I admit I could never imagine Maple Sugar Pie or Maple Syrup Pie. I flat out love pure maple anything, but an entire pie made with maple sugar or syrup and nothing else to offset the sweetness — like pecans for instance — seemed like it would be cloying and a full-out sugar rush. Then a friend and I drove from Vermont to Quebec City in the early autumn of 2012. I knew that this would be my best chance to try Maple Sugar or Maple Syrup Pie. I was ready to convert – or not.
My first taste of the fabled pie was at Aux Anciens Canadiens, a traditional restaurant in one of the oldest buildings in the city. They serve classic Canadian fare, including wild game and, of course, Maple Syrup Pie. It was delicious! Warm and sweet. While it may sound like whipped cream would be overkill, it’s necessary as it cuts the sweetness some, while adding a nice creaminess. I converted.
Now that I’d gotten my feet wet, I wanted more. The following day we ate at Caffe Conti a bistro-like restaurant with a more current menu. Their Maple Sugar Pie was completely different, more like a maple creme brulee, and very appealing.
The problem with maple sugar is finding it if you don’t live in New England, Ohio or Canada. I recommend Goodwin Family Farm in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. I also purchase their syrup by the half gallon, which is far more affordable per-ounce than the small containers in the supermarkets. Get the amber or dark amber for a deep maple flavor, which is much better for baking. The best part about these pies is that they’re a terrific holiday or winter dessert option. I can assure you that nearly everyone will love them. Those few who don’t would probably prefer another serving of turkey or ham and a glass of wine to a dessert.
None of the recipes I found included vanilla. Not surprisingly, vanilla and maple complement one another nicely. I’m sure that if pure vanilla had been available to the Canadian settlers, they would have found this to be true. I know you will as well.
I spent some time prowling the Internet for the Aux Anciens Canadiens and, much to my surprise, found the recipe.
1 8- or 9-inch pie crust, partially pre-baked
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar or blend of brown and maple sugars
2 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup pure maple syrup (preferably dark amber)
1 teaspoon Rain’s Choice pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted
Crème fraîche or unsweetened whipped cream for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Roll out dough into an 11-inch round on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin and fit into an 8-inch (3-cup) glass pie plate. Trim excess dough and crimp edges decoratively. Bake 20 minutes, or until very lightly golden brown but not completely baked.
Whisk together brown sugar and eggs until creamy. Add cream, maple syrup, butter, then whisk until smooth. Pour filling into pie shell.
Bake pie in lower third of oven until pastry is golden and filling is puffed and looks dry but still trembles, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool on a rack to room temperature (filling will set as pie cools).
Serve slightly warm with crème fraiche or unsweetened whipped cream.
I contacted Caffe Conti and requested their recipe. They were happy to oblige. However, the recipe came in metric amounts and I needed to guesstimate a bit. When I made the pie, it came out perfectly. While the turning the oven on and off part is a little annoying, you are aiming to set the custard perfectly while getting a nice brown top.
Maple Sugar Pie from Conti Caffe
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons 3/4 stick butter (100 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup (100 grams) sugar
2 large eggs
1-3/4 cups (440 grams) maple sugar (or brown sugar or a blend)
1 tablespoon (15 g) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon (15 g) non-gmo cornstarch
112-ounce can evaporated milk (can use light cream)
1 cup (240 g) whole milk
1 teaspoon Rain’s Choice vanilla extract
In the bowl of a food processor, place the butter and the sugar and pulse until butter and sugar are completely blended and butter has become lighter. Add the eggs and pulse until mixture is smooth and creamy.
Add the flour and pulse until a ball begins to form. Remove the dough. Form a ball with your hands. Dust with flour and cover in plastic wrap.
Let it rest for about 6 hours in the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (180 degrees C). Roll out the dough and line a 9-inch pie tin. Set aside for 30 min. before putting the filling in.
In a bowl, combine the maple or brown sugar, evaporated milk, eggs and 3/4 (200 grams) of the milk. Blend well.
In another bowl, combine the flour and the cornstarch with the rest of the milk and vanilla. Blend well. Combine both bowls and Let the mixture to rest all night in the refrigerator.
Pour into the unbaked pie crust.
Bake 15 min. and turn off the oven for 30 min. Bake again for 5 min. and turn off the oven again until you get the same texture as a creme brulée. Be careful not to boil the filling.
Place pie on cooling rack until cool. Serve cool or slightly warm with or without whipped cream.
It feels like a cardinal sin to post a decadent chocolate recipe in a blog during the first week of the new year (2013). Well, almost. As you can see it didn’t stop me from doing it. I’m posting this amazing Hazelnut Chocolate Tart for you now because I was locked out of Facebook last week thanks to a Russian hacker and I couldn’t post it for New Year’s Eve. So if you’ve made some sort of pledge to lose ten pounds or to avoid dessert or chocolate at all costs, then simply bookmark this recipe for when you fall off the wagon. Or consider being a food voyeur as there are no calories involved in reading. And, if you have a friend who, like me, has the mixed blessing of being born in January (when no one wants to celebrate!) I highly recommend making this divine Hazelnut Chocolate Tart as a gift.
I found this recipe in Sunset and immediately tore it out of the magazine. My son-in-law Brad has a passion for the Swiss hazelnut chocolate bars sold at Trader Joe’s. Any of you peeps hooked on them? So when I saw their photo of chocolate and hazelnuts I immediately thought of him and decided to make it for his birthday.
Unfortunately, his birthday either falls on or is right after Thanksgiving, depending on the year, and Thanksgiving week is the busiest week of the year in the grocery trade. I knew there would be no time to make it so I aimed for Christmas dinner.
Mind you, Christmas week is also insane in the markets, just not quite as insane. I blended the cookies and hazelnuts for the crust ahead of time and made the Nutella, then brought all the ingredients to their home. After we exchanged gifts and had breakfast, I took over the kitchen. Not just to make dessert, but also to cook dinner as my daughter Serena was beyond ragged from two young boys who were determined to find out for sure if Santa was real. (Just as Brad was finally getting to bed around 2:00 a.m., the youngest said, “Is it time to get up, Dad?” This gives you an idea of what their night was like.)
This is not a difficult dessert to make, but it involves several steps. Preparing the cookies and hazelnuts for the crust and the Nutella ahead of time was a brilliant decision as it saved time and cleanup on Christmas. I made them both over a week ahead of time. The nutella keeps well in the refrigerator and the cookies and nuts were stored in a sealed plastic bag.
The crust calls for chocolate cookies. The suggestion was to use chocolate wafers, which I’m sure would work well. I used a gluten-free option that was excellent and I recommend it if you can find them. Put out by Enjoy Life, I used the Double Chocolate. These cookies are crisp and full of flavor.
As for the Nutella, you could save time and use the store bought version. I will say, however, that the homemade is so good that it’s worth the extra work. If you have a good blender or food processor, it’s a snap to make. The one issue I have is that it’s too thick to easily spread on toast or croissants.
Hazelnuts from Oregon are the best choice as the entire commercial US crop is grown there. While you might be able to find imported hazelnuts, they won’t be as fresh or flavorful plus they carry a big carbon footprint. If you can’t find them in a market bin, you can buy them from freddyguys.com, hazelnuthill.com or yournw.com.
Buy the nuts raw and roast them for about 18 minutes at 350 degrees F. Sunset recommended placing the roasted nuts in a tea towel, then rubbing them to remove the thin brown skins. I found this messy. Instead, after they cooled, I put about five or six in one hand and then rubbed the palms of my hands together so the nuts would rub against each other and shed their skins. Whatever way you decide to do this, just know that many of the skins don’t want to completely come off. Get off what you can and don’t worry about the rest. I will say that these nuts look good because they came this way. The next batch of hazelnuts we received at the market had their skins on.
Here’s the recipe: Hazelnut Chocolate Mousse Tart
The recipe sounded so rich that I assumed that we’d need whipped cream on the side to cut the richness. I know, this sounds like an oxymoron, but whipped cream cuts the richness of chocolate. But the mousse is very light and balances the richness of the Nutella without any additional help. I do hope you will enjoy this tart sometime in the near future if not now. I’m ready for one right this minute!
It’s November and I’m thinking about cozy soups, fragrant stews and other warming foods that speak of waningsunshine and chilly nights. Especially when I was fighting with the wind while raking leaves. However, as I cruised the produce section I spotted bright yellow Ataulfo mangoes, one of the sweetest and most flavorful varieties that comes into our markets here in the States. What to do? I can’t imagine mango soup and stews call for root vegetables — parsnips and potatoes, carrots and onions. Then I remembered a wonderful dish I created when I worked with New Leaf markets. A black peppered, spicy mango chicken saute with cashews. Served over a rice pilaf, I could have the best of both worlds — a warming dish but with tropical overtones. I bought the mangoes!
This is, hands down, the best panna cotta I’ve ever tasted. I suspect that the buttermilk plays a starring role as it provides a delicately tart undertaste. I have to say, I have never ordered a second dessert at a restaurant before, but my friend ate part of mine so, when he went to the rest room, I ordered a second one! Fortunately, he found this amusing.
Because raspberries are scarce and expensive in the latter autumn, I used plain frozen raspberries and made the sauce. Worked perfectly. You can add slices of ripe pear for a refreshing balance to the richness of the pannas.
Delfina recommends using styrofoam cups (if you can find them) for making the dessert. I had regular paper cups and they worked. The caramelized sugar didn’t all come out, so after I plated the panna cotta, I dipped the cup briefly in a bowl with hot water and drizzled the sugar over the custard. If you have silicone custard molds, use those instead of paper cups. Less waste.
This is a wonderful recipe to use as a base for all kinds of crisps. However, you need to adapt it to the fruit you’re using. With sweet fruits you’ll want to cut the sugar to taste. You can eliminate the spices if you choose, though they go well with most fruits. The picture of the crisp I’ve used is an Apple Berry Crisp. The berries add a very pleasant tang. Also good would be cranberries or sour cherries. Ice cream melting into hot crisp is amazing. Think salted caramel ice cream for instance. Or keep it simple and serve the crisp naked, but a pitcher of heavy cream would dress it up and make it cozy for a winter’s night.
If I were to choose only one muffin recipe from my collection, it would be this recipe for applesauce muffins. These muffins are extremely moist, delicate in texture and bursting with flavor. This is especially true if you use my Kick-ass Applesauce recipe as the base for these muffins. They are really, really good!
This recipe makes 24 regular size muffins. While that may be more than you want, I suggest you do it anyway and stick some in the freezer or share with friends.. I debated making half this recipe recently and I’m really glad that I made the full batch because they were gone in a flash.
In 1969 I moved to a ridge along the Mendocino coast. Through serendipity I ended up in the second oldest farmhouse on the Coast and it came with 29 heritage apple trees! Needless to say, we had apple everything from early autumn until spring. Apple pie, apple crisp, apple cookies, apple cake, baked apples, candied apples and a whole lot of applesauce.
Amazingly enough, I still look forward to autumn for the apples. Let’s face it, there’s nothing quite like the snap of biting into a crisp apple and feeling and tasting the juices flood your palate!