I always have vanilla-scented sugar on hand when making desserts, to give an injection of that warm, comforting aroma so perfectly suited to so many sweet dishes.
To make vanilla-scented sugar: Flatten one or several moist vanilla beans. Cut them lengthwise in half. With a small spoon, scrape out the seeds and place them in a small jar; reserve the seeds for another use. Fully dry the vanilla bean halves at room temperature. Place the dry halves in a large jar with a lid, and cover them with sugar. Tighten the lid and store for several weeks to scent and flavor the sugar. Use in place of regular sugar when preparing desserts.
Patricia Wells – journalist, author, and cooking teacher – is an American who has lived in Paris since 1980. She is the author of 13 books, including The French Kitchen Cookbook, Simply Truffles, Vegetable Harvest, We've Always Had Paris...and Provence, Bistro Cooking, Simply French, and Trattoria. Her first book, The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris, was a landmark work that "cracked the code" to the Paris food world. (The Food Lovers Guide iPhone app is available from the iTunes store, and an all new version of the print edition is scheduled for March publication.) She is the only woman and only foreigner to serve as restaurant critic of a major French publication, the newsweekly L’Express. From 1980 to 2007 she served as restaurant critic for the International Herald Tribune. Previously, she was a writer and editor for The Washington Post and The New York Times.
She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for her contributions to French culture, and received an honorary doctorate from Muhlenberg College in 2013 and another in gastronomic journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2007. Several of her books have received the James Beard and IACP awards, and most of them have been translated into several languages. At certain times of the year, she conducts week-long cooking classes both in her cooking studio in Paris and at her farmhouse in Provence. She is married to Walter Wells, retired executive editor of the International Herald Tribune and now her enthusiastic sous-chef.