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Monday, March 26, 2012

Maple Syrup Time! - Pudding au Chômeur or Maple Sticky Pudding

I think that every country has a food that you associate it with.

In Canada, we are lucky and have a few great products that we are known for.  Amongst others, the West coast has wild pacific salmon and the Central provinces produce high quality beef.  I do think, however, that we are best known for our maple syrup.

The maple tree is present throughout all of Canada and is a proud symbol of our country (the maple leaf is what appears so prominently on our flag).  In the Fall, the vibrancy of the colors when the leaves change produces a spectacular visual effect throughout our forests.

In the Eastern provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick, the particular climate in the Spring (cold nights and warm days) triggers the maple tree to release a great quantity of sap.  We were originally taught by the aboriginal people to collect this liquid by ''tapping'' (a process that is safe for the trees) and, when reduced, this maple water produces the most wonderful, all natural sweet syrup and sugar with its own very distinctive taste.

Sugaring Off!

Having just gotten back from Montreal, I was a little disappointed to discover that I would be missing sugaring off  season (temps des sucres) by a few weeks (still too early as the sap is just beginning to flow).

Every year, in late March and early April, we get together with friends and family to celebrate maple season.   We gather in beautiful old wooden buildings (sugar shacks) located in the forest amongst the ''tapped maple trees''.  We then proceed to indulge in a wonderful selection of foods (eggs, ham, baked beans, donuts, crepes, etc.) which have been either cooked in or drizzled with maple syrup.  The smell in these buildings is wonderful as the maple water is being boiled down close by.  Every meal ends with a trip outside to enjoy maple taffy!  This is maple syrup that has been reduced more to thicken it and then drizzled on a bed of snow to harden.  This is then scooped up using a stick to create a kind of lollipop.  So good!

Traditionally, maple syrup is used to flavor pancakes or crepes.  It can however be used in a variety of savory or sweet recipes.

This Maple Sticky Pudding (pudding au chômeur) is one of my dad's favorite deserts.  His face just lights up when he sees it on menus at this time of year (it's a seasonal thing).  It requires few ingredients and is easy to make.  It can also be dressed up a bit by serving it with a reduced heavy cream (to balance out the sweetness) that is flavored with Sortilège (a maple syrup and Canadian Whiskey liqueur).

You will need:  (makes about 12 portions)

For the cake:
  • 1 1/2 cups  (about 225 g) of all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 tsp of baking powder
  • 1/4 cup (52 g) of salted butter at room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup (200 g) of sugar
  • 1 cup (240 ml) of whole milk
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • 1/2 cup of chopped pecans or walnuts (optional -  can also be sprinkled on when serving)
For the caramel sauce which will be poured over the batter before cooking:
  • 1 cup (240 ml) of maple syrup 
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) of light brown sugar not packed (vergoise in France)
  • 1 cup (240 ml) of hot water
  • 1/4 cup (52 g) of salted butter
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) of heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp of vanilla extract
  • pinch of coarse sea salt

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F (190°C);
  2. Using hand held mixer, cream butter and sugar in a medium bowl until well blended;
  3. Add egg and blend together;
  4. Mix the flour and baking powder together, using a whisk, in a separate bowl (this sifts it at the same time);
  5. Alternately add 1/3 of the milk, mix, 1/3 flour, mix, and continue this sequence until both ingredients are thoroughly combined;
  6. Add walnuts and vanilla extract;
  7. Butter a 12'' or 13 '' baking pan and pour batter making sure it is evenly distributed;
  8. In a medium saucepan, heat all the sauce ingredients together over medium heat and bring to a boil;
  9. Reduce heat a little and let boil for 3 minutes;
  10. Remove from heat and cool for about 5 minutes;
  11. Pour the sauce mixture over the cake batter (be careful as there is lots of liquid);
  12. Place the baking pan in middle section of the oven and bake for 35 - 40 minutes or until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean (the cake will rise to the top and the sauce will invert to the bottom of the dish).  Place a baking sheet under the pan to catch any drippings when the sauce begins to boil).
  13. Serve warm with a good quality vanilla ice cream;
Time Investment:  Prep time:  30 minutes
                              Baking time:  35 - 40 minutes

A different presentation

To present this way, I:

  • reduced a 1/2 cup of heavy cream by half on medium heat;
  • Added 1 tbsp of Sortilège (maple syrup and Canadian whisky liqueur) or whatever you like and cooled;
  • When the pudding was completely cooled, I use a round cookie cutter shape to cut out even pieces (remember to heat it up before serving, it should be eaten warm);
  • created a line of finely chopped walnuts (use a food processor for this);
  • added a few little mounds of maple sugar;
  • drizzled a little maple syrup;
  • added a dried pear slice;


  1. Oh my god, this looks good. And I don't think I've ever had it before so I must try! PS your food photos look wonderful too -- are you taking them??? xo B

  2. Anonymous28/3/12

    I have fantastic memories of sugaring off - riding in horse drawn carriages, eating too much taffy, laughing with our friends and family, feeling the warm spring sunshine on our faces and waling through the forest... please post other recipes so we can relive the best part of sugaring off ... eating!

  3. Me too! Good times, good food, good friends! That's the best.


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