Archive for February, 2011

Maple Bread Pudding

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Last week I made a couple of loaves of organic whole grain raisin bread. For some reason only one loaf got eaten, and I found myself with a whole loaf of stale raisin bread.  Also, with maple syrup production in full swing, I had a little of last year’s syrup that I wanted to use up.  Maple Bread Pudding was the solution to my overabundance of stale bread and old maple syrup.

This recipe uses stale bread. I’m telling you, the texture of the finished pudding won’t be right if you use fresh bread. If you don’t make your own bread, then something like stale french bread from your local bakery can be used. However, don’t use that soft chemical laden stuff that masquerades as bread.

Maple Bread Pudding
6 to 7 cups roughly cubed stale bread
6 eggs
2 1/2 cups milk or half & half
1 1/2 cups amber or grade B maple syrup. Save your good light stuff for pancakes.
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Specks scraped from 1/2 a vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place bread cubes in a buttered 9 x 11 baking dish. Whisk together milk, eggs, maple syrup, salt and spices.  Pour egg mixture over bread cubes.  Place dish in refrigerator for about an hour.  It’s important to give the bread cubes plenty of time to absorb the liquid if you want your pudding to have a nice silky texture. I made mine up the afternoon before and refrigerated it overnight so that it was ready to bake on Sunday afternoon when I had the oven already heated for a roast chicken.

Place a roasting pan with about an inch of water in the oven, and preheat to 350. Place pan of bread pudding in the water and bake for about an hour.  I’ve discovered that it’s quite common for ovens to be out of calibration, and highly recommend the use of an oven thermometer when preheating.  I really need to get my oven calibrated. I have to turn my oven on to 420 to heat to an actual 350.

Remove bread pudding from oven and allow to cool for a little while.  Serve with a drizzle of  maple syrup and a couple of generous splashes of cream. This stuff is comfort food at it’s best!

Maple Sugar Camp 2011

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Near mid February here in Northeastern Indiana, our day time temperatures creep into the 40’s melting off the long winter’s blanket of snow, and our night time temperatures dive back below freezing.  Each year when my husband notices the signs indicating this change is about to take place, he takes to our woods and begins setting up his maple sugar camp.

A couple of weeks ago he began cleaning buckets, assembling equipment, and organizing his camp in the woods.  Last weekend weather conditions indicated that the first major sap run of the season was imminent, and he placed more than 150 taps in the maple trees. A couple of days later the day time temperatures soared into the 40’s and 50’s and the sap began to run. By Thursday it was time to start cooking the sap down into maple syrup. Once cooking starts, Bart lives in the woods.  I’m not kidding you. He sets up a cot and sleeps in the woods on nights when he needs to keep the fire burning under his cooker. He also cooks quite a few of his meals over the fire. In the shot below, sausage gravy and toast is on the menu.

Being a two business family, the 3 to 4 week sugaring season can be a little rough for us. Bart is careful not to schedule construction jobs during this time, and I try to hold things down at home and in the shop. I try to make trips back to the woods on the weekends, but by the end of the whole thing I’m usually feeling a little testy.  However, the reward of a year’s supply of sweet, natural maple syrup is well worth the hassle.

Bart sells some of his surplus syrup to help offset the cost of bottles, filters, and some miscellaneous supplies. Due to numerous requests from non-local friends who wanted to purchase syrup, we set up a website last year at Bart’s Maple Syrup.  Syrup should be available for sale within the next couple of weeks or so. The syrup will be available on a first come, first served basis.  When it’s gone, there won’t be any more until the next sugaring season.