Robin Anish: Chase away March's gloom with maple syrup

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It's a dreary day in March. The clouds are hanging so low that the outdoors feel confining. It's not raining, but it still feels damp and cold. Much of the snow is gone with just a few patches here and there that make the ground muddy and the exposed grass slippery. You definitely have to watch your step.

So, stepping cautiously, you make your way over the path. Before long, your senses cause you to pause and inhale deeply, finishing with a heartfelt "Mmmm!"

The air is filled with a smoky sweetness and the sound of a crackling fire becomes more and more welcoming as you get closer to the rustic building. Stepping inside, you at once feel a wash of warmth that quickly dispels the chill you've been carrying.

The fire is robust, but you want to get close enough to see the magic that is happening inside the huge vat the fire is fueling. And there it is: Mother Nature's gift, the sap from maple trees boiling down into a deep, golden maple syrup just waiting for a stack of pancakes

What a wonderful way to say goodbye to winter and look toward spring.

Growing up, going to a sugar house was a family tradition. It was always on a Sunday and, I swear, I remember the weather always being the gloomiest you could imagine every time we went. My mother would buy a gallon of syrup to last the year and pancakes for dinner that night were a guarantee.

Pudding cakes are a very old-fashioned dessert. While the cake bakes, a delicious sauce forms in the bottom of the dish. They mix up quickly making for a great spur of the moment dessert.

Pudding cake recipes are commonly chocolate or lemon, but here is a version that features maple syrup.

MAPLE BANANA PUDDING CAKE

INGREDIENTS:

6 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 cup sugar

1 overripe banana, mashed

1 large egg

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1 cup whole milk

1 cup flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 cup pure maple syrup

1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 tablespoons bourbon or rum (optional)

1/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Vanilla ice cream

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Whisk the butter, sugar and banana, mixing until thoroughly combined. Whisk in the egg and milk.

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt; stir into wet ingredients until well blended. Pour into a deep 2-quart baking dish.

Heat maple syrup, brown sugar and 1/2 cup of water in a microwave until hot, about 1 minute. Add the bourbon. Slowly drizzle the syrup mixture over the batter; it will seep to the bottom. Do not stir. Scatter nuts on top.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until the cake is golden. Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream.

Stay well, everyone.


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