Along the Grapevine


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Maple Syrup Tarts

This is a great seasonal recipe for maple syrup fans. Not as cloyingly sweet as the ubiquitous butter tart, they are made with pure maple syrup and walnuts, although other nuts, fruit or nothing at all can be added. Less than one cup of syrup makes two dozen small tarts.

Maple syrup season is just winding down now. We got an early start this year, and the quality of the syrup seems better than ever – either that or we are just becoming pros. I still have some to use up from last year so decided it was high time to invent some recipes.

Most recipes for maple tarts use a combination of white and/or brown sugar along with the syrup, but I wanted mine to be pure maple. Even so, I didn’t use that much, a mere 200 ml,  and the flavour of maple is so much better on its own. Some recipes also called for flour or cream, neither of which I wanted. So the recipe I came up with is as simple as it gets – just syrup mixed with eggs, a splash of cider vinegar to cut the sweetness, and walnuts. A really good pastry is a must, but whatever crust pastry you like would work well. I have been following a recipe from Married with Cauldron, much the same as mine but I find it is actually easier and better with the measurements given in weight rather than volume. I also replaced a bit of the water with lemon juice. dsc00438.jpg

Maple Syrup Tarts


For the pastry

175 grams butter or lard

225 grams flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp of lemon combined with enough cold water to make 120 ml.

Cut the shortening in the flour and salt until you have a crumbly mixture. Gradually add the cold liquid, stir and pull together into a ball. Cover and refrigerate for an hour before rolling out on a lightly floured surface. Cut into rounds, set them into muffin tins and chill in the refrigerator while you make the maple filling.

For the Filling

200 ml syrup

2 eggs

1 tsp cider vinegar

3/4 cup walnuts

Beat the eggs well. Add the syrup and vinegar and beat again. Place walnuts (chopped or whole) into the chilled tarts, then fill with the syrup mixture. Bake in a 350 F oven for about 30 minutes.

DSC03350This recipe makes 2 dozen small tarts (2 in.) or 18 medium (3 in.).

Linked to: Fiesta Friday #166


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Maple Walnut Nougat

 

DSC02935Maple syrup season is fast approaching. In fact we have already had a few days of above zero weather where we might have tapped some trees, but we hope to hold off until March. Meanwhile, we still have some of last year’s batch which means I can offer a new, nowhere else to be found recipe for the upcoming season.

I actually started this for Christmas when I wanted to use some of our own maple syrup for our festive sweets, but fudge was out of the question – too sweet and too much work. So I attempted a delicious nougat inspired by the Spanish turron I am so fond of. I used walnuts rather than almonds since they go better with maple syrup, and other than those two ingredients, just a little sugar and egg white is all you need. I added a smidge of cream of tartar just to help stabilize the eggs. And unlike fudge, you can do all the beating with an electric mixer.

It has taken this long because my first two attempts were a disaster. The first was too soft, and ended up being scooped into little balls and baked like macaroons. Very tasty but not photo worthy. I realized I needed less egg white and a hotter syrup, but the second batch got scorched, and there was no remedy for that. The third time was a success. It is not difficult to make at all, but definitely the heat of the syrup and measurements do matter.

Maple Walnut Nougat

Ingredients

3 cups chopped walnuts, roasted

1 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg white

a pinch of cream of tartar

Method

Heat the maple syrup and sugar in a saucepan until it reaches 265 degrees F or 133 C. Do this on a low heat, and keep any eye on it so it doesn’t boil over or scorch. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, it is ready when it reaches the hard ball stage, which is when a drop in cold water forms a ball but it is firm and will hold its shape on its own.

While the syrup is heating, beat the egg white and cream of tarter until they form peaks and set aside. Once the syrup reaches the right temperature, pour it slowly into the egg white mixture continuing to beat and blend the two mixtures well. Fold in the chopped walnuts and pour into a pan or moulds. I used a pan measuring 4×14 inches. Let cool and refrigerate for at least three hours before cutting.

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I cut some of mine a little prematurely – after about 1 hour, but if you don’t have to get pictures while the sun is shining, I recommend waiting the prescribed time and there won’t be any soft spots. It’s best to cut them just after they have set, as they can become crumbly after a day or so.

They are soft and dry – not at all hard on your teeth. The maple flavour holds up well but without being too sweet.

Linked to Angie at Fiesta Friday, Suzanne at A Pug in the Kitchen and Zeba at Food for the Soul.

 

 


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Mint and Purslane Pesto

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This post is inspired by a recent recipe posted by BubblyBEE in which she not only makes a delicious carrot greens pesto, but discusses many other ingredients that can be used besides the popular basil and pine nut variety. I have made the carrot version before, but overlooked the use of mint and purslane  (portulaca oleracea)- two ingredients I have in spades growing right near my back door.

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I usually follow a simple method for pesto – some herbs or greens, garlic, usually walnuts and olive oil. Cheese can be added when served, but if the pesto is not good without cheese, then it is not worth making, so my basic pest contains no cheese.

If you are not familiar with purslane, it is one of the gems of the weed world. It contains, among many other nutrients, omega 3 fatty acids which makes it a good addition to a vegetarian diet. For more information of food value, identification and what to do with it, check out this article.

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My only complaint with this weed is that I never have quite enough of it. I do see it everywhere, but often in public places like sidewalks and parking lots where hygiene is a concern. It does grow in bare spots in my lawn and gardens, but easily gets crowded out obscured by bushier plants. My attempts to cultivate it have not worked out too well. However, I do have a few patches, and will use every bit I can.

The entire plant is edible, even after it has started to flower. The stems can grow to be several inches long, and the entire stem, leaves and flowers can be used. it is crunchy and has a mild citrus flavour – perfect for salads and garnishes.

For my pesto I used 2 cups each of mint and purslane, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tsp salt, 1 1/2 cup walnuts and 1/4 cup olive oil. Process in a blender until a good consistency and it’s done! Serve it with pasta, on pizzas, crackers or in sandwiches.

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Linked to Fiesta Friday #85 hosted by Angie @ The Novice Gardener and co-hosted by Kaila @ GF Life 24/7 and Jenny @ Dragonfly Home Recipes.

Related posts: Gazpacho with purslane; Waldorf salad with purslane; Purslane and cabbage salad.


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Maple Walnut Baklava

Maple season will soon be upon us so now is the time to put new recipes out there for all the maple syrup enthusiasts. After all, there is much more that can be done with this delicious sweetener than pour it on waffles and pancakes.

I am not the first to come up with the idea of making baklava with maple syrup as a sweetener, but all the recipes I found on line also added refined white sugar. It is beyond me why one would want to mix maple and sugar since avoiding the latter is one good reason to use the former. To cut the sweetness of the syrup, I used some plain almond milk, but any milk would work fine. This and a conservative amount of syrup resulted in delicious but not overly sweet dessert. If you want it sweeter, you can add more syrup. Walnuts seemed like the logical choice for the filling since they pair so well with maple, but hazelnuts, pistachios or a mixture of any of these would also work well.

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Maple Walnut Baklava


Ingredients

filo pastry

1/4 cup butter

2 1/2 cup almonds

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground sumac (optional)

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup almond milk

Method

Chop the nuts and mix well with the spices.

Melt the butter in a saucepan.

Butter the base of a 9″ square pan. Place two sheets of filo pastry in the pan and brush with some melted butter. Repeat this three more times for a total of eight sheets of filo. Sprinkle two cups of the nuts over the pastry, then cover with two more sheets of filo. Brush with butter and repeat with two more sheets. Brush the top with more butter and sprinkle the remaining nuts on top. Cut with a sharp knife into squares or diamond shapes.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until the top is crisp and golden.

Mix and heat the syrup and milk and pour over the pan. Allow to cool.

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I’m off to Fiesta Friday to share these treats with everyone. A big thank you to our host Angie and co-hosts Suzanne and Sue for keeping the party going.


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Walnut and Sumac Eggplant Rolls

The sumac shrubs are at their height now in terms of colour. There are masses of them along the roadside, but I decided to photograph my own for this post. The first one is the focal point in one of my flower beds, and the others are just little shrubs growing next to the shed.

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I need to collect more of the berries, but the weather has been so wet, I have to wait until they are drier, as they lose some of their flavour when rained on. We might need to reach freezing temperatures before they are pickable, but at least it will be dry, and the berries will wait. If you need any information regarding sumac, please refer to this post.

Meanwhile, I used some of my store of powdered sumac to use in this recipe using walnuts and eggplant (or aubergine). It is a very popular Georgian recipe which I discovered in Russia. I was told the stuffing was made with just ground walnuts, but additions can be and are made. In Georgia, there are often several spices added, and sometimes petals of edible flowers to give it some colour. I have made it many times, always trying to duplicate the distinct flavour of the ones I bought in the Russian market. This is the recipe I came up with.

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Walnut and Sumac Eggplant Rolls

  • Servings: approx. 10 rolls
  • Print

Ingredients

2 medium eggplants

oil for frying

1 cup walnuts

1 clove garlic

2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

1/2 tsp fenugreek

1 Tbsp sumac powder

Method

Slice the eggplants (skin on) lengthwise  about 1/4 inch thick

Place them in a shallow dish and sprinkle liberally with salt. Leave them for 30 minutes to 2 hours. Rinse the salt off completely, and pat dry.

This step can be omitted, but it helps to remove any bitterness from the eggplant. Because I always detect some salt even after rinsing them, I did not put salt in the recipe.

Fry each piece in some oil on both sides until they are lightly browned and cooked right through.

For the paste, put all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz really well until it all holds together. If it is too crumbly, add a few drops more vinegar.

Place a spoonful of the walnut mixture along the base of the aubergine slice and roll up.

That’s it! These little rolls are a great appetizer, picnic food or served with a salad or rustic bread. They are eaten either chilled or at room temperature, which is how I prefer them. I wish I could describe how they taste, so much better than the sum of their parts, but there are no words that convey their distinct flavour.

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I am bringing these tasty appetizers to Angie’s 38th fabulous Fiesta Friday. I hope you will drop by this virtual party, and if you have a dish you would like to bring along, click here for the simple instructions.

 


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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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Maple Walnut Cookies for Fiesta Friday #10

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This week I have the honour of co-hosting  the Novice Gardener’s 10th Fiesta Friday  along with Julianna of Foodie On Board. This means that I will be an official rep of the party and will mingle with all the guests. For those of you who are not familiar with this weekly event, it is an opportunity for bloggers to come together at a virtual party and bring their recipes, crafts or fun ideas to share with each other. In the ten weeks since it began, I have made new friends in the blogging world, discovered some great ideas and recipes, and  just generally enjoyed the up-beat atmosphere of this get-together. For those of you who are blogging and have not yet participated, you are cordially invited to join in the fun. Besides meeting a dynamic group of bloggers, you will benefit from a considerable increase in exposure and number of views, something every blogger can appreciate. The guidelines here will explain how easy it is to participate. My thanks to Angie, The Novice Gardener, for her inimitable hospitality. Pay her a visit and you’ll see what I mean.

For this Fiesta Friday, I bring recipes with my own home-made, home-grown maple syrup. I have just boiled down our fourth batch of maple syrup from our two sugar maple trees in the front garden. Who knew that all this delicious sweetness was there just for the taking? Each batch takes about two hours of cooking on our propane burner outdoors, and another hour or so on a gentle heat indoors to get it to the right heat (219 degrees F. if you have a thermometer). I’m not using a thermometer, and just guessing when it is ready, but so far the batches have been quite consistent.

Each batch gets a little darker, and eventually the sap will begin to be coloured when it runs, which means it’s time to stop. That will be a bit of a relief in itself – there will be other things to forage by then. Meanwhile, I have a good supply of syrup to do some experimenting in the kitchen, and this week  I came up with a couple of cookie recipes.

The first was inspired by a recipe for walnut cookies I made last week from Fae’s Twist and Tango’s Naw Ruz roundup. With the extra liquid from the syrup, I had to add some sort of flour, so chose buckwheat because I love the flavour and texture of it when baking.

Maple Walnut Cookies

4 egg yolks

3/4 cup maple syrup

2 cups ground walnuts

1 cup buckwheat flour

Beat the egg yolks in a bowl. Add the maple syrup, walnuts and flour and stir to combine. Spoon onto a baking sheet, press down flat with the back of a wet spoon and decorate with walnut pieces. Bake at 350 F for about 20 minutes.

These are chewy, and not very sweet, although sweet enough that the taste of maple comes through.

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Then I had four egg whites to use, so I went for a sort of macaron style cookie, which I wanted to sweeten with a maple walnut marzipan filling. I made the recipe from Buckwheat for your health which was the inspiration for this dish for New Year, and as a macaroon, it turned out beautifully following the recipe to the letter. However this time, with 4 egg whites, I had to do some difficult math. The result was not as elegant as the original recipe, but am posting it anyway, because it was considered a delicious cookie even if it was not exactly as I intended. And you can always follow the original recipe if you want something more resembling a macaron. I was particularly pleased with the filling, and will no doubt find many more ways to incorporate it into desserts and baking.

Maple Walnut Sandwich 

4 egg whites

1 cup buckwheat flour

1 cup icing sugar

Beat the egg whites until stiff. Combine the flour and sugar. Gently fold in the egg whites. Spoon onto a baking sheet, and flatten with the back of a wet spoon, as this batter does not spread out much.

Bake at 300 F for 10 minutes. When cool, sandwich two together with some maple walnut marzipan between them.

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To make the marzipan, simply grind some walnuts very fine in a food processor, until at least part of them becomes pasty. Add maple syrup while still processing until you reach the consistency of thick honey. How much syrup you add will depend on how sweet and how soft you want it. However you do it, it is delicious. I think even better than fresh home-made marzipan.

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