March in northeast Ohio is not known as a time for bountiful harvests. However, here is a decadent treat to take advantage of what is in season now. Eggs and maple syrup.
2018 has not been a prolific year for maple syrup production. Unseasonably cold weather persists, even into the first days of spring. In order for the maple sap to run, we need temperatures above freezing during the day and below freezing at night. Average normal high temperatures in our area at this time of year should be around 48 degrees–today’s high is forecasted at 35, and this cold snap will remain through the week. With the sun still low in the sky, it takes nearly all day for the temperature to reach it’s forecasted high, and the result is virtually no sap is running.
In addition to the weather’s lack of cooperation, our maple syrup has also been impacted by our inattention and, ahem, incompetence. There was the batch that was left in the care of the teenage son one afternoon. Instructions: “Just check on it every hour or so. Turn the burner off after a couple of hours.” The sap was boiling outside on a propane burner. What the teenage son apparently heard: “Go take and a nap and don’t worry about it.” That batch evaporated until only crusty, burnt bubbles remained in the pan.
Then, there was the 5 gallon bucket of sap waiting for a not-too-busy day to start boiling down. Placed in the garage. Where I ran into it with my car, knocking the bucket over and sending the sticky sap streaming throughout the garage floor. Sigh.
Despite the weather and other mishaps, the quality of the maple syrup has been outstanding. Deeply colored and richly flavored, we will savor the few pints that have been successfully rendered. We’ll give it one more week, and then pull the plug (taps) on this year’s maple syrup season.
For years, I have wanted to learn to make one of my favorite desserts–crème brulee. The ingredients and process are very simple and the result is so decadent. The only thing holding me back was the lack of a kitchen torch. This handy tool melts and caramelizes a sprinkling of sugar atop of the cooked custard, leaving a crackling, sweet crust on top. I asked for such a torch as a gift for Christmas or birthday some years ago. The helpful husband ordered a torch. A very large garden torch. Now, it turns out that this torch has been well used…it kills weeds without the need for chemical herbicides; and I recently began using it to burn planting holes in landscape fabric for the vegetable garden. This method has been a huge time saver–keeping weeds smothered between the vegetable plants. But never did I use it to make to crème brulee.
With the eggs rolling in, and especially the duck eggs, this was the year to tackle my favorite dessert. I found the perfect recipe…using maple syrup and then modified it for duck eggs and other ingredients on hand. I ordered this torch
I don’t have any special ramekins, but I do have…mason jars. Lots and lots of them. This 4 ounce size is the perfect serving size for this rich dessert.
And then I made these:
They are a-mazing. Let me know if you try this recipe!
Maple Creme Brûlée
I take advantage of the superior richness of duck eggs for this recipe, but it would be terrific with chicken eggs as well. Recipe adapted from: https://www.thespruce.com/maple-creme-brulee-1665241
- 4 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 6 duck egg yolk or 8 chicken egg yolks
- 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
1. Heat cream and sugar in a large pot over medium heat, until it just starts to bubble.
2. In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and maple syrup together.
3. A small amount at a time, add the hot cream to the egg yolk mixture, whisk thoroughly after each addition of cream.
4. After all of the cream has been added, stir the vanilla into the mixture.
5. Pour equal amounts of the custard mixture into 12 4-ounce mason jar cups.
6. Place the cups in a 9 x 13 baking dish, and fill the baking dish with warm water halfway up the sides of the jars.
7. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes. The custard should be mostly firm but still slightly jiggly in the center.
8. Remove the jars from the water bath and allow to cool. Place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight. Do not cover until cool to prevent moisture from forming under the plastic wrap.
9. Just prior to serving, sprinkle the top of each custard with 1/2 tsp of sugar, and brown using a kitchen torch. Or you can broil in the oven--but it wont be as much fun.
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