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.
A tip from my latest cookbook The French Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Lessons from Paris and Provence.