“Maple: 100 Sweet and Savory Recipes Featuring Pure Maple Syrup.” By Katie Webster. Quirk Books, 2015. $22.95

Two years before my husband and I moved to Maine, a magazine he was working for assigned him to photograph Maine Maple Sunday. Not wanting to be left at home in New Jersey while he roamed around rural Maine from one steamy, sweetly scented sugar house to another, I decided to join him, giving me my first taste of “sugar on snow” and my first look at the laborious process of turning maple sap into delicious syrup.

Now that we’re settled in a Maine farmhouse, there’s always a jug of local syrup in our fridge, with a backup in the pantry, just in case. But I never thought we might actually be able to produce our own maple syrup until I read the introduction to Katie Webster’s book, “Maple: 100 Sweet and Savory Recipes Featuring Pure Maple Syrup.”

It’s first and foremost a cookbook; however Webster, who lives in Vermont, describes her family’s forays into “backyard sugaring” (illustrated with charming photographs of her and her daughters) in a way that made me look at the old maple trees on our property and think: “We could do that.”

Maybe next year. For now, I’m still getting used to associating maple syrup with spring, rather than fall. Aside from pouring it over pancakes, since maple pairs so beautifully with autumnal ingredients – apples, pumpkin, root vegetables – I tend to push the jug to the back of the fridge once the crocuses appear.

Most of the recipes in “Maple” don’t altogether contradict this mindset, but they will broaden a cook’s maple repertoire. Maple Pickled Ramps, Greek Yogurt Parfaits with Maple Vanilla Sour Cherries and Maple Oat Zucchini Bread make tasty use of seasonal produce, while recipes for a Maple Margarita, Asian Pork Lettuce Cups, Swordfish with Maple Piperade and Maple Lemon Squares demonstrate the versatility of maple syrup as an ingredient.

A contributing editor to Eating Well magazine and a blogger at healthyseasonalrecipes.com, Webster includes a page on the health and sustainability benefits of cooking with maple syrup. “With a score of 54, it falls lower on the glycemic index than many other sweeteners” … and “has anti-inflammatory properties as well,” she writes, also mentioning sugaring’s low impact on the environment and that buying real maple syrup – even a supermarket brand – supports family-owned businesses.

Given its hefty price, it’s unlikely that you’ll use maple as your primary sweetener, unless, like Webster, you have your own source. I felt almost reckless as I measured out 1/4 cup of the precious stuff to make her Maple Whole Wheat Pizza Dough, but I’m not sure store-bought dough would have been as good a match for what topped it. The earthy, slightly sweet, crispy-chewy crust was an ideal backdrop for an unusual combination of caramelized onion, cheddar and feta cheeses, baby arugula and pepitas – the whole thing drizzled, after baking, with a bit more syrup. Webster got the idea for syrup on pizza from a bakery in the Vermont town where she lives. “Trust me,” she writes.

So I did.

“That’s not pizza,” said my husband, a purist who insists on tomato sauce, mozzarella and pepperoni. “But it’s really, really good.”

Balsamic Caramelized Onion Pizza from “Maple” by Katie Webster.

Balsamic Caramelized Onion Pizza from “Maple” by Katie Webster.

BALSAMIC CARMELIZED ONION PIZZA WITH ARUGULA AND MAPLE DRIZZLE

From “Maple” by Katie Webster

Since I always have trouble shaping pizza dough into a round, I love that this recipe calls for it to be rolled out to fit a baking sheet. This also keeps it neat; the toppings will not fall off in the oven. To me, this is a better appetizer than main course. The recipe calls for sweet onion, but I used a red onion, and I used a sprinkle of dried thyme in place of fresh.

Makes 4 (2-piece) servings

1 tablespoon organic canola oil

1 large sweet onion, sliced

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

2 tablespoons cornmeal

All-purpose flour for dusting

1 recipe Maple Wheat Pizza Dough (see below) or your favorite store-bought dough

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar (4 ounces)

2 ounces crumbled feta, preferably reduced fat

2 tablespoons pepitas

1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 cups loosely packed baby arugula (2 ounces)

2 tablespoons dark pure maple syrup

Place oil in a medium saucepan. Add onion, cover, and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, 12 to 15 minutes, until onion is soft and starting to brown. Reduce heat to medium-low if the onion slices are browning too much before softening. Stir in vinegar and thyme, cover, remove from heat, and set aside while you prepare the pizza.

Place a rack in the bottom position of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Coat a large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray and sprinkle with cornmeal. Dust clean work surface with flour. Roll out dough to the size of the baking sheet and transfer to the sheet.

Spread caramelized onions over dough. Top with cheddar and feta. Sprinkle with pepitas, salt and pepper.

Bake, rotating once halfway through, 13 to 16 minutes, until crust is crispy and cheese is bubbling and just starting to turn golden. Remove from oven. Scatter arugula over pizza and drizzle with syrup. Cut into 8 pieces and serve.

MAPLE WHEAT PIZZA DOUGH

From “Maple” by Katie Webster

I used all-purpose flour instead of the bread flour specified in the recipe.

1/2 cup warm (105 to 115 degrees F) water

1 package rapid or instant dry yeast

1/4 cup maple syrup, warmed

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for bowl

3/4 teaspoon salt

11/2 cups white whole wheat flour

1 cup bread flour, divided, plus more for dusting

In a large mixing bowl, whisk water and yeast and let sit until foamy. Add syrup, oil and salt and whisk to combine. Add whole wheat flour and ½ cup bread flour. Stir with a wooden spoon until too difficult to stir.

Turn onto a floured surface and knead until dough comes together as a ball. Continue kneading, working the remaining ½ cup bread flour into the dough, about 10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic. Alternatively, mix dough in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment for 5 to 6 minutes, until smooth and elastic and the dough climbs the hook.

Coat a clean bowl with oil, set dough in bowl, cover with damp kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm spot for 1 to 2 hours until almost doubled. Continue with the Balsamic Caramelized Onion Pizza.

 


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.