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Some background: We had some visitors from Austria recently and they wanted to make a cake.

The cake called for a couple of ingredients not terribly easily obtainable locally and which I am not too familiar with. Quark and vanilla sugar. We understand from our friends these are pretty much staples in Austria. But we had to track them down.

We are experimenting with the left-over vanilla sugar in fruit crumbles and various other recipes where sugar is required.

Turns out vanilla sugar has a pleasant delicate sugary vanilla taste. But the product just seems to be caster sugar with a vanilla pod inserted.

When we run out can we carry on "making" more by just sticking a vanilla pod in 500g of sugar. Does it require a certain amount of time for the vanilla to infuse into the sugar? Is there anything more to it than that, or is it that simple?

P.S. The cake was called Topfengugelhupf, in case anyone is interested.

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What was the quark? –  Sobachatina Aug 19 '10 at 16:43
    
@Sobachatina quark is a sort of yoghurty soft cheese. if we hadn't been able to find any we were going to use yoghurt –  Tea Drinker Aug 20 '10 at 16:37
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Actually, Austrians use the word "Topfen", Germans say "Quark". –  splattne Oct 17 '10 at 17:44
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Btw. Yoghurt will most likely not do the trick. The most similar things you'll find to quark are "fromage frais", curd cheese, cottage cheese (even though the texture is very different) or the Eastern European "twarog". Sometimes it's also labelled "baking cheese". As a German ex-pat, I have acquired quite a skill to track down quark in the UK for example (Can be found in any bigger ASDA/Tesco and about every Polish Shop). It's really healthy and very popular among athletes or body-builders as it offers very high amounts of protein with almost no fat. –  Jules Mar 10 '11 at 11:15
    
@Jules thanks for the update –  Tea Drinker Mar 10 '11 at 13:04
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6 Answers 6

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Vanilla sugar is incredibly easy to make. Store a whole vanilla bean in a jar of sugar, shaking it up every so often, until the sugar is vanilla flavored. That's it. The time, I think, would depend on your bean and your taste.

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The best advice I can give is to use Alton Brown's recipe to get your timeline.

Vanilla sugar is very easy to make, and I hesitate to answer with a link, but my advice would be the same thing as he wrote, because this is what I was taught.

Basically, you want to cut the pod in half, and scrape the beans from the seed into an airtight container. Then drop the scraped pods in the container, give it a shake, and let it sit for at least a week. AB recommends 1-2 weeks; I tend to just let it go indefinitely until I need it.

A lot of people don't scrape the pod but I find that it adds a lot more flavor if you do it that way.

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I think it's a good idea to link and also provide an outline. It would be very frustrating in 3 years to come here and find an answer that was little more than a link that had been heavily upvoted and accepted only to find the link didn't work anymore. –  yossarian Aug 19 '10 at 17:45
    
@yossarian, great point. i will add a bit of a summary to my post! –  stephennmcdonald Aug 19 '10 at 18:56
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Couldn't you replicate the effects by just adding a teaspoon (or two) of vanilla extract, and possibly adjusting the liquids by that minimal amount?

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yeah, i suppose i could. but grabbing a big jar of the vanilla sugar is handier than grabbing sugar then trying to find my little bottle of vanilla extract hidden in my cupboard, behind some half-used birthday cake candles and some cocktail sticks. –  Tea Drinker Aug 19 '10 at 17:31
    
@Tea Just curious if there was something more complicated to vanilla sugar than, vanilla and sugar. Makes sense. –  Ocaasi Aug 19 '10 at 17:37
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While living in Hungary, vanilla sugar was regularly available. From my experiences, the sugar actually contains the seeds of the vanilla pod. To extract, slice the bean in half lengthwise, lay cut side up on a cutting board, and drag a knife across to separate the seeds from the pod. Mix the contents of a pod with a bag of sugar, and shove the pod in for some extra flavor.

For Quark, I've never seen it sold in the states, but you can make it at home: http://rheology.tripod.com/QuarkMakingOfHenning.htm and http://www.germancorner.com/recipes/hints/quark.html have what looks like solid information.

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It takes a couple of weeks. Some recipes say you should slice the beans in half, some don't.

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Alton Brown's recipe calls for one to two weeks but other than that is really is that simple.

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