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Cook the Book: Maple Crème Caramel

>While I was on a little getaway this weekend with some friends the subject of maple syrup came up. A maple-flavored syrup had been purchased to accompany our pancakes, resulting in a bit of an outrage. Not being much of a sweet breakfast person, I had not given a second thought to the bottle of Mrs. Butterworth's that sat in the fridge, but I was alone in my ambivalence.

Sitting through this sticky debate made it very clear to me that maple syrup is an ingredient to be taken seriously, and no one know this better than Vermonters. This recipe for Maple Crème Caramel from Dishing Up Vermont by Tracey Medeiros calls for two varieties of Vermont maple syrup, Grades A and B.

For all of you maple novices out there, these grades denote the harvest time, color, and density of the syrups. A is a lighter syrup, harvested earlier in the season; B is harvested later, and the color is darker; and C is used commercially for flavoring.

This version of crème caramel uses reduced maple syrup in place of the traditional caramel to give it an uniquely Vermont accented flavor. The beauty of this dessert lies in its presentation. The custard is loosened from its cup and inverted onto a serving plate so that the maple caramel in the bottom of the ramekin drips down the sides and into a beautiful puddle. I'm not going to make a stink about Mrs. Butterworth's on my pancakes, but only Vermont maple syrup will do for this recipe.

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