Season of sap
The key ingredient in maple syrup is year-round melt-in-mouth asset
Maple sugaring season is a favorite time for students at the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vt., a time when this natural and flavorful ingredient is literally flowing in their back yard.
"Maple sugaring means many things to Vermonters," chef instructor Bill Koucky said, "including the thawing of winter and hopes for summer. It's a time to teach our students about one of Vermont's finest delicacies."
Students visit local maple sugar makers to learn how maple sap is collected and boiled down into maple syrup, and they also study cooking with it, in the kitchens of the six restaurants the school operates around Vermont (these kitchens go through 25 gallons of maple syrup a week).
In taste and flavor class, students learn how to use the sweet ingredient in savory creations as well as sweet. Here are two recipes adapted for the home cook.
Maple cream scones
31⁄2; cups all-purpose flour
3⁄4; cup cake flour
1⁄2; teaspoon salt
3⁄4; cup maple sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 sticks unsalted butter
3 large eggs (for scone mix)
1⁄2; cup heavy cream
1⁄2; cup dried currants
1 large egg (for egg wash)
1⁄2; cup maple syrup
Preheat oven to 325 F. Sift and mix flours, salt, sugar and baking powder in one bowl. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients, using a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles crumbs. Beat together 3 eggs and the cream, just until the two ingredients are incorporated. Add the eggs and cream to the dry ingredients. Mix with hands until the dough comes together. Add currants and mix until the currants are incorporated; do not overmix.
Flour a workspace and roll out the dough to 1 inch thick. Use a 21⁄2-; to 3-inch maple leaf cutter or standard biscuit cutter to cut out scones and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Break 1 egg into a bowl and add a drop or two of water; mix thoroughly and brush on tops of scones. Bake scones for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden. After scones have cooled, drizzle with maple syrup and serve.
Glaze variation: Mix together 1 cup confectioner's sugar, 2 teaspoons maple syrup and 3 tablespoons milk until smooth. Add more milk if the mixture is too thick or more confectioner's sugar if too thin. Drizzle this glaze on tops of scones. Makes 8 to 12 scones.
Maple roasted root vegetables
21⁄2; pounds sweet potatoes (see note)
21⁄2; pounds parsnips
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, preferably canola oil
1 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoons ground star anise
1⁄4; cup maple syrup
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 450 F. Coat a large sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Wash and peel sweet potatoes and parsnips. Cut into 11⁄4-inch; chunks. Place parsnips and sweet potatoes in two separate large bowls.
Mix oil, cumin, anise and maple syrup together in a small bowl. Pour the maple mixture equally over the vegetables. Toss the vegetables thoroughly to coat. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt and pepper.
Arrange sweet potatoes in the sheet pan, bake for 15 minutes. Add the parsnips to the pan, bake for 15 more minutes or until vegetables are tender and lightly caramelized. Makes 6 to 8 servings, as a side dish.
Note: You may substitute carrots or small onions for some of the sweet potatoes and parsnips, as desired.
Cooking with maple
Maple syrup is a flavorful alternative for granulated sugar in most recipes.
When substituting maple syrup for sugar in cooking, it is important to take into account that syrup is sweeter than sugar and that syrup adds extra moisture to the recipe.
To substitute maple syrup for sugar while cooking, generally use only 3⁄4; cup maple syrup to each cup of sugar.
To substitute maple syrup for sugar while baking, use the same proportions, but reduce the other liquid called for in the recipe by about 3 tablespoons for every cup of syrup substituted.
Maple syrup can be a good alternative for honey and molasses.
Grade B maple syrup has a stronger flavor and will yield more maple flavor in a flour batter. In an icing or other cooking where delicate flavors are required, use Grade A Light, Medium or Dark Amber.
Maple syrup can sometimes cause baked goods to brown more quickly than sugar would. To compensate for this, reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees F.
Light maple syrup (Grade A) can be used in drink recipes such as coolers, daiquiris, sours or margaritas that call for simple syrup (or sugar syrup). Using maple syrup is simpler than cooking the mixture of sugar and water needed for simple syrup.
Maple syrup tends to hug the sides of the measuring cup or spoon, so first grease the container lightly, then scrape out all the syrup.
Maple syrup can be boiled to produce maple cream, maple sugar and maple candy.
Maple syrup as a natural product is nothing more than 100 percent boiled sap.
Maple syrup and maple sugar are rich in potassium, calcium and iron, and are fat free.
Maple season lasts four to six weeks between March and April, depending on the weather.
Vermont is the largest producer of maple syrup in the United States.
It takes four maple trees, at least 40 years old, to yield enough sap over 6 weeks to produce one gallon of maple syrup.
It takes 35 to 40 gallons of maple sap to produce one gallon of syrup.
Imitation maple syrup is mostly corn syrup, containing two to three percent of real maple syrup.