Chef Martin Picard is famous for his sumptuous, nose-to-tail, modern remixes of traditional Quebecois recipes. They are equally extravagant as they are delicious. In 2012 he published a cookbook called Au Pied de Cochon – Sugar Shack. This book is full of maple syrup inspired recipes with a first hand account of running his own sugar shack. This post is a review of the “Grand Pères” recipe which appears in this book.
A “Grand Père” (lit. “Grand Father” in French) is a flour based dumpling poached in maple syrup. It’s a traditional dessert served in sugar shacks all over Quebec since Jesus was a carpenter.
I won’t go into the specifics of the recipe because if you’re interested you should buy his book. However, the ingredients are typical for this style of dumpling: flour, baking powder, a bit of salt, milk and an egg. These aren’t fine puff pastries intended for the king of France, but down-to-earth desserts to warm the guts of the working bloke.
Essentially, these dumplings are cooked by poaching them in maple syrup. Like, pure, unadulterated maple syrup. When I made Grand Pères as a kid I would dilute the syrup by half with water. I had a feeling this recipe was going to be a sweet experience.
The most obvious non-traditional addition chef Picard makes is the addition of a blueberry maple sauce. I say non-traditional because where would people of yesteryear find fresh blueberries in April? It’s an out of season import but might be the best thing about this recipe.
I made the dumplings and sauce exactly as the recipe specified and cooked them just as ordered. Verdict: the dumplings came out a little too dense and the sauce was extremely sweet.
The dumplings themselves were denser and harder than I’m used to. I was expecting the traditional fluffy bread texture. If I were to experiment I’d leave out the egg, double the baking powder, and include a lard or shortening element. Interestingly, other recipes I found on the internet don’t call for eggs.
Chef Picard suggests to serve Grand Pères with vanilla ice cream. While that may be in line with the Pied de Cochon style, this seems excessive. The sauce alone was delicious with the lighter, fruitier flavour of the blueberries above the sweet base of the maple. It would indeed pair well with vanilla ice cream… just without the dumplings.
I’ve been to the Pied de Cochon sugar shack at least 10 times over the past five years and it’s never failed to be an amazing food experience. I suppose that’s why I had such high expectations for this recipe. While I didn’t dislike these dumplings, they weren’t as awesome as I hoped they’d be. If you’re looking to recreate the spring sugar shack experience at home, leave this recipe out in the cold and try something else.