Oh, Québec, I miss you.
It has been a while since our last trip to Montreal, and I am pretty eager to return. Those of you that are lucky enough to visit Québec in the winter (yes, lucky!) should take the opportunity to visit a sugar shack. Across Québec maple syrup is celebrated at “sugaring off” (giggle) celebrations held in the forests where maple sap is collected. You travel to a rural area where you sit down for a feast (usually in some sort of log cabin structure) featuring maple syrup—soups, meats, desserts, all flavored with the sweet nectar of the surrounding sugar bush. There is song and dance and a very merry time. It is a wonderful way to spend the day. Then you can walk around and check out the systems for gathering syrup and even watch them boiling it down. If you are lucky, someone will be making maple candy in the snow. We went a couple of years ago with Bryan’s grandparents (two of my favorite people) and had a blast.
The current issue of Saveur features a story on the maple syrup culture of Canada and I am working my way through the recipes using some genuine Québécois maple syrup from Bryan’s grandparents. These maple walnut squares are like a very thin piece of pecan pie. The filling is shallower, making them easier to enjoy. I reduced the sweetness a little when I adapted this, but they are still pretty intensely sweet. They are nicely balanced by a glug of cold heavy cream that I recommend you pour over the warm squares. The maple walnut filling sort of melts into the cream and the end result is pretty special.
Maple Squares with Walnuts (recipe adapted from Saveur)
- 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed and chilled, plus more for pan
- 1 cup plus 2 tbsp. flour, plus more for pan
- 1/4 cup plus 2/3 cup maple sugar
- 3/4 cup maple syrup
- 1 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. kosher salt (I did 1/2)
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Heat oven to 350° F. Butter and flour an 8″ square baking pan; set aside. In a food processor, process butter, 1 cup flour, and 1/4 cup maple sugar until combined; transfer to pan and press evenly into bottom. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Whisk remaining flour and maple sugar with maple syrup, walnuts, salt, and eggs in a bowl; pour over baked crust. Bake until filling is golden brown and set, 30–35 minutes. Serve warm, in a bowl, with heavy cream poured over.