Last Wednesday I headed out on the snow-skiffed roads to a local Sugar Bush to buy a jug of maple syrup for my Thanksgiving concoctions. The showroom was an unassuming room filled with maple sugaring supplies and a small selection of maple goodies. I chose a large jug, added it to my crowded backseat, and navigated the snowy roads across the state to my parents’ house.
Once I arrived, I set about finishing my baking. I unveiled the cake I baked for Grandma, which was disappointingly leaden. I then turned to my pie, rolling out the pastry I made the night before, and stirring together butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, and pecans for the filling. Several weeks ago mom and I found these nifty pie pans at Williams-Sonoma that had a few holes in the bottom, to help crisp the crust. I assembled my pie into the pan, placed it in the oven, and set about making cinnamon rolls with the leftover pie crust. When I opened the oven to bake the rolls, I noticed a trickle of caramel leaving the pie and splattering on the oven floor. The maple filling! Dripping in a steady stream! From all of the holes in the pie pan! I laughed and cussed and Mom came running to investigate. We lined the oven floor with foil to collect the candied drippings, which began to burn and smoke. I was worried the pie would absorb the smoke, and I was prepared to declare it an avant-garde “hickory smoked pie,” taking a hint from chocolatier Katrina Markoff, whose Vosges Barcelona bar is a masterpiece of melded and unexpected flavors (hickory smoked almonds, grey fleur de sel, enrobed in dark milk chocolate). The pie lost about a third of its mapley goodness, and I joked that it was a low-sugar pie. Luckily, the pie tasted nutty and sweet and scrumptious and not at all smoked.
Now, I’m looking ahead to Christmas baking, which I will keep a veiled mystery since many of my readers will be receiving these goodies. To tease your palates a bit, I can promise chocolate (of course), as well as cranberry and orange, and perhaps some of that Alabama gold: pecans