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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