Along the Grapevine


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Foam-enting Interest in Maple Syrup

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Here in Ontario maple syrup season is in full swing, and for the second year we are beginning to boil down the sap from our sugar maples and a few Norway maples too. The latter don’t provide as much sap, and it will not be as sweet, but once we’ve set up the apparatus, may as well make use of what is available to us.

We managed to find some second-hand metal buckets which I like much better than the blue plastic ones we already had from last year.

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We also have a new sugar shack, which is actually the now-empty wood shed.DSC01938

We are following the same process as last year which you can read about here.

My blog has been dormant for a while. We were off in Spain for a couple of weeks, and my arm still keeps me from doing much in the kitchen, so as I cautiously resume my adventures in backyard foraging, I wanted to bring something pretty special to Angie’s Fiesta Friday. This recipe is special because it uses the most iconic of all Ontario’s products, but in a way which is thoroughly innovative, fun, and Delicious.

I got the idea from an esteemed fellow blogger, Poppy, at Bunny Kitchen who shared an extraordinary idea for making a fluffy chocolate mousse out of the liquid from unsalted canned chickpeas. It seemed a bit risky to me, but her gorgeous pictures convinced me I should give it a try. Since she’d already proven the technique with her own chocolate version, I had to try it with maple syrup, and lots of it.

I used dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked them in the usual way. Once cooked, I chilled them, then poured off the liquid. From about one and a half cups of peas, I had one cup of liquid which, as it turned out, was plenty.

Using a hand mixer I beat the liquid for about ten minutes. I then added 1/2 tsp guar gum, 100 ml of sugar (I used maple), and gradually added 250 ml maple syrup, beating all the while. This is what it looked like – about two litres in all.

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As promised, this made a super light and delectable mousse. With all the maple, no hint of bean flavour came through, and the maple flavour was strong but the sweetness somewhat tempered. Perfect for so many things!

On its own, it was a delicious dessert, but I also wanted to see how else I could use it. Here are 3 ways I served it.

1. As a garnish for a fruit pie.

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2. As icing for cupcakes.

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3. As a dessert layered with banana walnut cake and topped with some violet syrup I had from last spring.

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I also tried freezing it to make ice cream, adding a little more syrup to make a swirl, but it didn’t really freeze – just got colder.

Some tips to consider when making this dessert.

  • A little goes a long way. Try to calculate how much you’ll actually need. The topping on the cakes has kept well beyond a day, but what was left in the bowl began to separate and lost some of its frothiness. Beating it again solves the separation problem, but it is no longer as airy.
  • The mixture is too thin to make a heavy frosting capable of holding its shape, so allow for some runnyness.
  • Any sweetener would work with this. Just add gradually and taste as you do so.

There are plenty more possibilities I can think of for using this technique and I expect to have some fun with it. I hope you do too.


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Easter Stollen and Maple Hemp Marzipan

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Christmas stollen – ‘cuit’

I usually make stollen for Christmas, and did this past year, but the result was a little ‘cuit’, which in French does not sound so bad, but I thought might be seen as burned by English speakers. So I made another batch, and this one will be for Easter, and to share with everyone at the Novice Gardener’s Fiesta Friday this week. I will also give some my ideas for marzipan alternatives.

For my spring stollen, I made a slightly less rich version than the Christmas one by omitting the liquor in which I usually soak the raisins and currants. I did not use the usual dried fruits, but used instead some dried crab apples which give this stollen a distinctive and local flavour and colour.

I have tried many versions of this recipe, and finally settled on one which has the flavour and texture I wanted. Some are too light and brioche-like, most are too sweet. If there are no ground nuts in the recipe, it is impossible to achieve the density that I wanted. A generous amount of butter is also important. This recipe uses mostly the sweetness of the fruit, but if you want it sweeter, just add more honey.

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There is no need to be intimidated by making a yeast bread. Just let it rise until lots of air bubbles appear in the dough when you check the interior. In this cool weather, it can take a few hours. I allow it to rise at least three times, and if I am busy, I stir down the first mixture (the sponge without rising inhibitors like fat and salt) until I am ready to use it. I think this extra time maybe improves it, and certainly doesn’t hurt it. As for kneading, I just to it until I don’t feel like doing it any more. As long as it is holding together, it works. Also, amounts of flour vary depending on the type of flour, the size of eggs, etc. Just keep adding flour when you knead it until it is not sticky and not able to absorb any more. Therefore note that the second addition of flour in this recipe is approximate. Just add a little at a time until it feels right.

Stollen

1 cup warm milk (I used almond)

2 heaping Tbsp honey

3 tsp yeast granules

1. Dissolve the honey and yeast, and allow to sit about 10 minutes, or until the yeast is all bubbly.

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup currants

1/4 cup water, juice, brandy or rum

2. Pour the liquid over the dried fruit and allow to stand at least 1/2 hour. If you can do this earlier, even the day before, that is even better, especially if you are using liquor.

1 cup of flour

3. Add the flour to the yeast mixture and stir well. Let sit until it becomes bubbly. This is the sponge method, and at this point you can just stir it down. let rise and repeat until you are ready for the next stage.

1/2 cup dried fruit (I used crab apples)

1/2 cup ground almonds

1/2 cup nuts (I used hazelnuts)

1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp mace

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tsp salt

4 cups of flour (approximately). I used red fife, which, along with the unblanched almonds, gives it a darkish colour.

4. Mix all the ingredients one by one into the sponge, ending with the flour which should be added about 1 cup at a time. When all the liquid is absorbed, turn it out onto a floured surface and continue adding flour while kneading until it is no longer sticky. Continue to knead for a few more minutes, until the dough is nice and elastic.

5. Grease the ball of dough with a little oil, place in a bowl in a warm place and cover with a tea towel. The warmer the place, the faster it will rise. This stage can take from one hour to several hours. It will not quite double, because of the weight of the fruit and nuts, but it will be very spongy when you check the interior.

6. Punch it down and knead a few more times, making sure to get rid of all the air bubbles. If you want  a plain loaf, shape it into 2 loaves and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet an cover with a towel to rise again. This stage will be much faster, will not double but reach about 50% again of its original size. If you want a traditional stollen, divide the dough in two and roll each into a rectangle of about 12 inches x 6 inches. Place a strip of marzipan down the middle, fold one side over the marzipan and then the other side over that. Seal the edges so it doesn’t open when baked.

7. When the loaves plumpen up, place them in a 325 degrees F oven for 1 hour, or until the entire loaf is golden and sounds hollow when tapped.

8. Brush a little butter on the hot loaves. Allow to cool and then sprinkle some powdered sugar on top if you want.

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To make marzipan, mix some blanched almonds in the food processor until they start to become a paste. Add enough honey to hold the paste together when processed a few seconds longer and a few drops of almond essence. Form into a ball and cover until ready to use.

Or use the maple walnut marzipan recipe from my previous post.

When I posted the recipe for walnut marzipan, some readers pointed out they cannot eat nuts, so I also tried a seed and maple syrup paste. I chose hemp hearts because of their superior nutritional qualities and nutty flavour.

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Apart from the strange green colour, I consider it a real success, and will use it for my future stollens, be they for Christmas, Easter, cuit or not. However, I since discovered that hemp hearts are difficult to find in the U.S., so for those who can’t eat nuts and live in the U.S., I will continue to experiment with other seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin. This is the only part of the recipe that is nutless since the stollen is full of nuts. But I thought it was a good opportunity to introduce the idea of nutless marzipan.

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For a nut-free marzipan, here is my hemp hearts and maple syrup mixture. Just blend maple syrup with the hemp hearts in a food processor until it is the right consistency.

This same mixture can be thinned a little by adding more maple syrup to be used as an icing or cake filling. I covered an unsugared stollen with it. I like the idea of making an icing without using any refined sugar.

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