Oh, Canada. There is so much to tell you about our trip to Montreal but you know that I like to keep it brief so I’ll focus on two amazing places we visited and one amazing dessert that I discovered. On our first or second day in Montreal we took Bryan’s grandparents to a cabane à sucre in Rigaud, just west of the city. It was my first visit to a sugar shack and it certainly did not disappoint. The Sucrerie de la Montagne is run by Pierre Faucher, a man who looks like Santa Claus and may be famous, as people kept asking him to pose for pictures with them. I’d read about the Sucrerie de la Montagne in the New York Times  a few weeks ago, it is a nice article and you should check it out for a good description of the experience and some beautiful photos. For those of you who have never visited a sugar shack basically you can watch the maple sap being tapped and cooked down into syrup. You also sit down to a traditional Quebecois feast of assorted meats and gallons of maple syrup which you consume while musicians play and people dance. It is really fun and it was by far the best maple syrup I have ever consumed. I left with a whole bunch of syrup and looked forward to finding recipes to use it.
Fast forward to a few days later when Bryan and I ate dinner at Montreal’s legendary Au Pied de Cochon  (PDC). The restaurant has gained international fame for its rustic meat-centered cuisine. To tell you the truth, even though some very reliable sources  had convinced me to go, I had consumed more meat in my first few days in Canada than I normally consume in months at home and the prospect of more scared me. But let me tell you my friends, PDC is one of the best dining experiences I have ever had. The place is so full of love and good energy that it makes everything from the service to the food to decor feel like magic. I could go on and on and tell you about the salad we started with ( which was topped with a “puck” of “parts of the piglet” which were fried into some serious deliciousness) or the boudin tart that kind of blew my mind, but I won’t— I want to tell you about what we had for dessert: Pouding Chômeur.
PDC published a cookbook a couple of years ago and it really captures the essence of the restaurant. I couldn’t resist buying it when I saw that it contained recipes for both of my favorite dishes and I couldn’t wait to get home and share this dessert with you. Pouding Chômeur is translated as “poor man’s pudding”. It is basically a cake that is baked in a pan of caramel syrup. I’m not kidding. It is served at the restaurant, hot from the oven, in a bowl of bubbling caramel and despite the fact that we had already eaten way too much amazing food, it was incredible and we finished every last crumb. I had found my first recipe to make using some of the maple syrup I had bought. The recipe worked flawlessly and was just as delicious as it was at the restaurant.
A couple of notes: It seems funny to me that this is called “poor mans pudding” as it requires two cups of maple syrup and two cups of heavy cream. Oh well, maybe maple syrup was cheaper then. The recipe says this can be baked in a cake pan, and I am not sure how that would work. I know I should have been patient and tried that first so I could let you know, but didn’t. I made these as we had them in the restaurant in individual bowls. This is very sweet. For those of you that have already admitted you prefer salty (Michelle, Whitney, fresh365, jas, Phoo-D, Jesse, Rachel, greg, etc ) this might not be the dessert for you. In doing some research on the recipe, I see that there are suggestions to serve it with creme fraiche or sour cream, both of which could help cut the sweetness. I had absolutely no problem with the sweetness. I also think that because this is rather sweet, it might serve more than it seems. Maybe smaller ramekins would be even better here? Bryan and I split one of these for dessert last night. Finally, please notice that the dough has to sit overnight in the refrigerator so this requires a little planning in advance.
Pouding Chômeur (adapted from the Au Pied de Cochon Cookbook)
- 6 oz butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 cups maple syrup
- 2 cups heavy cream
Combine the butter and sugar in stand mixer until smooth. Add the eggs and beat at medium speed until completely incorporated. Add the flour and baking powder and stir until the flour is completely incorporated. Refrigerate dough for at least 24 hours.
Preheat oven to 450°F. Bring the maple syrup and heavy cream to a boil is a saucepan. Turn off heat, add a pinch of salt and set aside to cool. Divide the dough among 5 or 6 ramekins or oven-safe bowls and set them on a large rimmed baking sheet. Fill each ramekin just over half full with 3/4 cup of the maple cream mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the puddings are golden brown and a tester inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes, serve warm.