Giovanna’s Maple Creams
(I’ve been working on updating some of the Recipes in my archives, which I carried over from a previous version of my site. For this one, I thought it’d be best to go right to the source, and I asked Giovanna Zivny, who originally provided the recipe, to update it and include her photos. We both worked for many years together at Chez Panisse, her in the office and I, alongside her mom, Lindsey Shere, who was the pastry chef and co-owner of the restaurant. -David)
I was always interested in eating candy. A childhood infatuation with California’s See’s Candies was probably responsible–their spiffy black and white shops were a calm oasis in 1970s Berkeley. Stepping into the store was like going through a time warp. Outside the streets were full of hippies in bellbottoms; the scent of patchouli, meant to mask certain other scents, wafted through the air. Inside See’s a woman in her white dress and black bow tie presided over the neatly displayed plates of chocolates. She still wore her hair in a beehive.
And then there was their slogan: ‘A Happy Habit’. Perhaps it was a bit ironic at that time, but I was happy to get hooked. Even an ill-advised bet in high school that I could eat a pound for lunch didn’t dissuade me from eating candy. (I lost the bet, but didn’t learn my lesson).
At some point I became interested in making candy–it made eating candy more reputable. When I ran across Anita Prichard’s Complete Candy Book I figured I’d found a way to eat as much candy as I liked. Prichard’s book is full of recipes for fondants and fudges, brittles and marshmallows.
I experimented a bit, flavoring fondant with Fernet Branca. Enrobed in chocolate it made a nice digestive candy–though admittedly an acquired taste. On my lazier days I was drawn to her Kentucky Colonels. They had only 4 ingredients: butter, sugar, bourbon, and pecans. And get this–you don’t even cook it. It’s a little like swiping your finger across the butter dish, trailing it through a bowl of sugar, and dipping it into a glass of Maker’s Mark. Prichard’s recipe, though, gave eating raw sugar and butter legitimacy. I was hooked again.
But best of all are her maple creams. Like penuche, or brown sugar fudge, they’re a perfect candy. You can stir up a batch in the afternoon, just for fun, and curl up on the couch with them after dinner. Or save a few. Dipped in dark chocolate and garlanded in chopped nuts they’ll look as elegant as if they just put on their best black dresses and strings of pearls, and are stepping out for a night on the town.
I don’t know about you, but I always feel a little urgency with maple syrup. Every couple years there are dire warnings of the end of maple syrup; acid rain and global warming are no friends of the sap production.
I figure I’m left with no choice but to eat and enjoy maple syrup or sugar whenever I can.
Apparently I gave this recipe to David, back when we both worked at Chez Panisse. The pastry corner was between the office where I worked and any other place I needed to go. Probably during one of my frequent visits to the pastry corner I overheard him talking about maple. Or maybe I mentioned the maple creams, hoping to impress him. Whatever the circumstances were, my intent was purely self-serving. Anything that might improve my chances at scoring a sliver of almond tart, or, better yet, a small dish of David’s lime mousse. I did love his lime mousse.
Hmmmm…I don’t remember having a recipe for lime mousse. I must be getting old! Thanks to Giovanna for recreating the recipe. I’m going to ask Giovanna to jump in and answer any queries here—except you can’t ask her what I was like to work with! (Or for a picture of me in bellbottoms…) Giovanna writes for Gourmet, Culinate, and you can visit her blog, Giovanna’s Trifles. -david
Update: A few readers have noted that they had some questions about the recipe, including getting the candy to firm up properly. Candy making can be tricky and I’ve made the recipe several times with no problems but readers may wish to read through the comments, with Giovanna’s responses, before proceeding. Because it’s not my recipe, I can’t troubleshoot it. But if you have further questions about the recipe, or the results, it’s best to consult Giovanna’s notes in the comments or the book where the recipe is from: Anita Prichard’s Complete Candy Book –david.