Hot Cross Buns

I find myself extremely happy that it’s not my responsibility to cook the formal Easter dinner this year, since my whole household, myself included, is still sick with a nasty cold. I did manage to haul my butt out of bed on to prepare hot cross buns in time for Good Friday. I think that’s the limit of my abilities at the moment.

For those not familiar with the hot cross bun, they’re basically a slightly sweet, spiced bun that studded with black currants and topped with an “X” or “+”, depending on which way you look at it. The Good Friday holiday for Christians is the commemoration of the death of Jesus upon the cross; the cross on the bun is said to represent the crucifixion, which is why hot cross buns are traditionally served on that day.

I used the “Hot Cross Buns” recipe on page 37 of Baking Bread: Recipes From Around the World for the Complete Home Baker by Audrey Ellison (1995). Unfortunately, I was not terribly impressed by the recipe. First of all, it calls for “shortcrust pastry leftovers for crosses”, without explaining the quantities or techniques necessary. Since I hadn’t made any pastry recently, I went with the second option of “a simple paste [made] from 2 tablespoonfuls each of flour and water”. That ended up being much too runny. I increased the flour to 3 Tbsp, and even then I had to pipe on the crosses because the mixture was so loose.

Additionally, either the cooking time was too long or the temperature was too high, since my first batch was burned by the time I went to check up on it by the minimum recommended time. I double-checked that the temperature on the oven was as instructed after the burned ones came out, and it was correct. So I’m not sure what went on there.

Maybe it’s because I’m sick and have no patience, but this particular recipe ended up being a huge pain in the neck. But at least I have homemade hot cross buns for breakfast, which I think makes it worth it.

Spring Edition Rice Krispies Squares

My family has come down with the dreaded annual spring cold. All four of us stayed home yesterday with fevers, sore throats, headaches, and stuffy, runny noses. So I have more-or-less been subsisting on:

Smoothies. Specifically, banana-strawberry smoothies. I know serving rustic drinks in mason jars is trendy at the moment, but that’s not why I do it: this kind of lid is also infinitely practical. We’ve suspended the “no drinks outside of the kitchen” rule while everybody is sick, since I’m happy when I can get any calories into the kids at all. I can give drink containers like these to them without worrying as much that they’ll spill sticky beverages everywhere. As a bonus, I bought the lids on clearance back when Target was going out of business in Canada, so they were quite cheap. I always have jars around anyway, since I do a fair amount of canning come the end of summer. Win/win, really.

Spring Edition green and blue Rice Krispies

So yes, about the Kellogg’s Rice Krispies squares. Tomorrow is the last day before Easter weekend, and my kids wanted to bring treats in for their classes. For Thing 2, that means cake pops to eat and recycled crayons to bring home. Thing 1 has some spring-themed erasers and pencils to give to her class, but we didn’t have enough cake pops to share. Well, I honestly didn’t feel like doing anything too complicated last night, so Rice Krispies squares it was.

I had purchased the Spring Edition green and blue Rice Krispies cereal a few weeks ago with the intention of making egg-shaped treats like I’ve seen in a number of tutorial videos. It would be fun to do with the kids! If, of course, the kids hadn’t gotten sick. So instead I waited for the munchkins to go to bed, and then made the microwave version of the recipe clipped from the inside of a Rice Krispies box. I was a little worried that they wouldn’t turn out, since I have in the past burned the marshmallows (when using the stove-top variation) and somehow made rock-hard squares that had to be binned because you could potentially chip a tooth on them. I’m happy to report that this time they turned out fine. Good thing, too, because I do not have the energy for another desperate late-night grocery run this week.

I just hope that Thing 1 and Thing 2 are well enough to go into school. I am well-prepared, so that almost guarantees that they’ll need to stay home.

Cake Pops

After the confetti cupcake disaster on Saturday night, a friend of mine suggested that I use the broken/misshapen homemade cupcakes to make cake pops. Despite my disappointment, I had saved the cupcakes — they still tasted great! So I gave it a go.

I had never made cake pops before, and honestly I had no idea how it was done. Based on the gadgets I’d seen in the stores, I thought you cooked them as little spherical cakes, kind of like a doughnut hole. After my friend’s suggestion I Googled, and what do you know? Cake pops are essentially cake meatballs.

I followed the How To Make Cake Pops Easily tutorial on Divas Can Cook, and the further into it I got, the more like meatballs they seemed. The colours of the cake I was using didn’t help; it really reminded me of ground poultry. Basically, you take a cake (your “meat” and “spices” and “filler”), crumble it (i.e. grind it up), mix it with a bit of frosting as a binding agent (the “eggs”), and shape it into balls. I’ve made enough meatballs that once I realized the similarities, muscle memory pretty much took over. Once I got to the decorating stage, though, it was new territory.

They’re definitely not perfect cake pops. They’re not spherical, the chocolate coating is sometimes lumpy, and the sprinkles aren’t artfully arranged. And forget fancy decorating; I just don’t have the skills to make them into flowers or Christmas balls or Easter eggs. But they’re a darned sight better than the cupcakes I started with. I consider this a success, especially for a first try.

To be honest, the kindergarten kids who are going to eat them are going to smear them all over their faces and clothes anyway. It doesn’t matter that the chocolate is hard, they’ll find a way.

Simple Wrist Warmers Pattern

I’ve had another request to re-publish an entry from my old blog. This time it’s the pattern very simple wrist warmers. The difficulty level is extremely low; all you have to know is how to cast on, cast off, knit in the round, knit, and purl. The look of the wrist warmers is reminiscent of the Ribbed For Her Pleasure Sock Pattern, and that is by design, since they are often made out of yarn left over after knitting these socks (and can be included as a set with the socks when given as a gift).

I originally wrote this pattern back in 2011, and my notes regarding gauge have been lost. However, I have knit them many times since then, and in my experience most sock yarn (i.e. fingering weight) works equally well. The ribbed knit makes the finished project quite stretchy and hence forgiving of slight differences in gauge.

Simple Wrist Warmers (Toddler/Preschooler Size) knit out of Not In Kansas yarn by Three By Hand.

Simple Wrist Warmers
Toddler/Preschooler Size

– Approximately 50 yards (46m) of sock-weight yarn
– One set of US size 3 (3.25mm, UK 10) circular needles in a comfortable length for the magic loop method OR four 3mm (3.25mm, UK 10) double-pointed needles

– Loosely cast on 36 sts.
– Divide into 18 sts on 2 needles using the magic loop method OR divide into 12 sts on 3 needles on DPNs.
– Join and work (K2, P2) ribbing in the round for 2.5″ (6.4cm).
– Switch to knitting flat for 1″ (2.5cm). In other words, knit (K2, P2) when working on the right side and (P2, K2) when working on the wrong side of the piece. This will give you your thumb hole.
– Return to working (K2, P2) ribbing in the round for an additional 0.75″ (1.9cm).
– Loosely cast off. Sew in ends.

Simple Wrist Warmers (Adult Size) knit out of Misti Alpaca (50% alpaca, 30% merino wool, 10% silk, 10% nylon) hand-painted sock yarn in colour 19 (Reggaeton).

Simple Wrist Warmers
Adult Size

– approximately 175 yards (160m) of sock-weight yarn
– One set of US size 3 (3.25mm, UK 10) circular needles in a comfortable length for the magic loop method OR four 3mm (3.25mm, UK 10) double-pointed needles

– Loosely cast on 60 sts.
– Divide into 30 sts on 2 needles using the magic loop method OR divide into 20 sts on 3 needles on DPNs.
– Join and work (K2, P2) ribbing in the round for 6″ (15.25cm).
– Switch to knitting flat for 2″ (5.1cm). In other words, knit (K2, P2) when working on the right side and (P2, K2) when working on the wrong side of the piece. This will give you your thumb hole.
– Return to working (K2, P2) ribbing in the round for an additional 1.75″ (4.4cm).
– Loosely cast off. Sew in ends.

Confetti Cupcakes

Yesterday was Thing 2’s birthday party — not her birthday itself, which is unluckily squished in between Christmas and New Year’s, but her party. With all of the other affairs going on that time of year, her celebration with friends gets pushed back to the late winter or early spring. As a family we make a big fuss of her on her actual birthday, but this way she gets to pick the date of her party for a time when she can feel special in her own right, and not just “squeezed in”.

So the plan this year, as per her request, was to make confetti cupcakes, the ones with multicoloured sprinkles mixed directly into the batter.

I found the Homemade Funfetti Cake recipe on Sally’s Baking Addiction, which called for a lot of sprinkles. 2/3 of a cup of sprinkles — and I doubled the recipe. I basically emptied out all the multicoloured sprinkles in my stash into one measuring cup.

So many sprinkles! Perfect, I thought, for what Thing 2 wanted. Sadly, it didn’t work out.

It’s hard to tell from this picture since by this point the cupcakes were all piled on top of each other after they were cooled, but almost all of the cupcakes stuck to the muffin pans and left huge chunks of themselves behind. And yes, I used non-stick muffin pans and sprayed them with cooking spray.

Those few cupcakes that didn’t joined their broken brethren in falling apart ended up slowly deflating and collapsing, as Eddie Izzard would put it, “like a flan in a cupboard”. They all just… Fell. They were too soft and refused to hold their shape. When the first pan came out like this, I thought perhaps they weren’t cooked the whole way through, but upon testing they were definitely done. They even tasted good! I baked the second pan for a few minutes longer than the first, thinking perhaps it was a problem with my oven. But I checked the internal temperature with a secondary thermometer, and it was spot-on. Either I messed up somewhere (did I forget an ingredient or something?), or there’s something up with the recipe. Perhaps there are just too many sprinkles? They’re structurally sound when cold, but when they melt, they’re sugary mush.

At this point it was 11:00pm the night before the party, and I was something on par with the Great Cake Disaster of my 16th birthday (pictured above). In retrospect, that one was caused by not levelling my cakes. The weather was also too hot (30°C or so) and humid (and us with no air conditioning) for the chocolate buttercream frosting to keep the cake from sliding over. My friends referred to it as the “Leaning Tower of Poo”. At least the flavour was okay.

I ran out to the only 24-hour grocery store around here and grabbed myself a box of Duncan Hines Confetti White Cupcake Mix, along with a package of Reynolds StayBrite Easy Release Baking Cups. No way was my second batch of cupcakes going to fail! And I needed to get some sleep before party day.

As promised by the packaging, the Confetti Cups went off without a hitch. They released easily from the baking cups, they didn’t fall, and they were done in record time. I also made them with the “lower fat recipe” on the back of the box, which didn’t seem to affect the cupcakes at all, except nutritionally. Taste-wise, the Homemade Funfetti Cupcakes were definitely better (quite yummy, actually), since the Confetti Cups had that boxed-cake-mix tang. But I needed and end product that would hold up structurally.

A couple of weeks ago I picked up some little kits from the grocery store to add to our stash assortment of cake decorations. The cupcake above was decorated mostly with the Twinkle Baker Décor Deco Bonbon Little Kittens set.

For the kids who aren’t interested in cutesy stuff, I also picked up the Twinkle Baker Decor Deco Bonbons Friends kit. Given the age of the kids at the party, I have no idea why I assumed that they would decorate their cupcakes more-or-less the same way as on the packaging. I should know better by now.

The creature above was one of my favourite of the guests’ creations. She showed it off to me, and then promptly ate its face off.

And this last one was Thing 2’s cupcake. You can usually tell which one is hers by the incorporation of Halloween-y elements. Like mother, like daughter, I guess.

So happy birthday (party) to my beloved Thing 2! I hope you take away fond memories of this day, and that the rest of your year is fabulous.

Maple Mustard Glazed Salmon & Maple Barbecue Sauce

Because maple syrup is, well, a syrup, most people think of it first in sweet dishes like candy or fudge or cookies. However, it does add a fantastic note to savoury dishes as well.

One of the simplest recipes of which I have eaten a great deal — first prepared by my mother, later by me — is Maple Mustard Glazed Salmon from Jo Cooks. It’s basically four ingredients mixed together and poured over salmon, then baked. It’s delicious enough to serve at a dinner party, but quick enough to whip up as a busy evening meal. Maple goes well with mustard; not too surprising, really, given that honey mustard has a similar flavour profile and has been a grocery store standard for years.

Yesterday I served the salmon with one of my favourite last-minute dishes: fresh linguine (although you can use any kind of pasta, fresh or dried) with cooked spinach, cream cheese, and a little salt and pepper. I also added half an avocado on the side; my kids will eat avocado by preference over just about any other fruit or vegetable.

Maple is also great as part of a barbecue sauce. Lots of commercial sauces, such as Diana Sauce (a Kraft product) and President’s Choice, come in a maple variant. But it’s really easy to whip up one of your own! There are many recipes available online, but I am particularly fond of the no-cook Maple Barbecue Sauce on page 238 of The New Canadian Basics Cookbook (1999). It’s tangy, sweet, and just acidic enough to tenderize a tough steak if left to marinade. I wanted to fire up the grill and use this sauce yesterday, but the chilly downpours and the snow still freezing the barbecue cover to the ground made this inadvisable. I am sure that my jar of sauce will get a good workout over the coming months.

Maple Bacon Cornbread

Continuing this week’s theme of maple dishes, last night I tried out the Buttermilk Maple Cornbread with Flax recipe on page 43 of Anita Stewart’s Canada (2008). A number of the recipes I have used lately have come from this book, which I am greatly enjoying. I need to return it to the library shortly, so I have to optimize my use! Now that I’ve baked this cornbread, I have used every maple-based recipe in the book, with the sole exception of the crepe recipe on page 17. Between the buckwheat pancakes and the crepes I’ve made lately, I just didn’t feel the need to make yet another style of pancake.

The cornbread is only lightly sweetened with maple syrup, so the flavour is much more subtle than something like a pouding chômeur. Despite the syrup content, it is not a dessert quick bread; it would actually be a great accompaniment to roasted or barbecued meats, especially saucy ones. The top is sprinkled with chopped crispy bacon pieces, adding little bursts of extra flavour, although I think this bread would be great without the topping as well.

I almost burned the cornbread while baking it; I was warned by the smell, and I got it out of the oven just in time. My timer for the minimum recommended time hadn’t even gone off yet! I think that the blame for that can be placed upon my oven, which, as I’ve complained before, has been giving me issues when it comes to even, predictable heating. A new oven may be required sooner rather than later, although I shudder at the expense. I hope that I can make it last at least until the end of the summer at least, since I don’t use it much at all once the weather gets scorching.

I also cooked my corn bread in a glass dish instead of the cast-iron skillet specified by the recipe. Why? Because I’ve only got the one cast-iron pan, and it was too small. I think it turned out fine, considering. I believe that the use of cast iron is more tradition than anything else. However, using a preheated cast iron pan may create a crispy bottom crust on the cornbread that I was unable to achieve with a glass baking dish.

Latvian-Style Bagels & Pouding Chômeur

I spent most of yesterday baking. We had run out of bread again, which happens quite often with two growing children — especially since I started making bread at home. It very rarely has a chance to go stale. So I made Tanya’s Latvian-Style Bagels, the recipe for which can be found on page 156 of Anita Stewart’s Canada (2008). (I currently have this book out from the library, and I am loving the cross-Canada recipes and the histories behind each one. I think I may have to pick up a copy of this book for my library.)

Home-made bagel BLT with avocado and cheddar cheese. The bagel is actually quite small; the dish it’s set on is only a bread plate.

All in all, I found this recipe to be just as easy as when I first tried to make bagels. I did have some difficulties getting the oven’s temperature right, though, and some of my bagels were a bit singed on top. I think my poor 30-year-old stove is finally starting to give up the ghost. I bought an oven thermometer over the weekend because I suspected that there was a variance between what the oven setting and the actual temperature — and I was correct. The oven runs between 50 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than it should, which explains some of the weird results I’ve been getting. Between that and the fact that I can’t keep an oven light working no matter what I do (they burn out in a matter of days), I’ve started looking at alternatives. I’ve started to drool over free-standing electric ranges with double ovens, even though they don’t seem to be available with traditional elements (I don’t really like glass-ceramic cook tops).

A tapped suburban tree.

To keep with this week’s theme of maple dishes, I tried a second recipe from Anita Stewart’s Canada: Maple Pouding Chomeur. Pouding chômeur is another Québecois dish, not surprising given the quantities of maple syrup involved. The name translates literally to “unemployed person’s pudding”, and can also be called “poor man’s pudding”. It is said to have been invented during the Great Depression, and it reflects this by being made of only the cheapest and most easily-available components. Although maple syrup may seem like a very expensive ingredient, especially if you live in an area that has to fly it in, keep in mind that as a local harvest it was an ingredient that could be available to everyone, unlike expensive imported beet and cane sugar.

Given the issues I’ve been having with my oven, I was a little worried about how the pouding chômeur would turn out. I didn’t want to cook it any longer than the recommended time since it was getting quite brown and I was afraid it would burn. As it happens, I needn’t have fretted. It was cooked all the way through and not burned at all. Next time, though, I will use a larger pan. I Googled “pouding chômeur” and most people seem to serve it out of a glass dish, but since the cake had risen over the edge of my pan, that wasn’t really an option.

This cake really shows its gloriousness once it is flipped over onto a plate — carefully, so as not to lose any of the maple syrup sauce! When making the cake, the batter goes into the pan first, and then the sauce mixture is poured over top. As it cooks, the cake rises to the surface and the sauce stays on the bottom. When I flipped the cake over, the majority of the sauce then became the glaze on top. It’s a fantastically easy cake to make, with no icing or decoration required.

We all had slices of pouding chômeur with excess sauce dribbled over them for dessert, and the kids were in heaven. I loved it, but I think it would be even better with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream on top. That may be sacrilege to Québecois people who grew up with the dish, though.

Buckwheat Pancakes Recipe

Buckwheat crepes (crêpes au sarrasin) are traditional in Québec this time of year, served with a generous helping of maple syrup, of course. However, that’s not the dish with which I was raised. My father learned how to cook this kind of food from his father, who, as I’ve mentioned before, worked as a lumberjack in northern New Brunswick. There my grandfather was expected to take his turn cooking for the camp. What was passed down, therefore, was not a delicate crepe, but a hearty pancake meant to fill bellies as quickly as possible, and to fuel heavy manual labour for the rest of the day.

I prefer to eat buckwheat pancakes in the colder months, saving lighter or thinner versions for the summer when the heat makes lighter meals more appealing. However, if you prefer a heavier pancake, a nuttier flavour, or if you have a sensitivity to wheat or gluten, then can be eaten all year round. Despite its name, buckwheat is a totally different kind of plant than wheat; it’s actually more closely related to rhubarb than anything else (although it tastes nothing like it).

Stack of pancakes using a 50/50 buckwheat/all-purpose flour mix.

Buckwheat Pancakes
Yields 12 six-inch diameter pancakes*

In a large bowl, mix together:
3 cups buckwheat flour**
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
In another large bowl, combine:
3 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs
4 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
Whisk together wet ingredients until they become a smooth mixture. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Beat with an electric or hand mixer until batter is smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally with a rubber spatula to remove lumps.

*This recipe may be halved if desired. However, keep in mind that pancakes reheat well in the microwave, and leftovers can become a quick hot breakfast for the next day(s).
**For a lighter pancake, substitute 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour for the same amount of buckwheat flour.

The most difficult part of making pancakes, the part that takes a bit of practice to get right, is the frying. Lightly coat the cooking surface of a heavy, non-stick frying pan with cooking spray. Place the pan on the burner, turn the heat on to just a little bit higher than medium heat, and immediately pour a ladle-full of batter directly into the center of the pan. (Never preheat an empty nonstick pan.) The batter will spread out without help to its optimal thickness. Watch the cooking pancake carefully for bubbles to appear on its surface. When the bubbles pop and leave little craters behind that don’t immediately refill in with batter, it’s time to flip the pancake. (See above photo.)

The pancake should stay in one solid piece when it is flipped. The trick is to cook it slowly so that the batter is almost (but not quite) solid at the time of flipping. If the pancake isn’t cooked long enough, the top layer of batter will just slide off. If it is cooked at too high of a heat, the pancake will be burned on one side by the time it is ready to be flipped. Have patience! Buckwheat pancakes are especially thick and therefore need more time at a lower heat to cook all the way through. Cook each side until it is golden brown.

Pancake using a 50/50 buckwheat/all-purpose flour mix, topped with fresh fruit, maple syrup, and whipped cream.

Traditionally, buckwheat pancakes are served with butter and maple syrup. However, they are a great base for many toppings. If you can’t get (or don’t like) maple syrup, any kind of syrup or sweet sauce will do; corn syrup, honey, berry syrups, and artificially-flavoured syrups are fine. Dust pancakes with white, brown, or icing sugar for a classy touch. Jams, jellies, fruit butters, and nut butters are delicious as spreads. The pancakes can be topped with fresh or canned fruit, adding whipped cream if you have it. They are also a good vehicle for flavouring inside the pancake itself; for added punch, sprinkle a few chocolate or butterscotch chips or small blueberries over the batter as soon as it has been poured into the pan. You can include those kinds of ingredients in the bowl of batter itself, but I like adding them at the time of cooking so that I don’t have to make up multiple batches to appeal to different peoples’ tastes.

The Sugar Bush

Here in Canada, early March is when we start to see the first signs of spring. Generally, the snow hasn’t melted back much, so nothing green is growing, and even if the days peek above freezing, the nights are cold and bitter. There will still be a few good snowstorms. So how is it different from the rest of winter? The maple sap starts running.

It’s less obvious in the cities, where less of the economy is based on maple syrup, but a lot of private land-owners still tap their trees — even if they only have one or two. If you’re not from around here, you may not recognize the silver buckets with lids attached to the maple trees. A single tree may not yield much (it takes 40L of sap to make 1L of syrup), but home-made maple syrup is enough of a lure even for city-dwellers. Restaurants and coffee shops suddenly start featuring maple-flavoured everything, in much the same way the pumpkin spice craze happens in October.

Left to right: my Nan, the host family’s child, me, and my little brother, at the sugar bush.

One of my fondest childhood memories is of visiting a sugar bush. I couldn’t tell you if we did it once or many times, or if I even seemed to appreciate it at the time — but it’s an event that stuck in my memory.

Now, a sugar bush is not the same thing as a sugar shack, which is a rough translation of the Québecois cabane à sucre. From page 10-11 of Anita Stewart’s Canada:

In the maple forests, les cabanes were the quarters for those harvesting the sap. There was a wood stove for cooking and keeping warm. With cast-iron frying pans, the traditional foods of les cabanes à sucre evolved to satisfy the enormous appetites. Fèves au lard (pork and beans), liberally sweetened with maple syrup, simmered on the stove-top. Potatoes were fire-roasted, and eggs were poached in syrup. There were thin crêpes made form sarrazin (buckwheat flour). Ham and bacon, both requiring little refrigeration, were fried, and omelettes were cooked to go with them. Syrup was poured over everything. And the workers didn’t just make syrup — they boiled down sugar, fermented partially boiled sap into maple vinegar and even made maple wine.

The tradition of visiting a cabane à sucre is still going strong to this day. Not surprising, as maple syrup is one of our biggest crops — according to Wikipedia, Canada produces about 80% of the world’s maple syrup, and the province of Québec accounts for 85% of that total. Here on the Ontario/Québec border, many of us cross the river to visit Quebécois cabanes, although there are a number of them on this side as well.

Left to right: my Nan, the host family’s child, me, my little brother, the host mother, my father, and my mother at the sugar bush.

However, there is a great deal of difference between a cabane à sucre and a sugar bush. I visited many cabanes as a child, mostly as school field trips, and they didn’t stick with me the same way my visit to the sugar bush did. A modern cabane (especially one open to serve the general public) is part of a commercial maple syrup enterprise. The building is large, snug, and well-appointed. Often you can pay a flat rate and eat as much maple syrup, pancakes, baked beans, breakfast sausages, and bacon as you can stuff into your face. They are used to having a huge number of people cycling through the place in the spring. If you are lucky, they will offer tours of the facilities.

A sugar bush, on the other hand, is just the actual forest with the tapped trees. There is no fancy building with extensive cooking facilities. If you’re invited to one of these, you have to know the owner. They are often on private land and are not part of a commercial enterprise. Any food cooked is over a campfire or on a camp stove. A sugar bush is rustic, outdoors, and, to a kid, much more interesting. I remember getting to wander the woods, peek into the sap collection buckets, build things out of sticks, and tromp through the mud and slush. Then it was time to eat fresh-cooked pancakes and bacon and sausages doused in fresh-made syrup. Then we explored some more. We came home that night filthy, stuffed to the gills, and absolutely exhausted. It was wonderful.

Thing 1, Thing 2 and I making tire in the quickly-melting snow.

Unfortunately, we no longer know anyone who owns a sugar bush, so bringing my kids to one is not an option. To my surprise, their schools have never arranged for a field trip to a cabane à sucre, so I think I will have to take them to one sometime soon. But with the snow on the weekend (hopefully the last one of the season) I was able to at least make tire with them this year.

Tire (from the French word le tire meaning taffy pull) is pronounced pronounced like “teer”, not like the rubber things you put on wheels. It is the absolute simplest way of making maple candy. Basically, you boil the syrup, then pour it over clean snow. (Full instructions at Now, I don’t actually own a candy thermometer, so I had to straddle the line between “not hot enough” and “burnt”. I think I came down a little bit too much on the “not hot enough” side, so the tire didn’t end up as solid as I’d like. Also, the day had warmed up a bit and the snow I’d set out plates for the night before was more slush than anything else. The kids didn’t care. It was still maple syrup deliciousness.

Thing 2 holding her tire.

It’s not necessary to use a wooden craft stick to eat the tire, but it’s much less messy that way. Just roll the candy around the stick when it’s still a little bit warm, and ta-daa! Instant lollipop. Oh, and you can totally used shaved or crushed ice if you don’t have clean snow. The fresh snow part is tradition, but it’s not 100% necessary.