Sap’s running! How sweet it is!

Everything tastes better drizzled
with liquid gold!

With the Maple Syrup Festival in Elmira this past weekend signaling the springtime flow of maple sap and production of maple syrup in Ontario, it’s time to enjoy the regional abundance of what many consider a quintessential Canadian food.

Maple syrup is a highly prized commodity throughout the world. With it produced right in our backyard, it would be a shame to take this “liquid gold” for granted.

If it’s been awhile since you enjoyed pure maple syrup (not maple-flavoured syrup named after someone’s pancake-loving/cooking relative!), pick up a bottle soon and reacquaint yourself with the golden goodness of this special treat. Drizzle it over pancakes, waffles, crepes, cooked vegetables, cake or ice cream, or use it to flavour a salad dressing, a barbecue or grilling sauce for meat or fish, or a dessert.

Keep in mind the darker the syrup (or the higher the grade number), the stronger flavoured the syrup will be. Medium and Amber syrups are better suited for cooking as they can better withstand heat while Light syrups are typically used to drizzle over pancakes and waffles.

For maple syrup recipes, information and a list of maple syrup festivals in Ontario, visit the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association’s website.

This make-ahead breakfast or brunch strata (heck, it would make a great supper too!) with it’s maple and apple topping is a sweet way to enjoy one of the first treats of spring.

Cinnamon Toast Strata with Maple Apple Topping
(Makes 6 servings)

If desired, substitute 4 cups (1 L) sliced bananas for apples. Reduce brown sugar to 2 tablespoons (30 mL). Omit raisins. Reduce cooking time of fruit to 1 minute.

10 slices egg bread
1/4 cup (60 mL) butter, softened
4 tablespoons (60 mL) sugar (divided)
1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground cinnamon (divided)
1-1/2 cups (375 mL) milk
4 eggs

2/3 cup (150 mL) maple syrup
1/2 cup (125 mL) orange juice
1/4 cup (60 mL) packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons (30 mL) butter (optional)
5 tart apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/3 cup (75 mL) raisins
1 tablespoon (15 mL) cornstarch
1 tablespoon (15 mL) water

To make Strata:
Trim crusts from bread. In a small bowl, mix together butter, 3 tablespoons (45 mL) sugar and 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) cinnamon. Spread on 5 of the bread slices; top with remaining slices. Cut diagonally into quarters to make triangles.

Arrange triangles, longest side down, overlapping and curving slightly, around edge of greased deep 10-inch (25 cm) pie plate. Arrange remaining triangles in a tight circle in centre. (Or arrange around edge of greased 11 x 7-inch/2 L) baking dish, curving slightly to fit; arrange remaining triangles in centre.)

Whisk milk with eggs until blended; pour evenly over triangles in dish. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon (15 mL) sugar with remaining 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) cinnamon; sprinkle over triangles. (Strata can be prepared to this point, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 12 hours.) Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Baked, uncovered, in a preheated 350F (180C) oven until puffed and golden, about 45 minutes. Let stand on rack for 10 minutes.

To make Maple Apple Topping:
In skillet, whisk together maple syrup, orange juice and sugar; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add butter (if using). Boil for 1 minute.

Add apples and raisins; cover and cook, stirring once, until apples are tender, about 5 minutes. Dissolve cornstarch in water; add to skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 1 minute. Serve warm over strata.

Recipe Source: Canadian Living Cooks Step by Step by Daphna Rabinovitch, Telemedia Communications Inc., 1999