New house. New house.
No, sadly, not my own house. Finances aren't that perfect. Yet. Fiancee and I are renting a house. Our first actually. It feels like we're moving up in the world a bit.
Since this crazy flood-slash-mold issue isn't getting resolved properly anytime soon and the (now ex) roommate is stuck in legal battles with the complex owners, Fiancee and I have decided to finally just cut bait from the whole thing and run.
And running, it seems, usually comes to be a good thing rental-wise. I seem to land in better and better places every time a disaster destroys the last one. When God closes the door in your old apartment (or burns it down, or floods it, or infects it with mold, or buries it under a roof collapse, or explodes it in the neighbor's meth lab explosion), a window in a much better property opens. Or so it seems to be for me.
Maybe I'm just jinxed when it comes to real estate?
Either way, the new place is bigger. Huge kitchen with more light than a glow stick factory, a gas range, and a new fridge. No dishwasher (ick) but washer and dryer (yay!). Yard big enough to have - dare I say? - a dog. Or better yet, a lemon tree?!
Unfortunately, the only problem with moving is the move. I frickin' hate it. And though with age comes the luxury of no longer relying on friends with trucks and finally being able to just hire movers everything still must be carefully sorted, boxed, labeled, hauled, unpacked, and reorganized and I just hate hate HATE it.
The back and forth from house to truck? Lord, I practically wilt at thought of it. I may have kitchen hands that proudly bear scars from peeling flats of plums with a pairing knife or boiling sugar, but damn if they aren't dainty things that simply detest carrying heavy loads.
The other thing I loathe besides all those boxes is that they have imprisoned within them the things I need. Particularly my kitchen; all of it properly wrapped in the daily paper and smartly stacked. A few exceptions exist: two plates, some forks, a large bowl, and a baking pan I found under the bathroom sink for whatever reason I can't figure out why.
Lucky for me the actual pantry hasn't been packed yet. Of course, there isn't a ton in it, either. Less to pack and all. Still, something homemade sounds delightful after two days of take out. I've taken in so much fried food I can actually smell it on myself, and that, dear reader, is not a way to feel sexy about oneself.
Upon inspection of the pantry I am not disappointed: canned pumpkin and various baking supplies are readily available. Excellent. Even more so was the sampler package of maple syrup sitting out on the counter.
It came to me after I had been contacted by The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers a few months ago and they asked if I wanted to sample some various grades of maple syrup.
Now, having some family in Canada I have some experience with Canadian maple syrups. The verdict is that they kick ass: they have a sharp, brown sugary flavor that at times is reminiscent of Delget Noor dates. Furthermore, Canadian Grade B syrup seems to have more potency than those made in Vermont (sorry, Vermont). This means that you can taste the maple more in baked goods, which is great because if you've ever baked with maple syrup you know how subtle it can be in the final product. Sometimes far too much so.
This all being the way of things, I said yes. I can't resist real maple syrup (the fake ones available at the local markets taste like too-sweet cheap candy) and I was eager to try some for cooking and eating.
A few weeks later a small package with four grades of maple syrup arrived. Grade A Light, Medium, and Dark; and Grade B. For those on you not in the know maple syrup is essentially graded based on it's intensity. Maple syrup, as you may well know, is tapped from maple trees. As the season advances, the syrup becomes darker and more caramelized in flavor as it cures in the trees.
Essentially the breakdown is this:
Grade A Light Amber: Simple, delicate, with a taste of light brown sugar.
Grade A Medium Amber: Forward in flavor with a dark brown sugar taste.
Grade A Dark Amber: Strong caramel flavor that finishes with a taste of dates. Intense mapleness.
Grade B: Pleasing notes of burnt sugar. The maples flavor is almost overwhelmingly intense. Spicy notes of cinnamon and nutmeg reveal themselves at the end. Most often used in cooking and rarely used at the table.
I grabbed the Grade B and decided to go to work making a simple Maple-Pumpkin cake. Now, I love pumpkin products. I do. However, for me, they're usually too one-dimensional. They ALL taste the same. Pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice. Had it before. No thank you.
This pumpkin cake is unique in that it relies on maple syrup to give it depth of flavor and character. The cake is sweet and dense, and the maple stands out and supports the musky pumpkin flavor with a flavor of caramel and cooked brown sugar.
It was a welcome reprieve from packing boxes for a bit. A bit of sugar to keep us moving later.
Of course, Fiancee is getting irritated that he's stacking my cookbooks in boxes while I blog so I must move on.
The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers has been kind enough to offer two prizes up for Vanilla Garlic readers: samplers of their various grades of maple syrup. To enter just leave a comment here on this post. Next, I encourage you to go to Canadian Maple Syrup's Facebook page and follow them so you can keep updated on what's going down in the world of maple syrup. All entries must be received by midnight, October 31st. Two winners will be chosen at random by me. Be sure to check back at this blog on November 1st to see if you've won. Please no anonymous comments as you will be ineligible to win. You must use a name or screen name to enter.
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of pureed pumpkin
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/4 cup of Grade B maple syrup
1 tablespoon of water (or Bourbon)
small handful of pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan by spraying it with baking spray or lightly buttering and flouring it.
2. Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, and sugars. Set aside.
3. Whisk together the pumpkim puree, olive oil, eggs, maple syrup, and water. Mix in the flour mixture.
4. Pour into the prepared baking pan, top with pepitas, and bake for 60 minutes or until a cake tester comes out of the center clean. Turn out of pan and cool on a wire rack.
Note: I was not paid or compensated for this post (except I got to keep the maple syrup samples that I promptly devoured). I chose to review this product because I truly love it. Prizes are sponsored by The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers.