Please don’t get me wrong; I’m thrilled that the weather has finally warmed up in New York (after trekking half a mile each way through the snow and ice just to make it to my office and back — and feeling most days that hypothermia was no more than a tiny gust of wind away — this 40-degree “warm front” has me feeling like summer is right around the corner) but I can’t stop thinking, “oh shoot, winter is almost over”.
For many of us the end of winter marks the beginning of a springtime dilemma; namely the “bulky-cable-knit-sweaters-are-no-longer-seasonally-appropriate” dilemma, the same dilemma that started with Thanksgiving dinner, got worse with each gingerbread cookie we crunched, an reached it’s terrible, love-handled peak right around the time we received that box of Valentine’s Day chocolates. If you’re feeling motivated to clean up your diet and are ready to get yourself into shape for warm weather, stop reading right now— this recipe is not for you. Honestly.
But, if you’re anything like me, you can’t welcome the warmer temperatures (or a healthier diet) until you’ve made at least one batch of maple cream.
Growing up, maple sugar candy was one of my favorite treats. For some reason it seemed to always be sold in a 3-pack which meant that my two sisters and I would each get just one tiny, leaf-shaped candy per year. I remember trying to make that one-ounce lump of gold last as long as possible (rather than taking bites out of it I would try to shave thin pieces from it using my two front teeth) but after a few hours the only that I would have was a sugar-burnt tongue and a deep longing for next year’s supply of maple sugar candy.
Maple cream is my grown up version of the treat (minus the tooth-shaving weirdness); I make it just once a year and when it’s gone, I force myself to wait until the following spring’s batch of maple syrup to make it again. This thick and creamy maple spread (made by boiling maple syrup just a few degrees short of the soft ball stage and then stirring it until the sugar crystalizes) is perfect spread on toast, sandwiched between two shortbread cookies, or eaten directly from the jar with a spoon. And, if you have more self-control than I do you can store your maple cream in the refrigerator for up to 6 months — meaning you’ll only have to try and survive for 6 months without it!
Here’s how to you can make your own maple cream at home.
1 quart of 100% pure maple syrup
2 drops of heavy cream
First, take a large heatproof bowl (one that’s big enough that you can submerge the entire bottom of your cooking pot into it) and fill it with ice water. Then, set the bowl of ice water aside.
Pour the maple syrup and heavy cream into a medium saucepan that’s fitted with a candy thermometer. Place the pan over medium to medium-high heat and bring the contents of the pan to a boil. Let the syrup cook over medium heat, without stirring it, until it reaches exactly 235 degrees Fahrenheit.
As soon as the syrup reaches 235 degrees, remove the pan from the heat and carefully submerge the bottom of the pan into the ice water to stop the cooking. Place the pan and the ice bath in the refrigerator until completely cool.
When the cooked syrup is cooled to slightly below room temperature, remove it from the refrigerator, pour it into a mixing bowl, and (using a paddle attachment) mix it on low speed in your electric mixer. (You can mix the maple cream by hand but it’s not recommended; it can take up to an hour to reach the right consistency when mixed by hand).
When the syrup starts to thicken, lighten in color, and lose its shine pour it into clean glass jars and store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat it.