A lot of European cookie recipes use vanilla sugar in place of vanilla extract. Vanilla sugar is mostly a homemade item that is sold commercially but not found in grocery stores. You can find it primarily in gourmet shops or from online gourmet suppliers.
So what is Vanilla sugar? It is a term used by cooks for sugar that is flavored with a vanilla bean.
Making Vanilla Sugar:
Needed: 1 vanilla bean for each 1 1/2 cups of sugar
You will have to prepare this a minimum of a week before it is needed but for best flavor and results leave in a sealed container for a minimum of 2 weeks or longer. If the vanilla bean is whole, slice it halfway through the long way, open up the bean, and using a spoon or kitchen knife scrape out the black gooey specks. Mix through the sugar and then bury the split vanilla bean into a container of sugar.
Some recipes that I researched from the gourmet pros suggest scraping
the insides of the bean and using a food processor add the the amount needed, pulse the blade for a couple of secs and then add the granulated sugar mixing it all together. Some even call for using RAW sugar. Place in a container and add the bean husks. Seal tightly and store until ready to use.
The vanilla bean will have flavored the sugar with a wonderful vanilla scent and taste that will improve everything from a coffee cake or cookie topping to a cup of hot cocoa. Vanilla sugar is also good as a substitute for regular sugar in scones, quick breads, or almost anything that would benefit from a vanilla undertone.