Food & Drink

This fall, say hello maple and so long pumpkin spice

Maple-Pecan Squares marries a shortbread crust with a gooey, maple-y topping.
Maple-Pecan Squares marries a shortbread crust with a gooey, maple-y topping. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Come on, admit it. You’re so over the pumpkin-spice craze.

Seasonal beer, coffee drinks and cookies spiced with ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon are one thing. But when those cozy fall flavors sneak their way into a Kit Kit candy bar or a stick of Burt Bees lip balm or onto a pizza, you know it’s officially jumped the shark. Big time.

Which is why some of us were glad to hear that a new flavor will supplant pumpkin spice this fall: maple.

At least that’s what MarketWatch would have us believe, based on a report from the analytics company 1010data. It notes that even as pumpkin spice flavor continues to grow in popularity — to the tune of 49 percent more products a year — sales just aren’t holding pace.

Maple, meanwhile, “is surging.”

Measured against the same quarter last year, sales of maple-flavored beverages have almost doubled while maple-flavored cocktails have climbed 14.6 percent. Which might explain why Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts debuted maple-pecan coffee drinks this fall. Dunkin’ also is featuring a 630-caloried Maple Sugar Bacon Breakfast Sandwich.

But is maple really the next big thing? And will its sweet, distinctive flavor be something that consumers naturally crave when the weather gets cooler?

While all maple syrup is made according to the same process, there’s a grading system that differentiates between the natural variations in color and flavor. The lighter the syrup, the more delicate the taste. Sap processed later in the season produces a more robust and darker syrup.

Maple syrup can be substituted for honey or agave one for one, but you’ll want to use only  3/4 cup of syrup for every 1 cup of white sugar in baking, while also reducing the other liquids in the recipe by 3 tablespoons. Go for the good (real) stuff, even though it’s more expensive, as it takes 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup.

However you enjoy fall’s hottest flavor, know that you’re making a nutritious choice. Not only is maple syrup high in healthful antioxidants but it also includes essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and manganese.

Maple-Bourbon Smash

Maple-Bourbon Smash is full of fall flavors, and easy to make. Gretchen McKay Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

This maple cocktail is full of fall flavors, and so easy.

 1/2 ounce pure maple syrup, preferably Grade A Dark Amber

 1/2 ounce fresh orange juice

 1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

4 dashes of Angostura bitters

 1/2 orange wheel

2 ounces bourbon


1  1/2 ounces chilled seltzer

In a rocks glass, combine maple syrup with orange juice, lemon juice and bitters. Add orange wheel and lightly muddle. Add bourbon and stir well. Fill glass with ice and top with chilled seltzer.

Makes 1 drink.

Food & Wine magazine

Easy Maple Turkey Breakfast Sausage

Easy Maple Turkey Breakfast Sausage. Gretchen McKay Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

This recipe uses ground turkey, a lean meat that is lower in calories than the traditional pork. Be gentle with the meat – you don’t want to overmix.

2 tablespoons maple syrup

2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage (not ground)

 3/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

 1/2 teaspoon salt

 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 pound ground lean turkey

2 teaspoons canola oil

In small dish, combine maple syrup, sage, pepper, salt, thyme and nutmeg. Place turkey in large bowl. Sprinkle spice mixture over meat and gently mix with clean hands, to incorporate spices evenly. Divide into eight sections and shape into patties.

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add patties and cook, turning once; adjust heat as necessary to prevent overbrowning. Cook 4 to 6 minutes per side, until browned on both sides and cooked through (165 degrees on an internal thermometer). Serve hot.

Makes 8 patties.

Adapted from “Maple: 100 Sweet and Savory Recipes Featuring Pure Maple Syrup” by Katie Webster (Quirk; 2015)

Maple Ginger Chicken Thighs

Maple Ginger Chicken Thighs. Gretchen McKay Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Maple pairs beautifully with cider and fresh ginger in this easy marinade for chicken thighs. I used Grade A Dark Amber maple syrup, which has a robust maple flavor. The fruit will cook down, so if you have a few extra pieces, go ahead and throw a few more slices in the pan.

1 shallot, finely sliced

 3/4 cup apple cider

 1/2 cup dark pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon finely grated peeled, fresh ginger

1 tablespoon apple-cider vinegar

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus four sprigs, divided

 3/4 teaspoon salt

 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

8 bone-in chicken thighs

3 medium pears or apples, peeled, cored and quartered

In medium bowl, whisk shallot, cider, maple syrup, ginger, vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper.

Place chicken in a large resealable bag. Pour marinade into bag, seal it and refrigerate 12 to 24 hours, turning once or twice to coat all pieces.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove chicken from marinade and arrange pieces, skin side up, in a 9-by-13 inch baking dish. Tuck pears or apples and thyme sprigs among chicken pieces. Pour marinade over top. Bake, basting occasionally, about 1 hour, until chicken is cooked through and starting to pull from bone. Serve chicken and fruit with sauce spooned over top.

Makes 8 servings.

“Maple: 100 Sweet and Savory Recipes Featuring Pure Maple Syrup” by Katie Webster (Quirk; 2015)

Maple-Pecan Squares

This decadent treat marries a shortbread crust with a gooey, maple-y topping you won’t mind having to lick off your fingers. I prefer pecans, but maple also pairs well with walnuts. If you’re worried you won’t be able to turn the bars out of the pan without breaking them into pieces, line it with overhanging pieces of parchment paper so it will lift right out.

For crust

1 1/2 sticks ( 3/4 cup) butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 cups all-purpose flour

For topping

2 sticks (1 cup) butter

 2/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon dark corn syrup

 1/3 cup good-quality maple syrup

 1/4 heavy cream

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups pecan halves and/or pieces

2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and heavily grease a 9-by-13-inch pan.

Make crust: In a big bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in salt and gradually mix in flour until incorporated.

Crumble mixture into the bottom of the pan, then press it firmly into pan with your fingers.

Bake crust for 12 to 15 minutes, or until it is very pale gold. Set aside.

Make topping: In medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter with brown sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup, cream and salt. Bring to boil and cook, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved, 1 minute or so. Remove from heat and stir in nuts and vanilla.

While topping is still hot, pour over crust. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until top is just starting to bubble, then set aside to let cool completely.

Run a knife around the edges and invert entire baking pan to remove the block instead of trying to pry the squares out of the pan. Flip the block so it’s right-side up and cut the squares as you will.

Makes 9 bars.

“Duff Bakes: Think and Bake Like a Pro At Home” by Duff Goldman and Sara Gonzales (William Morrow; 2015)