Posts Tagged ‘maple’

After all of my travels last year throughout the world, I must say I was interested to find in Canada some of the basis of many meals and cooking techniques I also found in other places. I also grew more aware of what foods are available in Canada, and what exactly Canadian food is. If this is not a Canadian recipe, then I do not know what is!

As I cooked the first batch of dried blueberry pancakes smothered in maple syrup for my village in The Gambia, I realized I’d shared a true Canadian flavour with my hosts. Maple syrup.

This recipe draws on inspiration from the Joy of Cooking’s classic sponge cake recipe. I love the recipe as it is delicious while also being totally dairy-free and also oil-free, which makes it a crowd pleaser as long as no one has trouble with gluten or wheat.

I invented the icing, inspired by a rich but complementary cream cheese base, and made unique with pecan butter and maple extract.

I hope you like these as much as Catherine and all my friends did – they sure disappeared fast! It was such a pleasure to finally bake something for Catherine as we are in the same city for just about a month! I think we should take advantage of proximity while we can.

Ingredients – 12 cupcakes

3/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 tsp baking powder, sifted
1/4 tsp salt

3 egg yolks (save the whites in the fridge, they will be used in a few minutes!)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup amber (or any other you have) maple syrup
1/4 cup boiling water
1 tsp maple extract (optional)

3 egg whites

Ingredients – maple pecan cream cheese frosting

2/3 cup pecans

1 cup cream cheese, room temperature
1/8 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup icing sugar
1 Tsp maple extract
pinch salt


Preheat oven to 350 F and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners. To make the cupcakes, sift all dry ingredients together in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks for about a minute, until they begin to thicken. Gradually add in the sugar and maple syrup, and beat for a further 3 minutes on high. Add in the extract, and then beat in the boiling water.

Gradually incorporate the dry ingredients. You can do so with a beater on low or with a whisk (my preference). Using clean beaters and a chilled bowl, beat the egg whites into medium-firm peaks.

Carefully incorporate one quarter of the egg whites into the batter with a rubber spatula, and then add the remainder when it is light and airy. Do not over-mix.

Spoon the mixture into the cupcake liners, filling them to 3/4. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes depending on your oven, until a toothpick poked into the middle of the cupcake comes out clean.

To make the pecan cream cheese maple icing, start with making the pecan butter. If you have a food processor or blender, place the nuts inside and allow them to be processed until they become coarse pecan butter. Add in the cream cheese and butter, and continue to mix until everything is smooth. Add in the sugar and extract, and continue to pulse.

If you do not have a food processor, just buy some pecan butter and mix it in with the other ingredients in a bowl using a fork and then a wooden spoon once it is broken up.

If the icing is too runny, add a bit of icing sugar, or refrigerate! You can garnish the iced cupcakes with pecan halves if you like!


Read Full Post »

For me, maple syrup production really symbolizes the arrival of spring. The sap begins to run, and the trees start to come back to life after their wintery rest.

When I was little, every spring my mother, brother, and I would walk over to the near-by conservation area with little tiny cups from my dinette (mini kitchen set for my dolls). We’d stand on tip-toes, lift the lid off the sap collection pails, dip our cups into the sap, and drink. It was such a treat, although I’m not sure how the conservation authority felt about it. I wish I had photos to share with you here, but alas, my childhood albums are far away at my mother’s house.

On a recent walk in the ravine beside my house, I was delighted to find evidence of Not Far From the Tree’s Syrup In the City program. There were tapped sugar maples and large sap collection jugs. What a great idea to begin to tap trees in an urban setting. Now if only every person with a sugar-maple tapped it or let Not Far From the Tree do it, I’m quite certain a lot of maple syrup could be produced.

I guess the next best thing I can do is share a lovely recipe that uses maple syrup – maple walnut ice cream – which I made as part of the Canadian meal with our friend from Denmark who wanted to taste “Canadian Food.”  Home-made ice cream is such a treat, and this one is especially delicious. Once again, this recipe was adapted from a recipe in Canadian Living.

Ingredients – 8 servings

-1 cup roasted walnuts, coarsely chopped (at 300F for 20 minutes)
-1 1/4 cups maple syrup
-2 cups milk (I use 2%)
-1 cup 35% whipping cream
-5 large egg yolks
-1 tsp vanilla extract


Roast the walnuts on a baking sheet, and let cool.  In a saucepan (preferably with a heavy bottom and tall walls), bring the maple syrup to a gentle boil and boil down for about 6-7 minutes, until it is reduced to about 2/3 cups volume.  Be careful and turn down the heat if the bubbles rise fast.

Remove from heat and let cool for about 5 minutes while you separate the egg yolks into a bowl.  Reserve the egg whites in a mason jar in the freezer, a trick I learned from a lovely professor at university.  Soon I will post a recipe to use those with, or you could make Mocha Chip Meringue Cake.

Quickly stir the cream and milk into the maple syrup.  Return this to medium-low heat, until nearly boiling (small bubbles should form at edges of pan).  Remove from heat.

Whisk the egg yolks together well, and then slowly with vigorous whisking incorporate the yolks into the syrup-cream mixture.  Return the pan to medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.  This should take between 6-10 minutes.

Stir in the vanilla extract.  Now place a sieve over a large enough bowl to hold the mixture, and pass the cream mixture through the sieve to remove any unwanted stringy and grainy bits.  Discard what’s left of solids after you’ve helped all the liquid through the sieve with the back of a spoon.

Refrigerate at least 2 hours, until fully cold.  I like to make that mixture the night before.

Once it has rested and cooled off, put ice cream mix into your prepared ice-cream machine (if you do not have one, place it in a cake dish in the freezer and stir it occasionally until 1/2 frozen), and follow the ice-cream maker’s instructions.  Add the chopped nuts after the ice-cream has mostly frozen (just before putting the ice cream into the freezer if you have a machine, and 1/2 way into the freezing process if you are using a cake pan).  Mix well, and freeze the ice cream in an airtight container.

You’ll need to freeze the ice cream at least 3-4 hours before serving if you want it to be firm.

I guarantee you’ll wish your ice-cream maker is larger than it is!


Read Full Post »

What in the world is Canadian food?  Well, it’s something I’ve been giving a lot of thought to lately, because a friend of ours from Denmark asked us to make him some Canadian food.  That was more of a challenge than I thought it would be!

My family’s roots in Canada are not long; I am first-generation Canadian on my mother’s side, and second on my father.  This means we do not have long-standing “Canadian Recipes” that have been passed down generation to generation.  Catherine, on the other hand, may be able to speak to that.

What exactly is Canadian food?  In a course this past week (human nutritional ecology), we asked the question of what are and why do certain foods become culturally defined?  Sometimes, such as the famous British Christmas Pudding attests to, it is a cultural recipe by the making: in this case the government decided it was time to bring the nation together with a dessert.

In Canada, however, the situation is very different.  We are, by nature, a diverse bunch of people who have been living on this land of ours for very different amounts of time.  There is lobster on the East Coast, smoked fish in the great lakes and the West Coast, Ukranian/Polish food in the prairies, Inuit food in the North, poutine and other dishes in Québec… so I struggled to decide what to make.

In the end I decided that I would have a theme running throughout: maple syrup, because this food has been a part of this land for much longer than it even was known as Canada.  There were sweet potato fries dipped in maple syrup, maple-walnut ice cream, and butter tarts with maple syrup and pecans. Today, I am sharing the butter tart recipe.  I adapted the recipe from Canadian Living’s Best Butter Tart recipe from a magazine clipping I had from a few years ago.  I hope you enjoy them!  They are absolutely delicious, with a wonderfully flaky crust and oozing with maple deliciousness.

Ingredients – 12 tarts


-1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 Tbsp granulated sugar
– 1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
-1 egg yolk
-1 tsp vinegar
-1/3 cup ice water, plus more if necessary


-1/2 cup brown sugar
-2/3 cups maple syrup
-1 egg
-2 Tbsp butter, softened
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1 pinch salt
-1/2 cup chopped pecans


To make the crust, mix the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl.  Cube the cold butter and keep in fridge to make sure it is as cold as possible.  Cut it quickly into the flour mixture, until pea-sized butter lumps and a few bigger ones remain. Then mix the egg yolk with vinegar and 1/3 cup water.  Quickly mix this into the flour mix with your hands, and form it into a ball as fast as possible without kneading.  Form it into a disk and let it rest at least 1 hour in the fridge in plastic wrap.

To make the filling, heat the maple syrup over medium-high heat, and let it boil down until it is about 1/2 cup in volume, close to 5 minutes of bubbling. Watch it carefully as it easily bubbles over.

In a bowl, whisk together the egg, sugar, cooled syrup, butter, vanilla, and salt.

Roll out the pastry between two sheets of wax paper or onto a well floured surface.  Cut into 12 squares.  Butter a muffin tin, and place the squares in each muffin container.  Drop some pecans into each, cover with syrup, and drop a few more pecans on top.

Bake in a preheated oven at 400F for between 12-17 minutes, until the tips of the pastry are golden and the middle is bubbly.  Remove from the oven once they are cooked, and let cool at least 30 minutes before removing them from the muffin tin (syrup will end up everywhere if you are impatient… I can attest to this!).  Enjoy with afternoon tea or for dessert.  These are an absolute treat, and judging by their name, I was expecting far more than 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp butter.  But then again, my background is French…


Read Full Post »