A recent trip to the Sugar Shack (la Cabane à sucre) made me think of all things maple. Spring officially starts in Quebec when maple syrup steps out from grandma’s pantry into a full food-fashion limelight. Its the time when almost every celebrity chef puts on a plaid shirt, pair of lumberjack boots, grows some facial hair and comes up with a new creation featuring maple syrup. Commoners are welcome to join this movement with their humble concoctions.
I wanted to make some extraordinary dessert with maple syrup, but somehow the only thing that came to my mind was Crème Brûlée (as it always does). Can I make it with maple syrup? The answer came next day in the form of an article from METRO newspaper recipe ”Crème brûlée à l’érable”, which translates to the ”Maple Syrup Crème Brûlée”. The recipe cites new popular book: ”Recettes du Quebec. Les editions Transcontinental”, which is why, I assume, many Montrealers who love both, crème brûlée and maple syrup, have also tried to make it. But for those of you who did’t, here is everything you need to know about it and more.
I used to be afraid of making crème brûlée at home thinking that it was a restaurant-only staple. For some reason, I was especially concerned with bain marie(water bath ) part. Until one day I tried and could not believe how easy it was to make it. So don’t let the French words put you off this glorious dessert. Today’s version applies maple syrup reduction instead of sugar, which turns this dessert into a ”crème de la crème” of all crème brûlée varieties I have tried. It is simply incredible! The delicate sweetness of the cold creamy custard laced with an aromatic hint of maple syrup contrasts beautifully with the warm crunchy layer of burnt caramel. A real explosion of textures and flavours to titillate your palate!
If you happen to have a can of a real Maple Syrup, go ahead and impress yourself and your guests with this easy yet unforgettable creation, which puts French-Canadian culture on display. A few words of wisdom with regard to otherwise easy steps:
* don’t forget to cool and filter milk-cream mixture
* keep mixing maple syrup with fork all the time when making reduction to prevent too much thickening
* let the maple sugar reduction cool down completely before adding egg yolks to it
* spread sugar evenly to cover the whole surface of the dessert, or the custard will burn when uncovered
* Serve your crèmebrûlée shortly after you burn the sugar top , since the caramelized sugar will melt once it absorbs the moisture from the custard. If you are making the dessert in advance, keep it in the fridge and burn the sugar top at the very last minute.
The bain marie
is as simple as pouring hot water in a pyrex glass double bath to prevent your dessert (particularly egg yolks in it) to overcook. Maple syrup adds beautiful golden color to the custard.
When caramelizing sugar layer, please feel free to select one the following methods:
A. Grill in your electric oven. Make sure the custard is cold before you slip it under the grill to achieve hot & cold effect.
B. Blow with torch. This technique is my preferred: you can burn the sugar evenly over a dozen of ramekins in seconds, while the custard remains cold. If you live in your own house, the torch is a worth of investment. I would not buy it however if its only to make this dessert (use method A)
Note: Please follow safety tips when using and keep children away from this gadget!
C. Use searing iron, which is usually a part of the ramekins set for crèmebrûlée, also called ”catalan cream” (see the image below). This is probably a mini-replica of a 17th century fire-shovel, which freelancer and cook François Massialot used to melt and caramelize sugar on his own creation back in the days. Otherwise, I don’t understand how can it be so uncomfortable, laborious and medieval in use (you need to re-heat it for, like, thousand times), especially if you are making a double or triple amount of the dessert. He describes it in his book Le Cuisinier Royale et Bourgeois:
Maple Syrup Crème Brûlée
Preparation: 1hr. 40 min.; Cooking: 1 hr. 30 min.; Refrigeration: 2 hrs.
Yields 4 to 6 portions depending on the size of a ramekins.
1 cup (250 ml) milk 2%
1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream 35%
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla or maple syrup extract
2/3 cup (160 ml) real maple syrup
4 egg yolks
maple sugar or brown sugar for coating to taste
In the pot, mix the milk, the cream and vanilla extract. Bring to boil and simmer for 3 minutes. Let the mix cool down at the room temperature. Filter the mix and reserve it in a big bowl.
In the separate pot, add the maple syrup and simmer to evaporate until it is reduced to about 6 tablespoons (90ml). Pour it in a small bowl, keep mixing with the fork until it cools down. Add egg yolks and mix again.
Using wooden spatula, incorporate the syrup mixture into milk-cream mixture. Mix to a perfect smooth consistency. Ladle the mixture into individual ramekins. Place ramekins into Pyrex glass (1 inch (2.5 cm) tall pan and add boiling water to the pan to reach 3/4 of the ramekin level.
Bake in the pre-heated oven at 275 F (135 C) for 1 hour 20 minutes. Let cool for at least 2 hours. Sprinkle evenly with sugar and slide under the grill for 2 minutes to caramelize the top. (Equally, you can use the torch for caramelization.) Serve immediately.
Adapted from: Recettes du Quebec, Les Éditions Transcontinental (02/2013)