Sugarbush Special: Maple Butter

February 22, 2011

in Appetizers & Misc., Desserts, DIY & Crafts, Recipes

Even though winter has returned with vengeance after a week of maple-syrup weather, it doesn’t mean that I can’t share with you one of my favorite seasonal recipes – the sweet, delicious maple butter. I first tasted it at my mother’s-in-law some years ago during the boiling. I fell in love immediately, for the essence of maple suspended in butter was nothing short of sublime.

This recipe has been adapted from Sweet Maple: Life, Lore & Recipes from the Sugarbush.


Look at that liquid gold. I used the so-called “grade-B” syrup here – the darker, more intensely-flavored version, usually coming from the sap that has been collected during warmer weather (I think), but you can do it with any kind you have.


There’s no butter like CROPP butter
Like no butter I know!
Everything about it is appealing,
Everything the budget will allow!

Note that I, in general, prefer to use unsalted butter, but I don’t see why salted wouldn’t work – it will just taste saltier I guess.


We’re gonna need six tablespoons. Isn’t that neat how tablespoons are marked out on the wrapper? That’s America for ya – everything comes with instructions, including a stick of butter. Which, by the way, I don’t mind. Beats not being able to buy any butter at all! From where I stand, access to butter is one of them certain unalienable rights, right up there with, you know, life and liberty and the pursuit of affordable dairy products.


We’re gonna need to cut our butter into chunks to better dissolve it in the hot maple syrup later.


Speaking of which, we’ll be needing 1/2 C. I don’t make a lot in one go – it’s really powerful, and if you make too much, it can end up going bad after the initial wave of maple-butter enthusiasm subsides, especially since it has a way of separating when it sits for longer than a few hours.


Pour the syrup into a heavy-bottomed pot…


And bring it to a simmer over medium heat. The syrup will soon foam violently and want to boil over. But we’re gonna tame it with a magic trick:


A few drops of cream!


There they are, white swirls towards the bottom left.


Organic Valley products are just so photogenic. Perhaps someday I could have a career photographing them!


Meanwhile, get a small bowl of cold water ready. We’ll be testing our reducing syrup for the soft-ball stage. You see, I don’t really trust thermometers on that one. That’s why I put together this handy photo-guide to thermometer-free soft-ball testing a while back.


This might be just a tad on the hard end of the soft ball. But that’s how I like it.


Now add the butter to the syrup.


It’s always nice to have some little helpers in the kitchen while you are at it. Someone’s got to lick the spoon, right? And the mixer beater too. Oh and the bowl! Don’t forget the bowl.


Stir everything together until the butter has melted.


Pour this mixture into a bowl of an electric stand mixer…


And whip out your paddle attachment (I actually think the whisk will work too).


Now for another magic trick – the butter and syrup need to be whipped together, but good things won’t happen while the two remain hot. This is why we are going to rapidly chill the mixture by sliding another bowl filled with ice water under the mixer bowl. That is, we’ll slide an empty bowl with ice already in…


And add water while it is in place. That makes sense, right?


About so.


No let your paddle attachment run wild (actually, let it go on medium-high speed, such as perhaps 6 or even 8).


As you whip the rapidly-chilling mixture, it will become considerably lighter in color and texture (it helps to stop and scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula along the way).


And pretty soon you’ll have something like this!

The exact point of when you should stop is essentially up to you, but I would say that this looks done to me.


Now the tricky part here is actually removing the ice-water bowl from under the mixer, and I guess there is no good way to do that, and my counter will concur. It seems like the best thing to do is to carry the mixer, water bowl still underneath the mixer bowl, over to the sink and tilt the whole thing to dump the water out.


This wonderful spread can be used on buns, popovers, and even as buttercream, which, effectively, it is. To keep things simple though, I like to serve it simply on a slice of bread.

Oh, and here’s the most important thing… EAT IT UP!!! It doesn’t keep well at all, not even into the evening, before things start to separate and come apart. Just thought I’d give you a fair warning.

Here are my other maple-syrup recipes:

Maple Snow Taffy

Roast Chicken with Maple-Balsamic Glaze and Caramelized Onions

Maple Crème Brûlée

Maple Milk Eggnog

Azerbaijani Baklava Soaked in Maple Syrup


1 Foodie February 22, 2011 at 11:25 am

Forgive me for asking the obvious, but how is this better than just whipping cold maple syrup into cold butter? I’ve never tried that (and maybe it wouldn’t work?), but I don’t quite get what the heat does. That’s not to say it doesn’t look completely delicious; it certainly does!

2 Sofya February 22, 2011 at 11:51 am

Oh – it reduces and thus considerably thickens the syrup, changing the texture and concentrating the flavor. Reducing to the soft-ball stage is much more than merely heating. I don’t believe that straight syrup is thick enough for this spread – although if you try it and let me know, that would be great! Like, for instance, there’s this recipe for buttercream that Jacob recently learned to make – it’s eggs and sugar syrup (and butter) which needs to be at the soft-ball stage. My guess is that if you just try to whip cold syrup in the butter, it will separate and/or be runny with the amount of syrup that you need to sweeten the butter properly.

Same with maple snow taffy – if you just pour the syrup on snow it will run through the snow, but when it’s at soft-ball stage it will sit on top of the snow in strips.

Soft-ball is a really useful thing to know how to do – we also have this great recipe for homemade caramel for apples, and you need to cook that to the soft-ball stage as well (when the syrup will form a soft ball when dripped into cold water).

3 Emma Nicholes March 1, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Dawn made this one cake at Julia and Adrian’s wedding. I think it was the maple walnut. And the icing tasted like it was straight butter…I went back for two more pieces. Any relation to that and this recipe here?

4 Sofya March 1, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Thanks for stopping by, Emma! This frosting is not the same thing, but I do happen to have that recipe – I could perhaps make a photocopy for you.

5 carla March 30, 2011 at 9:48 am

hi! I just made your maple butter and it look exactly the same and tastes delicious! Thanks!
I was juts wondering if I put it in the fridge will it keep until this afternoon. It’s 10:30 am now I I need it for 4pm.
I read it doesn’t keep well and I got a little concerned that I made it so early.
I can’t wait to put it on some warm scones!

6 Sofya March 30, 2011 at 10:34 am

Hi Carla – it gets pretty stiff in the fridge – I almost want to advise to keep it out until that time, and then stir it again before serving if it separates.

7 Valerie April 7, 2011 at 9:48 pm

I’m going to make this for sure !! … with salted butter ;)
thank you for the very nice how-to !

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