Tag Archives: Maple Syrup

Tarte au Sucre – Sugar Pie

Tarte au sucre, or sugar pieIf you are unfamiliar with this dish, let me introduce you by way of an aimless personal anecdote. If you are familiar with the dish, you can skip the next paragraph.

My father’s family lives near Ottawa, my mother’s near Sudbury. When I was little my family would sometimes drive between these two sets of relatives, following the Ottawa River valley, where there are lots of French communities, even on the Ontarian side of the border. Along the way we would always stop at a diner called Valois in the French town of Mattawa. For dessert they offered “sugar pie,” a tidy translation of tarte au sucre. While some versions of sugar pie are made with corn syrup or molasses (imagine a pecan pie without the pecans), I think the word “sugar” actually implies maple syrup, just as easterners might call a grove of maple trees a sugar bush, and the building where syrup is made a cabane à sucre, or sugar shack. Basically the dish is maple syrup thickened with flour and eggs, set in a pie shell.

This particular incarnation was a light, slightly sticky maple pudding in a short crust. In fact, the custard was so loose that if a slice was left to stand, the filling slowly ran onto the plate.

Sugar Pie

For the shell, bake off your favourite rich, short dough in a 10″ French tart pan. Here is my recipe. Be sure to dock and weight the dough while baking. Cool the shell thoroughly.

Ingredients

  • 500 mL maple syrup
  • 100 mL all-purpose flour
  • 250 mL heavy cream
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 50 mL butter

Procedure

  1. Whisk the flour into the cream, then stir this mixture into the maple syrup. Whisk in the egg yolks.
  2. Cook mixture over low heat until thick. Stir in the butter.
  3. Pour into expectant pie shell. Chill thoroughly.
  4. Eat with whipped cream.

Maple Taffy – Tire d’Erable

Winter Food

Throughout late summer I found myself craving winter food. When I was filling my rumpot with fruit and canning my sauerkraut it was twenty degrees outside, but I was thinking of the dead of winter, and the rich, warming, comforting food I would enjoy.

Preservation of food has become central to my idea of local cuisine. I’ve always included meat in my concept of preserving for the impending winter, but I recently realized that this doesn’t make much sense.

Before refrigeration, fresh meat could only be kept in the winter. Of course you could kill a chicken in the summer and eat it for dinner, but what if you were to kill a cow and not have a freezer? My great grandparents associated summertime with pickled meat. Butchering was largely done in the colder months, so they were much more likely to enjoy fresh meat in the winter than the summer.

I’m oversimplifying, but you could say that they ate fresh vegetables and pickled meat in the summer, and pickled vegetables and fresh meat in the winter.

This realization turned my idea of winter food on its head, and I started thinking of ways to use the cold weather in cooking. Now and again I’ll cool large pots of stock in a snowbank, but there are some preparations that have a more significant dependence on the cold. For instance…

Maple Taffy

Pouring maple syrup onto fresh snowUsing snow to make candy has been done for centuries in Canada.  Toffee, for instance, was invented in Quebec.  According to Larousse, a sixteenth century nun set molasses in the snow to attract young natives to her school.

Rapidly cooling sugar syrups helps prevent the growth of crystals, and results in a clear, glassy appearance.

Making maple taffy is simple enough. Start with maple syrup in a pot over medium heat. The higher the concentration of sugar in a syrup, the higher the temperature at which it boils. The maple syrup will start to boil just above water’s boiling point of 212°F. As moisture evaporates and the sugar becomes more concentrated, the temperature of the syrup will rise. The relationship between sugar content and boiling point is direct and predictable: a syrup of 85% sugar will boil at 235°F, a syrup of 90% sugar will boil at 270°F. Candy thermometers are your friends.

Resist the temptation to stir the pot, especially in the later stages of boiling, as you might induce crystallization.

Heating the syrup to 235°F will yield a sticky, slightly runny though still manageable maple taffy. I like this stage because it is a little messy. Higher temperatures yield firmer taffies.

As soon as you reach your desired temperature, pour the syrup over clean snow. Wait maybe ten seconds for the syrup to cool, then pick up the taffy by winding it around a popsicle stick or wooden spoon.

Sugar shacks do this in early spring, during the sap run, so that visitors can taste the first syrup of the season. With few hard maples being tapped around Edmonton, this is as much a celebration of the snow as it is the maple. Maybe a good tradition for the first snow fall, rather than the spring.

Maple taffy wrapped around a stick

Pouding chômeur, ready for the oven: cake batter floating in a sea of maple syrup

Pouding Chômeur – Poor Man’s Pudding

Pouding chômeur, ready for the oven: cake batter floating in a sea of maple syrupMy dad grew up in eastern Ontario, in sugar shack country. The most common applications of maple syrup in his home were pouring over pumpkin pie and cornbread, or, if he was especially well-behaved, as a dip for white bread. These dishes win for most direct conveyance of syrup to mouth without drinking from the bottle, but I need something (slightly) more refined.

My Québécois dessert of choice is pouding chômeur. “Chômeur” means unemployed. Here it functions as a substantive, so this is “unemployed person’s pudding.” “Poor man’s pudding” is a more natural sounding translation. Whatever you call it, it’s a fantastic, unadulterated way to enjoy maple syrup.

A simple batter of creamed butter and sugar, eggs, flour, and milk is spooned into a baking dish filled with maple syrup and cream. The batter looks like islands on a lake. Once cooked, the islands expand through the baking dish and cover the syrup entirely. The syrup thickens, partly by reduction and partly from mixing with the batter.

Once the top has browned thoroughly, squares are cut from the cake, and the maple syrup is ladled over them. Even though the dish is extremely rich, it benefits hugely from the presence of ice cream.

 

Pouding Chômeur

Ingredients

  • 900 g maple syrup
  • 40 g golden corn syrup
  • 130 g heavy cream
  • 200 g all-purpose flour
  • 6 g baking powder
  • 2 g kosher salt (I like to taste little pings of salt in the syrup.  If you don’t, only add 1 g.)
  • 130 gunsalted butter, softened
  • 60 g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 175 g whole milk

Procedure

  1. With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. In a saucepan, bring the maple and corn syrups to a boil. The corn syrup prevents crystallization of the syrup.  Simmer the mixture until a candy thermometer reads 108°C (226°F), about 15 minutes. This brings the mixture to a consistency just slightly thinner than the classic “syrup stage”.  It will reach the proper concentration during the baking process.  Remove the pan from the heat, add the cream, and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into an 8″ x 8″ baking dish and set aside.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
  4. Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl every 2 minutes.  Add the egg and beat until the batter is smooth.  With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the milk.
  5. Using an ice cream scoop, drop about 9 balls of dough, about 45 mL (3 tablespoons) each, into the syrup mixture. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre of a ball comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

Notes and Variations: A more traditional approach is to place the dough in the baking dish and pour the partially cooled syrup mixture over it before baking. Note that the cake will be more thoroughly soaked if you use this method.

Pouding chômeur can also be made in individual ramekins, instead of a casserole.

Pouding chômeur