Healthy Ingredient of the Week – Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is typically used as a topping for pancakes, waffles, and other breakfast treats, and can sometimes seem anything but healthy.  But I’m here to tell you that, when used in moderation, and with the right combination of other nutritious ingredients, it can be a part of any healthy diet.  Maple syrup contains the polyphenol quebecol, a type of antioxidant that can help protect against inflammation.  It’s also an excellent source of manganese and contains other vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, and zinc.  The darker grades of maple syrup have been shown to have the highest antioxidant concentration, so choose Grade A dark or Grade B to maximize nutritional value.  Also, be sure to note the difference between pure maple syrup and its less expensive imitations:  Anything that says “syrup” without the words “100% pure maple” in front of it is probably just a combination of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial flavoring. 

I went to Vermont a few weekends ago, at the very end of peak maple season, and indulged in quite a few maple-flavored foods.  I also picked up a maple syrup cookbook while I was there, and found the following recipe quite interesting.  Maple syrup is used to replace most of the sugar in this recipe, and it’s not hard to make a similar swap in most other recipes that call for sugar. You can generally use ¾ cup syrup for 1 cup sugar; since the syrup is liquid, you should also decrease the amount of other liquids called for in the recipe by 2-4 tablespoons per cup of syrup used, add ¼ – ½ teaspoon baking soda to decrease acidity, and lower the over temperature by 25°.

Maple Shredded Wheat Bread

Ingredients
2 large shredded wheat biscuits, crumbled
2 cups boiling water
3 tablespoons butter
½ cup maple syrup
⅓ cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 package yeast
¼ cup lukewarm water
3 ½ cups white flour
3 cups whole wheat flour

Instructions
1.  Crumble shredded wheat biscuits and cover with boiling water.
2.  Add butter, maple syrup, sugar, and salt, stirring to melt butter.  Cool to lukewarm.
3.  Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water and stir into shredded wheat mixture.
4.  Gradually stir in sifted flour to make a stiff dough, kneading until smooth.
5.  Place dough in greased bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in size.
6.  Punch down, knead again, and shape into two loaves.
7.  Place in two greased bread pans, cover, and let rise again until nearly doubled.
8.  Preheat oven to 375°.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Cook before slicing.  Yields 2 loaves.
Adapted from
The Official Vermont Maple Cookbook, Second Edition.

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