These melt-in-your-mouth maple thumbprint cookies literally radiate their maple goodness and make your home smell like heaven. An utterly irresistible treat!
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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 melt-in-your-mouth Pecan and Maple 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!
Helpful Tips for Making Pecan and Maple Thumbprint Cookies
ALWAYS make sure to use 100% pure maple products: There are lots of “maple-flavored” products on the market. These won’t ever deliver the aroma pure maple products do. Maple sugar and maple syrup may be more expensive, but they deliver in terms of flavor, big time. To make the most of maple products, make sure to use them in recipes that put the products front and center, such as these Pecan and Maple Thumbprint Cookies.
Where to find granulated maple sugar: Maple sugar comes in a variety of textures, from superfine to coarse. This recipe uses fine, granulated maple sugar (you can see it illustrated on the left-hand side of the photo, below). The texture of granulated maple sugar is more uneven than that of granulated sugar, but it acts and dissolves similarly, which is why granulated maple sugar can be a substitute for regular granulated sugar in any recipe at a 1:1 ratio. Granulated maple sugar can be a bit difficult to find and a bit more expensive, too. Look for companies that sell it in bulk, such as Yupik, in Canada, which sells 450 g (1 lb) bags of organic maple sugar for less than CAD$20.
After “thumbprinting” the cookies, reshape to make them look perfect (if you want to!): When you press your thumb down into a ball of cookie dough, the result won’t always look perfect. The impression may be off-center, or the dough may crack. This is all normal and you can fix it! This dough is as malleable as PlayDoh, so you can easily pinch and smooth out imperfections before you bake the cookies. The important thing to focus on is to crate a significant indentation, which you’ll then be able to fill with maple butter or icing (the best part!)
But don’t feel like you need to take that cookie name literally: The easiest way to create indentations in these maple thumbprint cookies is to use the back of a teaspoon. This creates a uniform, perfectly sized indentation in every cookie.
Garnish these cookies with maple gold—I mean maple butter, if you can find it! Maple butter (sometimes labeled “maple cream”) contains no butter or dairy of any kind. It is, in fact, a fondant, a buttery-textured preparation obtained through cooking, cooling, and stirring. Maple butter is exactly thick yet supple enough to act as a garnish over these thumbprint cookies. Perfect! But if you can’t find maple butter, don’t despair: you can garnish the maple thumbprint cookies maple icing in a snap (see recipe below for the instructions.)
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For the maple thumbprint cookies: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour and pecans. Process until the pecans are finely ground. Transfer the flour and pecan mixture to a large bowl. Whisk in the salt and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer, beat the butter with the maple sugar until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in the vanilla. With the speed to low, gradually mix in the flour and pecan mixture. Gather the dough into a flat ball, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
Unwrap the dough and cut it into four parts. Divide the first part into 12 equal chunks, then roll each portion into a ball. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet, spacing the cookies 2-in (5 cm) apart. Press the tip of a thumb or the back of a teaspoon into the center of each cookie ball to create an indentation. Repeat these steps to create indented cookies with the remaining dough.(If the baking sheet isn’t large enough to fit all the cookies, bake them in two batches.)
Bake the maple thumbprint cookies for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently press the center of each cookie with the stick end of a wooden spoon to ensure the indentation remains pronounced. Bake until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes more.
Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let the cookies cool completely.
For the maple icing (if not using maple butter): In a bowl, sift the powdered sugar, then whisk in the maple syrup until smooth. If the icing seems thick, whisk 1 tsp (5 ml) milk at a time until you reach the right consistency. (The mixture should be thick so it won’t drip, but not dry.)
To garnish the maple thumbprint cookies: When the pecan and maple thumbprint cookies are cool, fill their centers with either maple butter or maple icing and sprinkle immediately with granulated maple sugar, if using. Let the icing set for 15 minutes, then enjoy!
STORAGE: Store the pecan and maple thumbprint cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
FREEZING TIPS: The glazed cookies cannot be frozen, but you can prepare the cookie dough and freeze it raw, carefully wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the fridge, then bring back to room temperature 1 hour before baking and icing the cookies as directed.
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