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This fall, say hello maple and so long pumpkin spice

By Gretchen McKay
Maple-Pecan Squares (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS) 1212657

By Gretchen McKay

Come on, admit it. Youíre so over the pumpkin-spice craze.

Seasonal beer, coffee drinks and cookies spiced with ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon are one thing. But when those cozy fall flavors sneak their way into a Kit Kit candy bar or a stick of Burt Bees lip balm or onto a pizza, you know itís officially jumped the shark. Big time.

Which is why some of us were glad to hear that a new flavor will supposedly supplant pumpkin spice this fall ó maple.

At least thatís what MarketWatch would have us (hopefully) believe, based on a report from the analytics company 1010data. It notes that even as pumpkin spice flavor continues to grow in popularity ó to the tune of 49 percent more products a year ó sales just arenít holding pace.

Maple, meanwhile, "is surging."

Measured against the same quarter last year, sales of maple-flavored beverages have almost doubled while maple-flavored cocktails have climbed 14.6 percent. Which might explain why beverage giants Starbucks and Dunkiní Donuts debuted maple-pecan coffee drinks this fall (see Page 2 for thoughts on the Maple Pecan Latte). Dunkiní also is featuring a 630-caloried Maple Sugar Bacon Breakfast Sandwich.

But is maple really the next big thing? And will its sweet, distinctive flavor be something that consumers naturally crave when the weather gets cooler?

While all maple syrup is made according to the same process, thereís a grading system for maple products that differentiates between the natural variations in color and flavor. The lighter the syrup, the more delicate the taste. Sap processed later in the season produces a more robust and darker syrup.

Maple syrup can be substituted for honey or agave one for one, but youíll want to use only ĺ cup of syrup for every 1 cup of white sugar in baking, while also reducing the other liquids in the recipe by 3 tablespoons. Go for the good (real) stuff, even though itís more expensive, as it takes 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup.

However you enjoy fallís hottest flavor, know that youíre making a nutritious choice. Not only is maple syrup high in healthful antioxidants but it also includes essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and manganese.