UVM decided to host a cook-off to celebrate the launch of their library’s new Maple Research Website and, what the heck – I hadn’t entered any contests since last year so I thought I’d give it a whirl.
The categories were Savory, Sweet & Judges’ Choice, and the criteria were simple: Appearance (25%), Taste (50%), and Use of Maple (25%). I liked the straight-forwardness, and think it’s a nicely democratic approach that encourages all sorts of folks to participate. There was music and Island Ice Cream and a cool tasting table set up where you could try your hand at identifying the mineral content of the soil upon which various saps were grown. (I didn’t try, though I was geekily tantalized by a geological thrust on the terroir of maple syrup – why is Vermont’s product so good? Maybe it’s because of our dirt’s mineral content.)
The competition was good-natured but serious. There were around 30 entries, a few from UVM students, from local restaurants and bakers, and from local folks and families. The mix was a great snapshot of the food-world of Vermont, with beautiful, sculptural entries like individual Maple Cheesecakes with Maple-Caramel Glaze alongside traditional humble fare like Maple Baked Beans and Butternut Cake with Maple Meringue frosting. My personal favorite was a pork tenderloin with maple-habanero glaze.
I’m sorry I didn’t get more pictures, but you can imagine the stampede when they let guests help themselves after the judges had been through. Here were some of the entries I was able to snap before we hordes descended with forks.
The music played, the judges sampled, E. & Z. ended up sticky and covered with frosting and finally sat staring into space, unsure how they had been allowed to consume so many sweet treats. Then the winning entries were announced: Maple Pulled-Pork Sliders, excellent looking wraps with meat and root vegetables called The Beef Explosion (long gone before I could get one), Maple Baked Beans, and Maple Bars (didn’t get one of these either).
It was an opportunity to teach the boys about how to act when we lose. After I coached them on applauding and congratulation, Z. told me, “Mommy, when we lose I’m just going to say, ‘phooey,’ quietly like this: phooey.”
Yeah, phooey, but yum.
Butter 9 x 13 pan and set aside.
Melt together in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until nicely blended:
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter
- 3/4 c. maple syrup
- 1 1/2 c. brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1/3 c. pumpkin puree
- 1 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 t. salt
- 1/2 t. powdered ginger
Put into prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes, then cool on rack completely
In the meantime, prepare the glaze and topping:
Cook until crisp then crumble and place aside:
- 6 slices thick cut bacon
Very coarsely chop:
- 1/2 c. maple-roasted or salted nuts
Make glaze. Sift:
- 2 cups confectioners sugar
Beat in on high speed:
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 T. maple syrup
- 1 T. milk
Adjust by adding more confectioners sugar, or milk, until thick but pourable. Once blondies have cooled, spread with glaze, top with nuts and bacon and serve.