Tis the season – for Maple Syrup! Every year, there is a 4-6 window where the climate in Canada is perfect for collecting sap from trees and making Maple Syrup. During the month of March you will find tons of events going on celebrating the best kind of juice – the kind that flows from trees, is boiled down and poured over a stack of hot pancakes or dipped into with french toast.
‘Pure’ Maple Syrup (not the Aunt Jemima’s Cornsyrup lookalikes which have nothing to do with the real stuff) is utterly divine – delicately sweet and wonderfully sticky. We embarked on a trip to Stouffville to Bruce’s Mill for the Sugar Bush Maple Syrup Festival last weekend to indulge in some pancakes with quality maple syrup and take a tour to learn more about this natural sugar.
Maple Syrup Pie Recipe
Did you know that it takes 40 litres (40-50 galons) of sap to produce 1 litre (1 gallon) of maple syrup? That the sugar content of maple sap is only about 2.5% and only through boiling do we get maple syrup (sugar content 66.6%), which can still be further boiled down to produce sugars, maple cream and other candy.
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Our tour guide explained to us different tools and techniques used in the production of syrup – from using stiles to tap into trees to collect sap in buckets, to the intricate tubing and vacuum pump system used today.
The reason why the collection of Maple Syrup is so limited is because there needs to be a perfect balance of temperatures between night and day that allows for the easy flowing of sap up the tree in preparation for spring (and the production of leaves) – a maximum of plus 10 degrees C during the day and about -4 at night.
This happens in March to early April and harvesting Maple Syrup is entirely dependant on the weather’s cooperation. We saw demonstrations of processing maple syrup by Native Canadians, with the syrup ‘smoked’ out of the sap by placing hot coals in hollowed out trees.
Then we witnessed more ‘advanced’ techniques used by the pigrims to boil down syrup in multiple cauldrons to create maply syrup, maple sugar and maple butter – especially useful because it was used in lieu of salt to preserve food. It was a very fun and informative tour and sampling maple syrup was the perfect finale to the day. So were the maple syrup lollypops.
Since Canada produces about 85% of the world’s maple syrup, with 90% of our supply from Quebec. What better way to celebrate our nationality than to learn – and then indulge.
Be on the look out for maple-flavoured syrup masquerading as the real thing! Maple-flavoured syrup is imitation maple syrup, usually with little or no maple content. It is usually thicker, less expensive than real maple syrup and often called “syrup” or “pancake syrup” on the label.
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For a maple syrup infused recipe, try my Chocolate Maple Raisin Walnut Pie. A chocolate pie dough is the base for the gooey goodness of maple-candied walnuts and raisins – think of a pecan pie, on chocolate-maple steroids.
Note: this recipe is all in weight. This is because it comes directly from my ‘Art of Pies’ George Brown manual, and also because baking by weight is a more precise art and actually produces better results in baking than measuring by volume alone. The best investment to your baking cabinet is a digital scale! This recipe is for 2 pies.
Chocolate Dough Ingredients
- 453 g butter, softened
- 227 g granulated sugar
- 2 g salt
- 2 eggs
- 227 g bread flour
- 378 g cake/pastry flour
- 85 g cocoa powder
- 7 g baking soda
- 5 ml vanilla extract
- Maple Raisin-Walnut Filling
- 280 g brown sugar
- 10 g cornstarch
- 375 ml maple syrup
- 43 g melted butter
- 4 eggs
- 5 ml vanilla extract
- 37 g graham crumbs
- 150 g walnut pieces, toasted
- 70 g raisins
*to toast nuts, place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, unti fragrant. This enhances the flavour in the pie, although it is not a necessary step.
To Make Maple Syrup Pie Recipe Dough:
1. Cream together butter, sugar and eggs on medium speed in the blender, or by hand, until smooth. Scrape bowl.
2. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Scrape down sides of bowl.
3. In a seperate bowl, sift together flours, baking powder and cocoa. Add to mixture on low speed until just comes together.
4. Scrape out dough onto a floured surface and gently knead into a ball. Flatten into a disk and cover with plastic wrap. Chill for atleast 20 minutes.
5. When chilled, roll out on a well floured surface until uniform thickness and transfer to a pie plate. Set aside.
To make Walnut Maple-Raisin Filling Recipe:
6. In your stand mixer with the paddle attachement, cream together the brown sugar, constarch and maple syrup and blend well on medium speed. Scrape down bowl.
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7. Add melted butter and blend well. Add eggs and vanilla and blend until mixture is smooth.
8. Sprinkle your graham crumbs in the base of your prepared pie plate. This helps keep the base of the pie from getting soggy from all that maple goodness. Fill with your walnuts and raisins and cover with your maple syrup mixture until almost filled.
You can use leftover chocolate dough scraps to create a lattice top, like I did, or just pop the pie in the oven and await, impatiently, for the mixture to bubble up and bake to perfection.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 45-60 minutes until the smell is too much and you can’t wait a minute longer. Cool on a wire rack and serve a giant slice with some milk (or almond milk, if you’re me!)