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Infused Sugars to Spice Up Your Holiday Eats & Drinks

vanilla infused sugarThere are some simple kitchen tricks that never cease to amaze me. Simple, quick and easy-to-do tweaks and techniques that turn something good into something out of this world. Infused sugar is one of these things.

It’s a no-brainer to make, probably with ingredients that you have on hand, and yields a delicious treat that makes anything sweet even better. I love using infused sugars in simple foods and drinks where the hint of flavor can really shine. Holiday sugar cookies are the PERFECT showcase for your infused sugar. Or maybe you want to use some to rim the glass of your holiday cocktail.

To make:

Layer your infusing ingredient of choice into at least 1 cup of sugar (more if you’re making an extra big batch of cookies). Use a glass jar that can be sealed airtight, and make sure that there is plenty of room above the sugar. Allow the sugar to sit for about a week or longer in a cool dry place, shaking or stirring every couple of days to disperse the flavor.

Optimal flavor takes a little over a week and up to two to achieve but, if you do this tomorrow, you’ll have a mild, but still delicious flavored sugar for next weekend’s holiday cooking and baking. Once you’re done with Christmas, let the remaining sugar sit longer for your New Year’s Eve sweets. (A perfect sugar rim for your 2011 toast!)

Here are just a few ingredients that you can use to infuse sugar:

* Orange, lemon, lime or grapefruit peel
* Cinnamon stick
* Cloves
* Vanilla (whole pod or split pod with scraped resin mixed into the sugar)
* Crystallized ginger
* Cardamom pods
* Star anise
* Fresh herbs like thyme, mint or rosemary (gently bruise the herbs before layering them into the sugar)

Have other ideas? Let us know!

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