Do you know that I never had a taste of real maple syrup until I was in college? It's true. I went almost twenty years pouring the fake stuff over my just-add-water pancakes (yeah, my food renaissance didn't happen until a few years later).
I went to school in western New York, in one of the most beautiful areas you can imagine come autumn, or spring, or summer (winter depends on your cold weather preferences). A friend who grew up in that area took me to a pancake house that was a very rustic, podunk, men in red plaid flannel kind of place. With stacks of buttery pancakes and real maple syrup. That I didn't like. Can you believe it? The first time I tried real maple syrup, I thought it was too thin. Now I realize that I prefer Grade B, which is a little thicker, as opposed to Grade A, which tends to be runnier. The thought of going back to the gooey fake syrup turns my stomach.
This past summer we went to Vermont and had a wonderful time. Justin and I had a chance to go on a long bike ride in the beautiful green hills (on which he got three flat tires -- but that is a story for another time). The bike ride took much longer than expected (thanks to the flats), and we were kind of ready to just get back, but we passed a hand painted sign advertising "Maple Syrup Here." Of course we had to stop. The man sold it out of his garage, with a few shelves of syrup and maple sugar candies in a small refrigerator. We bought both. We broke out the syrup a few weeks ago, at the first hint of fall, and poured it over waffles with ginger-y peaches.
Also on our Vermont trip, we had the most amazing maple ice cream in downtown Bennington, VT. Justin and I usually get different flavors so that we can sample each others ice cream. I got maple, and he got something else. He was a little jealous of my maple.So when his birthday rolled around at the end of August, I offered to let him pick a flavor from David Lebovitz's Perfect Scoop book. In it, there is ice cream, sorbet, granita, toppings, and "vessels". I was hoping Justin would choose maple ice cream. And so he did.
We paired it with wet walnuts (which are basically walnuts in maple syrup), whipped cream, and kamut shortbread, which I got from Kim Boyce's Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole Grain Flours. The result? True perfection. Every bite was worth all the sugar, calories, and heavenly fat crammed into this little sundae. I will share with you the maple ice cream recipe. For the shortbread, you should buy the book (it's really amazing) or you could use any shortbread recipe you like.
What I would really love to do is deconstruct this sundae and put it in cake format. A shortbread crust, a layer of ice cream, a layer of whipped cream, and wet walnuts on top. Maybe for a Thanksgiving dessert. I will let you know if I get around to it.
Recipe below. Here is what else has been cooking in my kitchen lately.
Crispy, salty fingerlings
Better than hot chocolate
Pumpkin Muffins (you would never guess they are vegan)
Scooping these on homemade tortillas and sprinkling with cheddar
Spreading this jam on toast and mixing it into oatmeal
Maple Ice Cream
From The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup dark amber maple syrup (I used Grade B)
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1) Warm the milk and sugar (scald) in a medium pan. Pour the cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top.
2) In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
3) Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spoon. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream to cool. Add the maple syrup, salt, and vanilla, and stir. Cool completely, then chill in refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. Churn in your ice cream maker.
Have a great weekend, everyone!