Maple Butter (or Maple Cream, If You’re Fancy)
I’ve had maple butter bouncing around in my head for a while, a new fun something to make after being told that I must try it. I had no idea what maple butter was, but research explained that by heating maple syrup to 233 °F, cooling to 40 °F, then warming it back up to 60 °F, the syrup morphed into maple butter (or maple cream, if you’re fancy). The promise of a spreadable maple syrup stuck with me since I discovered its existence, but I wanted a yard full of snow before I tried to make something that required rapid cooling. Cold, wet, and messy on their own are fine, but they make up the Trifecta of Horrible when combined. As such, I do everything I can to avoid making an ice bath.
A heavy snow on Friday night and Saturday morning took care of the ice bath problem and I got out the trusty candy thermometer to make maple butter. I confess that my research on maple butter was minimal and that I stirred when I ought not to (during the cooling phase), but everything still turned out, and how.
I kept eating the maple butter off of the spoon and finally had to pack it up so I would leave it alone. The next morning I had my doubts about why I was swooning over this stuff (OH THIS IS NEW SO IT MUST BE AWESOME AND BETTER THAN ANYTHING ELSE), so I compared a drizzle of maple syrup to a bit of the maple butter in oatmeal to see if I was simply infatuated by something bright and shiny.
No, it was true love. Straight maple syrup tasted tinny and one-dimensional but the maple butter was full, toasty, and strikingly buttery. I figured the name ‘maple butter’ referred to its consistency (it is spreadable like peanut butter), but it tasted so buttery that, had I not made it, I would have guessed butter had been added. I went ahead and added butter to the bowl in this photo, just to push it over the top.
What also surprised me was the texture of the maple butter. The maple butter appears to be a dilatant. Like a cornstarch and water mixture, it is solid if you touch it but if you begin to push it around or stir it, it has fluid-like qualities. Dilatants have “a dense mixture of granules and liquids” which makes perfect sense as to why the maple butter acts as it does.
With hopes of finding out more about sugars in maple syrup, I opened McGee’s On Food and Cooking and read how the process of making maple butter is very similar to making maple sugar (his temperatures are a little different from Wikipedia, if you’re fact checking). The difference between making maple sugar and maple butter is the step of cooling and stirring in maple butter. Maple sugar is made by heating maple syrup to above boiling, then allowing it to cool and form sugar crystals. Maple butter is heated, rapidly cooled, then rewarmed and stirred vigorously– instead of ending up with big crystals of maple sugar in syrup, the sugar crystals are very fine and densely distributed in the reduced maple syrup. Maple butter, the great dilatant confection.
Maple Butter (Maple Cream)
Full-flavored, buttery, and spreadable, I have to keep this out of my sight or I eat it straight off of the spoon. I put a pat on a waffle and added it to oatmeal, but maple butter would be great in a milk-based drink, added to BBQ sauce, in a sweet-savory sandwich, between two cookies….
You must use 100% pure maple syrup for this recipe.
- 1 cup pure maple syrup
- Prepare an ice-bath (or wait until you have snow drifts deep enough to put a small pot, your call) for a small pot.
- Fit a small, deep pot with a candy thermometer.
- Over medium-high heat, bring the syrup up to 233 °F (112 °C), stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, about 3-4 minutes.
- Immediately remove the pot from the stove and set in the ice bath. Stir occasionally until the syrup cools to 40 °F (4 °C), about 5-8 minutes.
- Back on the stove over medium-low heat, warm the syrup to 60 °F (15 °C), stirring frequently.
- Once the maple syrup reaches 60 °F, remove from heat again and stir vigorously for 2-3 minutes.
- Set the pot aside and let stand for 10 minutes. The syrup will begin to cloud and turn a light tan color.
- Stir until the maple butter is smooth and easily spreadable.
- Use at once or store covered in the refrigerator.
This is exactly how I made the maple butter, goof-ups and all. Keep an eye on the syrup since as it reaches 233 °F it boils up considerably. If you’d like to experiment, try leaving the maple syrup undisturbed as it cools, then beat it with a wooden spoon while bringing it back up to 60 °F until it is tan in color and smooth.
Cooking time: 20-25 minutes
Yield: Scant 3/4 cup