gently rubbing sugar between your fingers. Transfer to an airtight container. Sugar will keep indefinitely (but more realistically, probably a few weeks).
- Infused Sugar (abeautifulmess.com)
- 10 DIY Food Gifts for the Holidays (organicauthority.com)
- Blanched Almonds and Chopped Vanilla Beans (lololi740.wordpress.com)
- Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream (nesslisa404.wordpress.com)
- Vanilla Bean Whiskey Cocktail (abeautifulmess.com)
- How to Make Homemade Extracts – Vanilla, Lemon and Almond (ascendingstarseed.wordpress.com)