With the arrival of March comes hope, more daylight, and a new season of local harvesting in Elgin County. As much as I try to preserve the bounty produced by our local farmers when food is ripe, I'm not at the stage of being 100% sustainable all year round - and I probably never will be. I do the best that I can, when I can, but like the majority of people I resort to imported fresh fruits & vegetables when locally grown isn't available.
When March rolls in (like a lamb or like a lion?), one the first local food products to become available in the new year is ooey gooey, sweet & succulent, take-me-to-the-sugar-shack maple syrup.
The flavour, colour, aroma, texture, and versatility of maple syrup make it a favourite in my pantry. Although the price of the real stuff may intimidate some shoppers, I think it is worth the cost as an occasional treat. The bottles of 'table syrup' are filled with artificially coloured and flavoured high-fructose corn syrup and are in no way close to replicating the complexity and depth of the tree-sourced liquid gold. Authentic maple syrup contains just one ingredient: sugar maple sap.
The sugar shanty's will be open this weekend offering demos and tastings of local syrup. Take a little day-trip, enjoy the great outdoors and pick up a bottle to bring home to prepare the first of many maple treats this month : Maple Budino.
What is Budino?
Budino is Italian for pudding. Inspired by a recipe for Caramel Budino from Bon Appétit, I've replaced the white and brown sugar with maple syrup then layered the pudding with dark chocolate cookie crumbs (slightly salty and very crunchy), maple caramel sauce, and whipped cream. The result is an incredibly sweet, rich and decadent dessert with contrasting textures.
The cookie crumbs, pudding and caramel sauce can all be prepared in advance. The assembled dessert can be put together a day before it's needed, but I recommend spooning the whipped cream and crumb garnish on top just before serving.
You really want the intense maple flavour to come through in this dessert so use the highest quality syrup you can find. If your syrup isn't as maple-y as it could be (early syrup is typically weaker flavoured than late season syrup), reduce 1 1/2 cups of maple syrup down to 1 cup by boiling it in a pot on the stove.
Maple Budino With Maple Caramel Sauce - Recipe
Makes 8 portions
2/3 c all purpose unbleached flour
1 t cornstarch
1/2 c sugar
2/3 c cocoa powder
1 t + 1/8 t kosher salt
6 T + 2 T unsalted butter, melted
3 c milk
1/4 c cornstarch
1/2 c maple syrup
1 t kosher salt
5 egg yolks (save the whites for a future recipe)
3 T butter, cubed
2 t spiced rum (optional)
Maple Caramel Sauce
1/2 c maple syrup
3/4 c 35% cream
4 T cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/4 t salt
1/4 t pure vanilla extract
1 c 35% cream
1 T maple syrup OR 1 T powdered sugar + 1/4 t pure vanilla extract
Eating. Drinking. Sharing.