Friday, January 15, 2010

A Little French Canadian History Lesson - Pouding Chômeur Recipe

My husband is French Canadian. He is from outside of Ottawa, so he is Franco-Ontarian, but we did live in Quebec for awhile. In fact, our eldest daughter was born there, so she is actually Quebecois on paper. I was born in Minneapolis but my great grandfather on my father's side was French Canadian... you don't have to be French Canadian to enjoy this recipe, although if you aren't, you may have never heard of it. Read on for a brief history...

Pouding chômeur means pudding of the unemployed or poor man's pudding. Or as my husband's family calls it, which may or may not be politically correct, welfare pudding. It was created by Quebecois women, factory workers, in 1929, during the Great Depression. It used cheap, common ingredients, like flour, brown sugar, and water.

I must say this version is less than cheap with real maple syrup and a ton of butter. We used to live in Eastern Canada, where real maple syrup was cheap and available everywhere. In recent years there have been bad seasons and the price has gone up because it is more scarce. But, not as scarce and expensive as it is now that we live in Eastern Canada. An $8 can, 540 ml, is about $12 here. If you buy 12 cans in the East they are as little as $4.50 a can but here you can't buy in bulk. The cans weigh a ton, so having family ship them to us would be a bit ridiculous. So, we have come up with a way to ensure we never have to resort to Aunt Jemima. When friend or family come to stay with us, they bring use cans of syrup. It is their "toll" for staying with us, if you will. And we always buy 10 cans when we go home for a visit. It has worked well so far, I have only had to sell my blood twice to buy it here... ok, I am only kidding... but I probably would...

All this about syrup being scarce brings me to why I made pouding chômeur for the FIRST TIME the other night. To ration our syrup supply, we usually only use it on homemade crepes, pancakes, waffles, french toast, and with blueberries on our porridge. However, we have family coming this week! I checked our "stash" and since we still have 6 cans, I decided I felt ready to use some of our precious syrup in a recipe. In fact, the recipe ON the can. I don't usually try the recipes on the sides of boxes or cans, but I figured the maple people must have a good recipe for this French Canadian favorite. Plus, it is pretty darn easy. I was able to throw it together while cooking dinner, and it baked while we ate. I can't tell you how amazing the smell of maple syrup baking is. YUMMY! And you would have thought it was Andre's 5th birthday. He was giddy with anticipation. His mom called just before we took it out of the oven and he told her what I was making while practically beaming with pride. She wanted to know if it was her recipe... I will have to get it but she agreed the one on the can would probably be good. Andre took the pouding out of the oven and said it smelled and looked perfect. And it tasted amazing. Andre ate helpings that would not be considered healthy. And I just ate the last one while writing this. Trust me, this is worth trying. And PLEASE do not substitute fake maple flavored syrup (I don't think it would withstand the 5 minutes of boiling that is called for). If you don't have the real stuff, do a google search for a recipe that uses brown sugar. I used organic sugar, butter, and milk and unbleached flour.

Pouding chômeur de Grand-Mere Elmina
Off the side of a Quebecois can of maple syrup

- 1 1/2 c REAL maple syrup
- 3/4 c water
- 1 c sugar
- 2 c flour
- 1 c melted butter
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 c milk

Mix maple syrup with water and boil for 5 minutes. Combine flour, sugar, and baking powder with milk and butter. Spread dough into a tube or bundt pan (you can use a square or rectangular pan but the syrup may boil over while baking). Pour boiling syrup over dough. When the dough floats to the top of the syrup (about 5 minutes), place in 350 degree oven and bake until golden and toothpick in the center comes out clean (about 30 minutes).

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