We’re nearing the end of maple season–if it isn’t completely over due to our unseasonably high temps–and I couldn’t let it pass without highlighting one of my very favorite flavors.
-Maple syrup is made by collecting and then boiling the water away from the xylem sap found in sugar, red or black maple trees
-Quebec produces about 75% of the world’s maple syrup supply; Vermont produces the most maple syrup in the United States (about 5% globally)
-Maple syrup is graded based on density and translucency. In Canada, syrup must be at least 66% sugar and made exclusively from maple sap; in the US it must be made almost entirely from maple sap
-A maple tree can produce as much as 3-4 gallons of sap per day, and about 13 gallons total each season
-Maple syrup “season” is in the spring, typically around March, and lasts for about six weeks, depending on the weather
-Maple syrup can be harvested in the fall, but is less common
-Find a local sugar shack: NYS Maple Producers’ Association
-Maple syrup’s sugar is mainly sucrose, as well as small amounts of fructose and glucose
-It also contains potassium, calcium, zinc and manganese, as well as trace amounts of amino acids
-Maple syrup has almost the same amount of calories as sugar, but provides trace minerals (above) and natural phenols, which are antioxidant compounds
-“Pancake syrup” usually has no real maple content at all; it’s first ingredient is typically high fructose corn syrup and it has been boiled down to be thick and dark like real maple syrup
-Drizzle over plain yogurt for breakfast with fruit and granola
-Add a little to olive oil, salt and pepper and roast vegetables, like sweet potatoes or squash
-A must-try: Ina’s Maple-Roasted Bacon (this is my go-to bacon recipe–simple and impressive!)
I found this recipe a few years ago in Food Network magazine and made it for a gathering almost immediately. It really is as good as it sounds! Yes, the cupcakes seem to have a bunch of ingredients, but it’s worth it. No, I don’t have nutritional information for them; I’m sure we wouldn’t want to know anyway. Make these on your next lazy Saturday and await the praises of those you love!
For the Cupcakes:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1 3.9-ounce box instant vanilla pudding mix
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon potato starch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half, at room temperature
1/2 cup chopped cooked bacon (5 strips)
For the Frosting:
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 strips bacon, cooked and chopped (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place paper liners in a 12-cup muffin tin. Prepare the cupcakes: Combine the flours, pudding mix, baking powder, potato starch, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl with a whisk.
2. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugars with a mixer on low speed until combined, 6 to 8 minutes. Gradually mix in the vanilla and egg whites. Scrape down the sides of the bowl; continue mixing until light and fluffy. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the maple syrup and half-and-half, mixing after each addition and ending with flour. Mix until the ingredients are just combined; do not overmix. Fold in the bacon.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling each cup about three-quarters of the way. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool completely.
4. Meanwhile, prepare the frosting: Beat the cream cheese and butter with a mixer on medium speed until creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar, maple syrup and cinnamon; beat until combined. Spread on the cooled cupcakes; top with chopped bacon, if desired.
Holly R. Layer received a B. A. in Journalism from Penn State and served four years in the U. S. Air Force before deciding to go back to school to become a Registered Dietician. She loves running, reading, fine stationery, colorful kitchen gadgets and ALL things food-related. An avid cook and baker, you can find her in the kitchen most days whipping up something yummy. Too bad her husband, Andrew (an East Aurora native) is the pickiest man alive! You can find her at www.thefrozenpineapple.com.