Yum, maple! Doesn’t it just conjure up warm and fuzzy food memories—especially about breakfast? Fuzzy-slipper-clad moms griddling up tall stacks of pancakes drizzled with warm syrup. Hot, crispy strips of maple-cured bacon or trays of thickly frosted, fresh-made maple bars at neighborhood bakeries!
Only a few places in the world have the right climate to grow sugar maples, the trees that give us this distinctive taste. In the United States, Vermont is the best known for maple syrup production, but Quebec, Canada, provides most of the world’s supply.
Other producing regions include upstate New York, Michigan, Ontario, and the Canadian Maritime Provinces. The flavor of the syrup can vary from region to region and also by year or “vintage.”
Maple’s unique flavor is wonderful in all kinds of recipes, and different grades of syrup are preferred for different uses. Maple syrupis graded by color and strength of taste. In general, U.S. grades are Grade A (Light Amber or Fancy, Medium Amber and Dark Amber) and Grade B. Vermont’s syrups are a little thicker than the U.S. standard and are graded on their own system; the lightest grade is called “Vermont Fancy.” Canadian grades are #1 (Extra Light, Light, and Medium), #2 (Amber) and #3 (Dark). The very delicate, palest grades are best as a table condiment or used with foods where the syrup’s subtly can be appreciated, such as drizzled over a light plain custard. The darker syrups are more flavorful and come through well in cooking and baking. I used a Grade B syrup for the following recipe.
On the more savory side of things, maple syrup is outstanding in a marinade for pork, added to a pot of baked beans, or in salad dressings.
And of course maple is fantastic in sweets and baked goods. My recipe for this week is a dense Maple Apple Bundt Cake that has a flavorful Jack Daniel’s Glaze that just sets the whole thing off. This cake is chock-full of grated apple and chopped pecans; it makes a welcome afternoon sweet treat, a delicious dessert when served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of
maple-sweetened whipped cream—and I even like it for brunch!
So make a resolution to get beyond your pancake habit, and try this sweet syrup “in” instead of “on” something different this year.
Maple Apple Bundt Cake with Jack Daniel’s Glaze
Makes about 10 to 12 servings
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 sticks (8 ounces) butter, salted
3/4 cup real maple syrup
1 teaspoon maple flavoring
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 apple, with skin, cored and coarsely grated
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans, lightly toasted
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup, preferably grade B
8 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon Jack Daniels whiskey (or for a na version substitute cranberry juice)
Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan.
In an electric mixer, combine the brown sugar, butter, maple syrup and maple flavoring, and mix on medium speed for 3 minutes or until fluffy. Then mix in the eggs, one at a time, and continue mixing until mixture is light and fluffy.
Sift flour, baking powder, soda and salt into a medium bowl. Stir to mix evenly. Add the dry ingredients, in two parts, into the egg mixture, beating well after each addition. Then stir in the apple and nuts.
Scoop batter into prepared pan. Rap pan on counter to release any air bubbles. Bake for about 55 to 60 minutes, until top is golden brown and a cake tester poked in the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the glaze: In a small bowl, combine the maple syrup, powdered sugar and whiskey, and stir until smooth.
With a small knife, cut around sides and center of Bundt pan to loosen the cake. Turn cake out onto rack, set rack over a baking sheet, and drizzle cake all over with the glaze. Let cake cool completely on the rack, or slice and serve while still slightly warm.
©2009 by Kathy Casey Food Studios®