The Gallivanting Gourmand
Greg Duncan
Greg Duncan
is a freelance writer based in the Montreal region. He is particularly keen about good food. In his day job, Greg is the executive director of the Quebec Community Newspapers Association.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 03.04.02


Maple Delight arrives early

There is a sweet aroma in the air and activity in the maple stands across the southern parts of this belle province of Quebec.

Mother Nature, it seems, just might have a sweet tooth after all.

Warm temperatures in the day followed by frosty nights provide the right conditions for the flowing of maple sap.

We need a lot of it here in Quebec. In fact, most of our annual maple harvest is destined for export and that leaves us with little of the sticky stuff for ourselves. Hence, prices in our own backyard leave a lot to be desired.

If you are lucky enough to know a producer then you are lucky, indeed. I used to know one but I was actually forced to buy some last week and am now actively developing my maple networking skills.

You'd think that by six degrees of separation I would have a cupboard full of the golden prize. Not the case any more and I am not alone, apparently.

The old neighborly request of "Can I borrow a cup of sugar?" has evolved to "Can I borrow a cup of syrup?"

Listen…if you are not from around here you might not understand how maple syrup is one of those household ingredients that you simply have on hand. A Sunday morning trip to the local corner store for Log Cabin or Aunt Jemima just does not cut it. One does not like to lose face by serving these poor substitutes at a brunch.

Indications are that the elixir will flow well this year however, and that I may procure enough gratis to avoid any further embarrassment.

It's a good thing, as a certain Martha would say.

I had friends over for dinner a couple of weeks ago and faced the dilemma of not having enough of the real stuff to make a Maple Crème Brulée.

This, coupled with the fact that I have been too cheap to purchase proper ramekins, had me improvising à la dernière minute, as they say.

Ah, but I am creative. I conceded reluctantly that I would purchase some syrup (first time in five years) and outright refused to a last minute scramble for ramekins.

A simple cake pan and some champagne glasses did the trick.

I baked the custard in the pan and simply sliced the stuff and presented each guest with a glass of the sweet, syrupy dessert. Martha would be proud.

Somehow, the presentation made the custard even more special and I suspect that I will see my guests serving their version in the same manner.

Here is the recipe for this version. You may want to adopt the champagne glass presentation.

1-quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
1/2-cup sugar
9 eggs yolks 1/3 cup Quebec maple syrup

Heat cream with vanilla bean and sugar on medium heat, while stirring, until sugar dissolves. Do not boil.

Remove from heat and remove vanilla bean. Whisk egg yolks and maple syrup together. Slowly add cream to egg mixture.

Pour equal amounts of custard mixture into two nine-inch cake pans. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes, until custard is set. Cool in refrigerator until serving time.

Before serving, sprinkle top of custard evenly with brown sugar, and run under boiler until sugar caramelizes. Slice and place servings in champagne glasses that have a little maple syrup added to the bottoms. Drizzle a little more syrup over the tops of each glass before serving.