Sucre à la Crème

Sucre à la Crème

I just returned from a lovely visit with a couple of friends this afternoon. I gave them each some sucre à la crème, as one is Québécoise and the other is Scottish and misses having tablet (a very similar confection). We talked about having a little get together so that I could teach them how to make it – it’s much easier than telling, especially since in my family’s tradition there are no candy thermometers involved. I spoke to my mother about it and as it happens, she’s been looking up resources on the internet since we made our last batch. The recipes vary widely and the methods are very different, too. In our family, we use heavy-bottomed soup pots when we make this candy, but most of the videos we found show smaller pots being used. The consistency varies a lot, too, especially when maple syrup or corn syrup are used.

Here are two videos that can give you an idea of how sucre à la crème is made, though the method is a little different than the one we use. They’re both in French, though Ricardo has English recipe resources out there, too. Madame Quintin is the perfect French-Canadian Mémère, don’t you think?

I might have to make a video of my mother making her version. Maybe in time for next Christmas.

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.