Every season has its spice. Over the summer, I hear that slices of chilli pepper in chilled rosé was the sensation. Did anyone try that? As soon as the air has a new edge I think we all subconsciously veer towards flavours that make us feel cosy and warm. For me it's been the spice of horseradish from the garden that I've been adding as a small grating into various dinners. And over the next few months the warming flavours of ginger and cinnamon will creep in, coming into land with allspice by Christmas.
A food that captures in its flavour the glowing embers of sustained warmth rather than the crackling flames of chilli is maple syrup. It has what a sommelier might call ‘burnt notes’ - toasty aromas, hints of caramel, of toffee. Its moreishness is generated by the power of association, think salty, roasted nuts. Maple syrup is unique in the clarity of its flavour, that falls across a spectrum and again, in almost sommelier-like terms, it ranges from ‘gold’ and ‘amber’ through to ‘dark’ and ‘very dark’. Grading maple syrup is a precise and serious business!
Which leads us to a fabulous recipe with Maple Syrup at the fore rather than used simply as a sweet ingredient. Keen to make a definitive Fall recipe we reached out to our friends in Canada and North America for inspiration. We received apple crumbles and apple crisps, muffins, soups, galettes, lots of cinnamon and nutmeg and much pumpkin, pastry and many pies. However, a big round of applause goes to Nicholas Mosse Pottery follower Amy Brennan from Canada, who’s recipe for Maple Syrup Pie with Spiced Cream stood out so much that we chose to bake in our Classic Pie Dish.
The Maple Syrup Pie is about a specific time and place and is also a gift passed through the generations.
Amy’s first memories of this Maple Syrup Pie were from Easter and Thanksgiving gatherings when it was made by fellow church-goer Florence Skinner. Florence was famous for the array of pies she regularly made to share with the local congregation. Recipes that we hold dear often hold these nostalgic memories and become a gift that’s passed from generation to generation. Today, Florence’s son continues the tradition and still taps the maple tree in his garden to make his own maple syrup that he shares with Amy and his neighbours.
A dish will also have an extra dimension if you’ve been on the adventure to
personally collect the ingredients.
If you’re in Europe there’s still time to pilfer from the local wild Autumnal crab apple or plum trees, gather sloes from the hedgerows, or pluck, with expert supervision, a fungus here or there. What we can’t do sadly, is tap our own neighbourhood sugar maple or red maple tree and gather the syrup ourselves. As the story behind Amy’s recipe shows, maple syrup can be, if you live in the right part of the world, the ultimate foraged food.
NB: A note on maple syrup – make sure the maple syrup you use is ‘pure’ rather than a maple flavoured sauce or diluted with anything else, like carob.
Maple Syrup Pie with Spiced Cream
1 x 27cm / 11” pastry/pie crust or homemade pastry*
For the filling:
165g / ¾ cup soft brown sugar
2 tbsp plain flour
250ml / 1 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp melted butter
60g / ½ cup walnuts – (chopped) lightly toast them for extra flavour (optional)
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp salt
For the spiced cream:
350ml / 1½ whipping cream
½ tsp cinnamon – add more to taste
Small pinch of grated nutmeg – add more to taste
For convenience, pastry can be found pre-made and ready rolled, or even in a pre-baked crust. However, if you’re a spice fiend there is a chance to lace your own homemade pastry with an extra dose of cinnamon and nutmeg. If this is the case, skip down to instruction number 9 for the pastry-making instructions and then return back to number 2.
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC / 350ºF
- Chop the walnuts. If you want to give them a bit of extra flavour you can toast them lightly first.
- In a medium bowl beat the eggs.
- Mix the flour and sugar together and then add them to the egg.
- Add the maple syrup, melted butter, walnuts, vanilla and salt and mix.
- Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake at 180ºC / 350ºF for 40 minutes, or until set.
- While the pie is cooling a little, add the cinnamon and nutmeg to the cream and whip until stiff. Give it a try and add more spice to taste depending on how strong you like it.
- The cream can be added decoratively to the pie if you have a piping bag or gun, or served on the side.
200g / 1½ cups plain flour
100g / ½ cup unsalted butter
25g / ¼ cup soft brown sugar
1 egg yolk
Cinnamon (1tsp optional)
- Grease and line a 27cm /11” pie dish.
- Add the butter to the flour and rub together with your fingertips to a consistency of fine breadcrumbs.
- Add the egg yolk and start to bring the mixture together.
- Add a tablespoon of cold water if more liquid is needed. Do this a tablespoon at a time, enough to bring the pastry together, but not so much that it becomes sticky.
- Roll the pastry out to 3-4mm thick and line the pie dish with it, trimming the edges with a flat knife.
- Place a layer of greaseproof paper over the pastry, add baking beans and blind bake for 15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before adding the filling.