Chômeur is one of those great desserts that says, “Winter in Canada,” or more specifically, “Winter in French Canada.” This classic Québécois dessert was developed in the great depression, the 1930s, when money was scarce but the appetite for little treat was as strong as ever. The name says it all; pouding chômeur literally translates to “unemployment pudding” or “poor man’s pudding.” Maple syrup was always relatively easy to find in the rural areas of Quebec, and it is this easily accessed and quintessential Canadian ingredient that serves as the main spokesperson for this baked pudding. Academics point to this dessert as a classic example of two cultures combining their traditions, in this case Aboriginal and European cuisine.
Essentially maple syrup, or in some cases a brown sugar syrup or caramel is poured over a basic cake batter, sometimes spiced with nutmeg or cinnamon, and when available, raisins or currants. During baking, the batter rises and up through the syrup and the syrup ends up on the bottom of the cake, thick and hot and delicious. At times pieces of stale bread were used in lieu of cake batter, with the end result being similar to bread pudding.
Nowadays when people make this it is jazzed up with lemon or orange zest, and served with ice cream or whipped cream, but it is hard to imagine that any amount of tarting up would make this dessert more delicious to us than the plain and simple original must have been to those back in the dirty thirties.This dessert is super simple to make, and, as one might expect based on its humble origins, inexpensive to boot, although maple syrup is not exactly cheap anymore.
And it has been making a comeback for sometime now, with venerable publications like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal waxing on about it, and it has also appeared on the menus of Martin Picard’s Au Pied du Couchon, and, closer to home, by Darren Glew at The Drake Hotel. Sometimes the best joys are also the simplest.
Pouding Du Chômeur
From Canadian Living
1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (125 mL) granulated sugar
4 tsp (18 mL) baking powder
1/4 tsp (1 mL) nutmeg
3/4 cup (175 mL) milk
1/4 cup (60 mL) butter, melted
1 tsp (5 mL) lemon rind, finely grated
1/2 cup (125 mL) raisins
- 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) water
- 1 cup (250 mL) maple syrup
- 2 tbsp (30 mL) butter, melted
- 1 tsp (5 mL) cornstarch
In bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and nutmeg.In separate bowl, whisk together milk, butter and lemon rind; pour over dry ingredients. Sprinkle with raisins; stir just until combined. Spread in greased 8-inch (2 L) square glass baking dish.
Sauce: In bowl, whisk together water, maple syrup, butter and cornstarch; pour over batter. Bake in centre of 350°F (180°C) oven until golden and firm to the touch, 40 to 45 minutes.