My 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.
- 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
- With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 400°F.
- 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.
- Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
- 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.
- 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.