David Colcombe, UK chef ambassador for Maple from Canada looks at how caterers can use Canadian Maple Syrup as an alternative to refined sugar and of course as a vegan-friendly ingredient to tap into the current interest in meat-free, plant-based eating.
Consumer attitudes to healthy eating are changing – health is important, but indulgence is key too, so consumers are looking for innovative ways to get their sugar fix. Interest in food provenance and more natural products, including natural sweeteners, is greater than it has even been, with recipes using maple syrup as an alternative ‘natural’ product. Tapping into consumers’ positive perceptions of ‘naturalness’ can add value to menus as consumers seek out dishes that are made with natural ingredients and have a ‘back story’.
Previously just seen as a breakfast ingredient, maple syrup is now one of the food industry’s ‘nutritional superheroes’ and offers caterers a flavoursome sweet tone that can be used in a variety of recipe applications from desserts and bakes, particularly to avoid the use of refined sugar. It pays to go ‘pure’ though as 100% pure Canadian Maple Syrup gives a depth of flavour that cheaper products do not have. A little goes a long way with maple syrup too so it’s a cost-effective store cupboard ingredient with a good shelf life. It is best to use pure maple syrup sparingly rather than opting for the cheaper maple syrup that’s usually available to caterers; often it is blended with sugar syrup and gives an inferior taste.
Being able to make healthier claims about the sugar you have used as well as the provenance of 100% pure Canadian Maple Syrup also endorses your business’ commitment to quality ingredients.
Pure maple syrup is a great natural sweetener for use in vegan recipes too as an alternative to honey. With its earthy taste, maple syrup goes well with robust flavours and spices in ‘street food-style’ dishes such as Vegan Maple Dahl Soup or Red Cabbage, Tahini and Maple Slaw, also suitable for vegans. A tablespoon or so of the lightest Golden, Delicate Taste maple syrup can lift a salad while the richer Dark, Robust Taste maple syrup can add a subtle sweetness to vegan desserts and bakes.
Caterers can use the different maple syrup grades according to the recipes being used and the depth of flavour required. When using maple syrup, it is important to remember that as an alternative to refined sugar, it should always enhance the baked item, but not overpower it.
When cooking with pure Canadian maple syrup the hotter and longer the syrup is heated, the more concentrated the sugar. Different boiling points will achieve different effects, for example, toffee and caramel, just as with refined sugar.
There are four grades of 100% pure Canadian maple syrup, with the lighter being syrup harvested early in the season:
Golden, Delicate Taste
This syrup comes from maple sap harvested at the very beginning of the sugaring-off season. It is distinguished by its light hue and sweet, delicate flavour. It is a delicious topping for yoghurt and ice cream.
Amber, Rich Taste
This syrup has a pure, rich taste and a deep amber colouring. It is ideal as a dessert ingredient.
Dark, Robust Taste
This syrup with its more pronounced, the caramelised flavour is well suited to cooking, baking and sauces. It particularly enhances the taste of fruity dishes.
Very Dark, Strong Taste
This syrup is the product of maple sap harvested at the end of the sugaring-off season. Its flavour, more pronounced than any of the previously listed syrups, is rich and distinctive.
When maple syrup is used as a white or brown sugar alternative, caterers should use a one-for-one substitution and reduce the quantity of liquid ingredients in the recipe (water, milk, juice) by about 60ml. Maple syrup can also serve as a one-to-one substitute for liquid sweeteners, such as honey and treacle.