[Pudding of the Unemployed]
Between 1929 and 1939, the era known as the Great Depression, the average Quebec household income dropped by 44%. Unemployment left a good deal of the population destitute, forlorn and above all hungry.
It became a burden to prepare a decent supper and dessert was but a fleeting reverie. The extravagant confections of former decades were understandably harder to come by. Most families were now faced with the challenge of finding inventive ways to pull together a few bits and scraps to satiate an appetite and on occasion the sweet tooth. Poor man's pudding, the pudding of the unemployed or, in French, pouding au chomeur was one of these desserts. The simple cake originates back to the settlers of Acadia in Eastern Canada and of New France (Quebec). The moist sponge becomes tagged as grand-pere (grandfather) when it is paired with the delicious glaze of maple syrup.
Pouding au Chomeur
(From Ricardo and Friends)
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes
2 3/4 cups maple syrup
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1/2 cup 35% cream
1 1/4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).
In a saucepan, bring the maple and corn syrups to a boil. Simmer until a candy thermometer reads 108°C (226°F), about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the cream and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into a 20-cm (8-inch) Pyrex baking dish. Set aside.
In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar using an electric mixer. Add the egg and beat until smooth. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients, alternating with the milk and vanilla. Using an ice cream scoop, drop about 9 balls of dough, about 45 ml (3 tablespoons) each, into the syrup mixture. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre of a ball comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Serve warm or cold.
Note : A more traditional approach is to place the dough in the baking dish and pour the partially cooled syrup mixture over it before baking. Note that the cake will be more thoroughly soaked if you use this method.