March 17, 2009
As always, thanks for reading. I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs!
“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.”]
A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Coombs Family Farms, an organic farm in Vermont that specializes in “all things maple,” to see if I’d like to sample some of their syrup. Since maple syrup is a well-loved staple in my kitchen and many of my baked goods feature it as a key sweetener, I was delighted to accept their offer and eagerly awaited the package.
A few days later, I received this:
A bottle of their certified organic syrup, along with a maple-leaf shaped piece of maple candy!
Anyone who’s ever consumed real maple syrup can attest to its unique flavor–sweet, slightly smoky, with an appealing, earthy aroma. Made from the sap of maple trees, it’s naturally rich in minerals (per volume, higher in calcium than dairy milk!). The syrup is available for purchase in three grades of A (light, medium and dark) and one of B–each darker and more intensely flavored than the last. I was sent a bottle of grade B, an intense, soulful auburn that was so thick and deep it was nearly opaque. As soon as I removed the cap, the maple perfume escaped to envelop the room with that distinctive scent.
Now, I’ve enjoyed maple syrup for many years. Like pretty much everyone raised in Quebec–the heart of Canada’s maple country–I consider myself a maple aficionado, if not an expert. Maple syrup is ubiquitous in La Belle Province: you can find it on every checkered tablecloth in every greasy-spoon breakfast diner, cheerily lining the shelves in corner grocery stores, awaiting the call in every kitchen cupboard. When I was in grade school, each spring our class would make an annual trek up north for “sugaring off” parties, where freshly tapped, warmed maple syrup was poured over vast expanses of pristine snow to create a kind of maple taffy that we kids scrambled to scoop up with plastic spoons. I might even classify myself as a bit of a maple syrup snob, in fact, one who’d never even consider trying the artificially flavored stuff from that iconic slender-waisted bottle.
Still, despite my fine maple sensibilities, I’ve never really thought it essential to buy organic maple syrup. For one thing, the price is usually, shall we say, immoderate. In addition, I’ve always recalled a conversation I had with a student once in a sociology of food course I was teaching. She mentioned that her family owned a local maple tree farm. There was really no difference between organic and non-organic syrup, she explained, since most maple trees aren’t sprayed with pesticides anyway (unless infected by some vermin or another). I filed away that bit of information and continued to purchase my regular (non-organic) variety.
Well, let me tell you, that student got it wrong (luckily, she wasn’t writing a test at the time). Now that I’ve tasted the Coomb’s organic version, I’m not sure I can go back to my generic brand. Their syrup is outstanding, with a rich, deep amber color and more intense maple flavor than I’ve ever tasted. It’s perfectly sweet and subtly smoky, with a heightened maple essence that lingers gently on the palate, enduring like an unexpected compliment.
Seriously, I may not be able to tolerate my old brand any more. To heck with the price–I’ll just have to be more judicious in my use of it, I reckon. Or else use a bit less and savor every drop more. Or simply ignore the cost entirely (I suspect that a pawn shop may come into play at some point). Seriously, it’s that good.
My first taste of the syrup was straight, poured onto the Lemony Almond Pancakes I wrote about a few days ago (I wanted to sample the delicacy in its pure, unadulterated state before combining it with other ingredients). The flavors melded beautifully, the maple’s presence strong enough to match the zesty lemon while counterbalancing the slight sourness of it. The HH practically asked to drink the stuff straight out of the bottle (but I wouldn’t let him, of course, as I was saving it for my subsequent kitchen experiments). He did manage to polish off the maple candy in one sitting, however–I got barely a nibble!
With such a winning flavor, I opted to design a cookie that would really showcase the unique taste that is “maple.” I concocted these Maple Flax cookies (sorry, the two of you who are also on the ACD; these are NOT ACD-friendly–I created this recipe a couple of weeks ago). They are naturally gluten free (and even flour-free, in fact). In this case, the light, chewy texture was a natural outgrowth of my desire to minimize other ingredients in order to allow the natural maple to shine through. And you will most definitely taste it, with every chewy, sticky, sweet and maple-y bite.
Thanks again to everyone at Coombs Family Farms for allowing me to sample this extraordinary product. Now my only lament is that I can’t find any more of it here in Toronto!
They’re not quite Irish, but since they contain oats, I can claim a Celtic connection, anyway. . . Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!
P.S. It’s time for another Sweet Freedom giveaway. . . stay tuned for details next post! 🙂
Maple Flax Cookies
TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.
Looking somewhat like oatmeal cookies, with a crunchy exterior and chewy center, these intesely maple-flavored treats will please everyone. Whole flax seeds add bulk, while the oatmeal and flax meal both contribute heart-healthy soluble fiber.
© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs
TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.
Last Year at This Time: Katie’s Creamy Aspara-Dip
Filed in baking, cookies, dessert, gluten free, grains, Uncategorized, vegan
Tags: baking, cookies, dairy free, dessert, egg free, flax seeds, food allergies, food sensitivities, gluten free, maple syrup, oatmeal, pareve, parve, recipe, recipes, sugar free, vegan, vegetarian, wheat-free
March 14, 2008
DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED!
If you’re reading this page, you’ve landed on the old site. Please visit the new location by clicking here–and don’t forget to update your readers and blogrolls!
As always, thank you for reading. I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new home of Diet, Dessert and Dogs!
“Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans on this blog than you do.”
Despite my constant whining about winter (When, oh when will it finally be over?? How much longer must I endure this bleak, bleached, desolate wasteland of frigid snow? How many more days must I suffer through this torturous, crystalline hell on earth? ), I fully recognize that the season Below Zero does have at least a few minor benefits.
For one, you get to cuddle closer to your honey while watching Battlestar Gallactica or a DVD. You feel justified when you stay home from that excruciatingly boring dinner meeting (“but the roads were impossible. . . “). You have a legitimate reason to cover up your all-time high weight of mumblemumbleundisclosednumber pounds and wear loose sweaters.
And then, when the season finally begins to wane, you have the opportunity to eat fresh maple syrup.
Although technically, the trees aren’t tapped until early spring, in Canada you can purchase real maple syrup year-round (yay!). When I first changed my diet and left white sugar in the dust, maple syrup quickly became one of my baking staples. Its subtle, buttery, vaguely smoky and intensely sweet flavor is the perfect enhancement for so many foods–pancakes, of course, but also baked beans, scrambles, chocolate pudding, even some noodle dishes or casseroles. Whether you enjoy the lighter grades that contain a higher water content (the syrup darkens in color, thickens somewhat and intensifies in flavor as it’s condensed) or the richer, darker varieties, true maple syrup is a unique and noteworthy enjoyment.
When we were kids, I never realized that what my mom referred to as “maple syrup” was actually artificially-flavored corn syrup. My dad and sisters loved the stuff, and would slather it on a stack of pancakes so thickly that the syrup soaked right through to the cake on the very bottom of the pile, rendering them all a soggy, sticky mess.
I could never warm up to those heavy, dense, wet cakes. It wasn’t until I began to purchase pure maple syrup as an adult that I truly learned to appreciate pancakes. At first, I was skeptical, cutting just a corner of the pancake and tentatively dipping it into a little pool of syrup on my plate, as if I were testing lakewater with my big toe; but once I experienced that authentic light and sugary elixir, I felt comfortable pouring it on and plunging in with gusto.
Tasting genuine maple syrup also called to mind a childhood event when I was lucky enough to sample the “real thing” away from our corn syrup-infused kitchen at home. Once, on an extra-curricular school trip in April, our grade three class visited a maple farm north of the city. There, we attended an event known as “Sugaring Off.” (To this day, the term sounds vaguely like an expletive to me: “Why, you sonofa–just sugar off!” “Oh, yeah? Well you sugar off! And your mother wears army boots, too!”)
The maple farmers would hold these events just as the sap began to run, using freshly tapped syrup. They’d heat it just enough so that it caramelized instantly when poured over a base of pristine, white, freshly scooped snow that had been spread evenly across a long metal table. Immediately, the syrup was transformed into toffee against the frosted snow, and we kids wielded soup spoons, scooping in a frenzy of delight as we dug in and all shared the huge slab of sweetness.
Of course, these days, the practise would be banned for hygienic purposes. When I was a kid, however, no one worried about the snow harboring parasites, or fox pee, or fungus-infested decomposing pine cones. . . we just ate it. We all double-dipped, even triple-dipped, sharing the same enormous, rectangular, metal plate. And it was delicious. Like soft, warm, just-cooked caramel. . . . oh, how I loved it!
So when I heard about this week’s Root Source challenge to create a recipe with maple syrup, I knew I had to participate. Since I’ve been baking exclusively with natural sweeteners for the past few years, anyway, this task didn’t strike me as very different from what I’ve already been doing. And while I had a few maple syrup-based recipes in my repertoire, I wanted to create something original for this event.
Since I’m off chocolate for the time being, I considered other foods with which maple syrup can be paired successfully. One of the most common combinations–walnuts and maple syrup–exists precisely because these two ingredients complement each other so well. So I decided this was no time to buck tradition; maple and walnut it is!
The result of my kitchen playtime is these Maple-Walnut Cookies. They’re light, crisp, and really showcase the unique flavor of the syrup, especially the day after you bake them, when the flavors mature. If you prefer a chewy cookie, reduce the baking time by two or three minutes.
TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.
[Ed. Note–This recipe won the CookThink Recipe Challenge for Maple Syrup, and was published on the CookThink site. Almost as exciting as a good sugaring off party!]
[This recipe will also appear in my upcoming cookbook, Sweet Freedom, along with more than 100 others, most of which are not featured on this blog. For more information, check the “Cookbook” button at right, or visit the cookbook blog.]