A Very Merry Christmas

I hope you’re having a peaceful, happy day today.

I’d like to share the recipe for one of my favourite Christmas treats – sucre à la crème. When I was growing up, my mother and I would make trays and trays of desserts for the big family Christmas meal my parents used to host, along with their Boxing Day open house. Cookies, squares, cakes, and candies, but of them all, we looked forward to sucre à la crème the most, especially if we were lucky enough to have a batch from one of my mother’s aunts back in Manitoba.

My mother is French-Canadian, but her family comes from the francophone communities anchored by St. Boniface. Our Christmas meals have always reflected this and it just wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t have tourtière, boulettes, and sucre à la crème. We’ve even occasionally had a réveillon after Midnight Mass, with goose, then had an anglophone Christmas dinner with my father’s Irish family in the evening.

Cooking the sugar.

Sucre à la crème is a sort of fudge, but it’s nothing like what you’d find in a candy store or market stand. It’s a simple affair of sugar and cream (obviously), versions of which pop up around the world. In Scotland, they’ve got tablet, in Mexico there’s dulce de leche, Italy has penuche, and India has burfi. There are probably tonnes of other examples, too.
The Québécois version uses maple sugar, but those trees are a little rarer on the Prairies, so my family’s recipes use mostly brown sugar. My mother’s aunts were famous for their versions, though my Tante Pauline’s was undisputedly the best, with my Tante Leona’s coming a close second. My mother and I went through their recipes for sucre à la crème recently and realized that they were all a little different and that the versions evolved over the years. When I was a teenager, I learned to make it with two cups of brown sugar, one cup of whipping cream, and a teaspoon of vanilla. When we were looking at the other recipes my mother has, this was what we found:

Tante Pauline’s Version

2 cups brown sugar (1/2 c white)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
walnuts

Sauce

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup whipping cream

Tante Leona’s Version

3 cups brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 cups whipping cream

Mom’s Version

2 cups brown sugar (1/2 c white)
1 1/4 cups whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla

In all cases, combine the sugar and whipping cream, whisk together until well-blended and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the mixture sugars the spoon (a metal one is best) and forms a ball when dropped into a dish of cold water. Remove from heat and stir vigourously, adding the vanilla when the candy is just beginning to stiffen. When the scrapings are becoming solid, it’s time to pour the candy into a buttered square pan. Chill in the fridge for several hours or overnight, then cut into small squares. It keeps for a week in the fridge or several months in the freezer.

Sucre à la Crème

I lost my sucre à la crème making mojo for a few years; for some reason I just couldn’t get it to set. When I went to my mother’s house this year, we made three batches, using my mother’s recipe. All but one was perfect and the imperfect one wasn’t bad. I think what made the difference was the two of us working together, just as we did when I was a child.

What are your favourite holiday traditions?

Roxy under my parents' Christmas tree.

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10 thoughts on “A Very Merry Christmas

  1. Some things just seem to work better when they are done in tandem 🙂
    I love these – this is absolutely the type of food I can’t keep around me (I can’t resist it).

  2. Merry Belated Christmas, Teresa! Such a beautiful post. I enjoyed reading about your family memories and traditions – that is what the holidays are all about. Yes, I am sure that you got your sucre mojo back working with your mom. It looks delightful!

  3. Good to see you got your mojo back and what a great delicious way for it to return! I agree with Cher that I would find this homemade candy irresistible. I like the simplicity of these recipes that also require a lot of skill and practice for success. I will save this one to try later when the candy making bug strikes. Happy New Year Teresa!

  4. I am so intrigued by this candy…I would love to try it next year! How nice that you and your mom got to work together…I so miss being in the kitchen with my mom. Lovely post!

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