by Molly Bradley
Mainly: what even is maple cream?
The first time I heard the words “maple cream,” I knew two things: one, that I had no idea what it was; and two, that I wanted to eat it.
Despite the name’s appeal, I didn’t get a chance to try it until much later, and even once I had, it took me a while to figure out what, exactly, it was and how it was made. For a while I assumed it was another maple product derived from maple trees, but in some totally different way from the way maple syrup was obtained. Maybe it came out that way in colder climes, or maybe there was some special way you coaxed it from the tree.
Turns out the truth is a lot simpler, but just as magical as my naive notions. Maple cream is maple syrup that has undergone a delicious transmogrification. If you take syrup and heat it to a certain point, it becomes cream.
If you’ve ever made candy and heated something to the “soft-ball stage,” you’ll be familiar with the process. If not, all you need to know is that when you heat a sugar solution, the way the mixture will end up when it’s cool depends on the highest temperature it reaches while it’s cooking.
By heating maple syrup (with a touch of butter or cream) to precisely 235°F (yes, precisely! Sugar’s a finnicky friend) and letting it cool, you wind up with a gorgeous, smooth, satisfying maple cream. It really is like magic.
Chances are, though, you neither want go through the process of making it yourself, nor risk a substantial amount of maple syrup. Even with a candy thermometer, the kind of precision required can be daunting. But we’re lucky to know a few really quality confection chefs who make some of the most excellent maple creams we’ve ever tasted: Tonewood, based in Waitsfield, Vermont, makes the smoothest, sweetest, most intensely maple cream.
Tonewood's Maple Cream
We enjoy maple cream in a bunch of different ways:
- spread on a hot English muffin in the morning,
- served with soft cheeses and crackers,
- stirred into oatmeal,
- as a frosting for sweet breads (not to be confused with sweetbreads), like pumpkin or zucchini bread,
- as an ingredient in a sauce for pasta or meat,
and finally, the best possible way:
- right off the spoon.