While nothing can really replace the flavor of pure maple syrup in cooking, you can turn to some pantry staples for a tasty and less expensive substitute to use as a topping for pancakes, waffles, and French toast.
Maple syrup starts as the sap of maple trees; boiling after harvest concentrates the sweetness and thickens it to the syrupy consistency. Tapping takes place by hand during a few months in the spring, and the labor-intensive process partly accounts for the high price of maple syrup. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of maple syrup.
In baking, maple syrup adds both sweetness and moisture to doughs and batters; to swap plain sugar for maple syrup in that case, you need to increase the sugar to 1 cup for every 3/4 cup of maple syrup called for in the recipe and add an extra 3 tablespoons of liquid for each cup of sugar you end up using. Baking soda should be decreased by 1/4 teaspoon for each cup of sugar as well as it's less acidic than maple syrup. Honey, molasses, agave nectar and corn syrup can all be substituted 1:1 for maple syrup in recipes, though each adds a different flavor.
This maple syrup substitute recipe basically results in a loose caramel sauce flavored with maple extract. While it can't stand in for maple syrup in baked goods, it does make a fine breakfast syrup.
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 1 teaspoon maple extract or vanilla extract
- Spread the granulated sugar in an even layer in a heavy skillet. Cook it over medium heat until it starts to melt and turn brown. Slowly swirl the pan or use a silicone or wooden spatula to gently fold the liquifying sugar from the edges into itself in the center. Pull the pan off the heat as soon as the sugar becomes an amber liquid.
- Measure the brown sugar in a heavy saucepan. Pour the boiling water over it and let it dissolve without stirring.
- Add the caramelized white sugar to the melted brown sugar in the saucepan. Simmer, stirring frequently until the mixture thickens to syrup consistency.
- Remove the pan from the heat, and whisk in the butter and maple or vanilla extract.
- Watch the caramelizing sugar carefully because it can go from desirably browned to irretrievably burned in a matter of seconds.
- Wear oven mitts when you work with boiling sugar to avoid especially painful burns.
- Serve maple syrup substitute warm over pancakes, waffles or French toast (or even ice cream).
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
- Warm the sauce to room temperature or more before serving, as it will be too thick to pour straight from the refrigerator.