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What is the Substitution for Maple Sugar?

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Q. What is a substitution for maple sugar? My recipe calls for 1-1/4 cups of maple sugar.

A. While grocery store shelves groan with (not particularly good) maple syrup substitutes, there is really no practical substitute for maple sugar. Maple syrup is the sap from maple trees that undergoes evaporation until it is about 30% to 35% water. If the sugarmaker continues the evaporation process, he or she next gets maple honey (with a thicker consistency), maple butter (which is thick and spreadable), and, once almost all the water has been evaporated, maple sugar.

Maple sugar is about twice as sweet as granulated white sugar. It also browns more quickly, and, of course, imparts much more flavor than white sugar. Using white sugar — and doubling it to get the same amount of sweetness — for your recipe does not seem very practical. If we were faced with your dilemma, we would use a cup of granulated or light brown sugar (or a combination of the two) and half a cup of maple syrup, remembering to reduce some other liquid in the recipe by about 1/4 cup. That's assuming there is some other liquid in the recipe, and that you do have maple syrup on hand.

Maple sugar is not impossible to obtain; there are a number of Web sites offering maple products, including sugar, where it appears to average about $10 a pound.

And for the record, the "maple-flavored syrup" in the grocery store is primarily corn syrup with 1% to 3% real maple syrup added, while "pancake syrup" or any other generic-name syrup is usually flavored with imitation maple extract. Pure maple syrup costs a great deal more than these imitators, but to many people is worth it.

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