Every Christmas season, my manager gives her employees a little gift of herbs or spices of some sort. One year it was a little bag of mulling spices; another year it was a few little packets of spice mix from Penzey's. This year, it was some cinnamon, some vanilla sugar, and some unsweetened cocoa. I've been trying to think of some interesting things to do with the vanilla sugar.
My first attempt turned out very well. It was based very loosely on a recipe from Sally Swift's The Improvisational Cook. Very loosely in that I think the only ingredient that the two recipes share is the pears. But since the whole point of Sally Swift's book is to teach you how to tweak the same basic recipe to produce a variety of different things, I think Ms. Swift would be content.
This would be awesome served with vanilla ice cream, but I didn't plan far ahead enough to have any on hand.
2 medium-sized pears, cored and cut into quarters (I used Anjou pears, because I had them on hand)
3/4 tsp. vanilla sugar
ground cinnamon to taste
2 tbsp Navan vanilla cognac
~1/2 tbsp butter
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Line a 9 x 9 baking pan with aluminum foil, and lay the pear quarters in it.
3. Sprinkle the pears with the cognac, sugar, and cinnamon. Cut the butter into little bits and dot it over the pears.
4. Bake for 30 minutes. Turn the pears over and baste with the pan juices and bake for another 30 minutes.
The pears get soft and gooey and beautifully caramelized around the edges.