|Let Maple Warm Your Winter|
|Right Food for the Season - Late Winter|
|Written by Lara Zelman|
One of my favorite things about living in New England is access to real maple syrup. There is no substitute. Even though I grew up in St. Louis, my dad always brought home real maple syrup whenever he traveled to Boston. Thanks to him, our pancakes were always topped with authentic maple goodness.
When I moved to Boston, I found out that there was more to maple syrup than the jug we kept in our refrigerator. In addition to the familiar plastic jug, there are blocks, creams, sugars, infusions, and more! Last year at the farmers market I discovered The Warren Farm and Sugar House. Dale, the owner
and producer enthusiastically tells shoppers about the wide variety of products that he has on his table.
Here’s a look at the variety of maple products that I have accumulated over the summer and winter market season. For comparison of flavor, I also included organic maple syrup that I picked up from Trader Joe’s.
The first thing I purchased was a hardened block of maple. Dale told me that this was how the Native Americans used to store their maple. The syrup is boiled down into blocks of hard crystals. It has a more concentrated maple flavor which stands up in dishes with bold flavors. The block can be grated on top of roasted vegetables, warm oatmeal, or really anything. I sent a few blocks to my brother who uses them to flavor salmon for smoking. I can imagine that it would be delicious grated onto roasted squash, baked apples, or even onto buttered toast.
Another new product to me was pure maple sugar. This is more like granulated sugar and can replace granulated sugar. It can be used in coffee, baked goods, or sprinkled on top of oatmeal also. The flavor isn’t as strong as the hardened maple, but still imparts a wonderful maple taste. Since it is granulated, you don’t have to worry about grating as much as you need.
For liquid syrup there are four different grades that you can choose from. Each grade has a different concentration of flavor and can be used in a variety of ways.
Grade A Light Amber (Fancy): This grade has a mild flavor, good for topping vanilla ice cream or other dishes with subtler flavors (I did not try this grade)
Grade A Medium Amber: This is what you probably buy most frequently. It is typically used for table syrup, it has a good maple flavor, but not overpowering. It is a good ‘all-purpose’ syrup.
Grade A Dark Amber: This grade has a heartier maple flavor and darker color. It is also used as a table syrup.
Grade B Dark: This is the darkest in color and strongest in maple flavor. Grade B gives good maple flavor to baked goods & cooked dishes.
I keep Grade A Dark Amber on hand for pancakes, waffles, and stirring into oatmeal, cream of wheat, and sometimes quinoa. I love the deep maple flavor and beautiful color. I also have Grade B for baking – I purchased my most recent container from Trader Joe’s. Tasting the Warren Farm Grade A Dark and Trader Joe’s Grade B Dark side-by-side, I preferred the flavor of the Grade A Dark Amber.
With all of these great maple products in the house, I was inspired to create a new dish. I decided on cookies and started thinking about what I could create. An idea came to me – recreate my favorite maple-and brown sugar instant oatmeal in a cookie! To make sure the cookies had maximum maple flavor I also made a maple glaze to top them off. One bite of the cookie and you could instantly taste the maple.
For the first batch of the cookies I used the hardened maple block. Using a microplane fine grater, I grated enough maple sugar for the recipe. Knowing that not everyone wants to spend 20 minutes grating, I made a second batch of cookies using Grade B maple syrup. I didn’t account for the extra moisture and the cookies came out quite different (but still tasted great). For a third batch, I used the granulated maple sugar. The last batch had great texture and flavor, just a little less maple than the first batch. Another note about the recipe, the apple vinegar is very important! In the first batch I accidentally added an extra splash of vinegar when measuring. That batch was mouth-wateringly good. The other batches were still delicious, but I think the extra vinegar gave it a boost.
Maple & Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cookies
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup grated hard maple syrup (or maple sugar)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two metal baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat together the butter, shortening, sugars, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and vinegar until fairly smooth. Add in the egg, again beating till smooth. Add the baking soda and flour, beating till well incorporated. Add in the oats and stir to combine. Drop the dough in 1 1/4" balls onto the prepared baking sheets (about 1 1/2 level tablespoon measures). Space the cookies 2" apart to leave room for spreading
Using a spatula or back of a spoon, press the cookies down a little before baking. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven, and let them cool on the pan
2 cups confectioners sugar
2-4 tablespoons maple syrup
2-4 tablespoons of water (or milk)
1 teaspoon maple extract (not necessary if you use Grade B syrup)
Whisk together, adding more syrup or water to get desired taste and consistency. The glaze should be smooth enough to drizzle, but not too watery.
Two options for glazing cookies:
1: Using your whisk, drizzle the glaze on top of the cookies
2: Take the cookie, flip it upside down and dip the top into the bowl of glaze. Shake off excess and put back on the parchment to harden
3: Grate maple onto the glaze before it hardens for extra maple flavor (optional)
You can find The Warren Farm and Sugarhouse at the Russell’s Garden Center Winter Market every Saturday through March.