Ah, maple syrup. Sometimes I feel like it flows in my veins. A whiff of that beloved sugary golden treat transports me home, instantly. In the spring, we Québécois stock up on maple products like squirrels gathering nuts, for the chance to use it abundantly, in any and every dessert, over the holidays. The flavor of any cake, pie or cookie laced with maple syrup is improved tenfold, but I think recipes that actually showcase maple products are even better. These classic melt-in-your-mouth thumbprint cookies are the perfect example. Three different maple products are used (granulated maple sugar, coarse maple sugar, and maple syrup), so that they literally radiate their maple goodness and make your home smell like heaven. In fact, they will most certainly overshadow other varieties in your holiday cookie spread, so be prepared and bake several batches in advance!
Pecan and Maple Thumbprint Cookies
Makes 48 cookies
1 cup [250 ml] whole pecans
2 cups [500 ml] all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon [1.25 ml] salt
1 cup [250 ml] unsalted butter (2 sticks), or dairy free buttery shortening, room temperature
¼ cup [60 ml] granulated maple sugar
1 tsp [5 ml] pure vanilla extract
For the icing
1¼ cups powdered (confectioners’) sugar
2 tbsp [30 ml] maple syrup, preferably grade B
2 tsps [10 ml] whole milk, or dairy free milk of your choice
Coarse maple sugar, for garnish
Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C). Line a large, heavy baking sheet with parchment paper.
Spread the pecans on the baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes, shaking the pan halfway through so the pecans turn over and toast evenly. Watch closely to make sure they don’t burn. Let the pecans cool completely, then ground finely in a food processor. Leave the used parchment paper on the baking sheet, and keep the oven on.
Make the cookies: In a medium bowl, mix the flour, salt and ground pecans.
Put the butter or dairy free shortening and maple sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in vanilla. Reduce speed to low, and gradually mix in flour, salt, and pecans. Gather the dough into a flat ball, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
Divide the dough into four parts. Divide the first part into 12 walnut-sized chunks, and roll each into a ball, and space 2 inches [5 cm] apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Press thumb into center of each cookie. Repeat for the others, and the second quarter of the dough. Bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven; press centers with the end of a wooden spoon. Bake until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely on the baking sheet. Repeat the shaping and baking process for the two remaining parts of dough.
Make the icing: In a medium bowl, sift the powdered sugar, then mix in the maple syrup and milk until creamy and smooth.
When the cookies are cool, fill their centers with icing and sprinkle immediately with granulated maple sugar. Let set overnight.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 1 month.
Recipe Source: Adapted from Martha Stewart