Here we are with the first post of the series “food pairing” :)
For this occasion, I can’t help but selecting on my biggest gastronomic crush: maple syrup.
What is maple syrup?
It’s a syrup (really??? ;)) produced by the maple water. Despite maple trees are widely diffused in North America, the production is concentrated in Quebec, East Onario (yes, Ottawa ;)) and the North-East region of Unite States. Actually, the typical spring weather of those areas and, overall, the substantial difference between day and night temperatures are determinant for the production of high-quality syrups.
In past, maple syrup was obtained by boiling the maple water collected from the trees. The process allows the evaporation of water and the concentration of sugars. During the boiling the sugars caramelize and reacts with the amino acids present in the maple water, which gives the syrup the typical amber color.
Nowadays, maple syrup is mostly produced by reverse osmosis: the water is removed from the maple sap and the sugars get concentrated. Then, the manufacturer proceeds with the boiling steps that gives the brown color and the characteristic aroma.
Maple syrup comes into different grades, depending on the concentration. My favorite is the medium-dark that is the one with the strongest and intense flavours. If you want to learn more about the different grades of maple syrups, I suggest you visit the site maple world, where you can find all the information on that:
How can you use of maple syrup in your recipes?
If the omnlv thing you can think about are only pancakes, well, you have to know the in North America maple syrup is the main character of hundreds recipes :)
Cakes, scones, gelati, but also stews and fish recipes…maple syrup has such a complex aromatic bouquet that can be boldly paired.
Speaking about the aromatic bouquet…
There more than 200 molecules that are responsible for the typical taste and fragrance of maple syrup. We already spoke about ciclotene, the flavour-enhancer molecule contained also in coffee. Well, today, we are about to meet a new one: soloton.
I spare you the official IUPAC’s name, capable of giving goose flesh to the bravest organic chemist, and we will just call this molecule “soloton” :D. This compound is responsible for the typical smell of fenugreek and is also present in wines, walnuts and coffee.
OK, I think I spoke more than I had in mind (after I promised myself to go straight to the point). So, better to move to the recipe of the week or, more precisely, to what is classic pairing of maple syrup:
Maple syrup and walnuts brittles (adapted from Seasons and Suppers)
(Doses for 6-7 persons)
1 cup of table sugar*
1 cup of butter
2 cups of peeled walnuts cut in pieces
1/4 cup of maple syrup
1/4 cup of water
Pour the sugar, the maple syrup, the water and the butter in a frying pan, stir and bring it to boil. As soon as the caramel starts to turn amber (it might take a while), add the walnuts and stir well to incorporate them in the mixture.
Warning: sugar caramelizes around 160 C. Handle the pan carefully and keep away from children.
Pour the mixture in an oven pan covered with parchment paper and let it cool down completely. Cut the brittles in chunks and serve them along with some coffee or tea.
*I am not a cup lover, but I was in a rush and I didn’t have the time to convert everything in grams :P Just to give you an idea, 1 cup is about 250 mL and 1/4 cup about 60 mL.
F. Chartier, Taste buds and molecules: the art and science of food and wine, Ed. McClelland and Stewart, 2009