Maple-Walnut Cookies

March 14, 2008


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Despite my constant whining about winter (When, oh when will it finally be over?? How much longer must I endure this bleak, bleached, desolate wasteland of frigid snow? How many more days must I suffer through this torturous, crystalline hell on earth? ), I fully recognize that the season Below Zero does have at least a few minor benefits. 

For one, you get to cuddle closer to your honey while watching Battlestar Gallactica or a DVD.  You feel justified when you stay home from that excruciatingly boring dinner meeting (“but the roads were impossible. . . “).  You have a legitimate reason to cover up your all-time high weight of mumblemumbleundisclosednumber pounds and wear loose sweaters.

And then, when the season finally begins to wane, you have the opportunity to eat fresh maple syrup.

Although technically, the trees aren’t tapped until early spring, in Canada you can purchase real maple syrup year-round (yay!). When I first changed my diet and left white sugar in the dust, maple syrup quickly became one of my baking staples.  Its subtle, buttery, vaguely smoky and intensely sweet flavor is the perfect enhancement for so many foods–pancakes, of course, but also baked beans, scrambles, chocolate pudding, even some noodle dishes or casseroles.  Whether you enjoy the lighter grades that contain a higher water content (the syrup darkens in color, thickens somewhat and intensifies in flavor as it’s condensed) or the richer, darker varieties, true maple syrup is a unique and noteworthy enjoyment.

When we were kids, I never realized that what my mom referred to as “maple syrup” was actually artificially-flavored corn syrup.  My dad and sisters loved the stuff, and would slather it on a stack of pancakes so thickly that the syrup soaked right through to the cake on the very bottom of the pile, rendering them all a soggy, sticky mess. 

I could never warm up to those heavy, dense, wet cakes.  It wasn’t until I began to purchase pure maple syrup as an adult that I truly learned to appreciate pancakes.  At first, I was skeptical, cutting just a corner of the pancake and tentatively dipping it into a little pool of syrup on my plate, as if I were testing lakewater with my big toe; but once I experienced that authentic light and sugary elixir, I felt comfortable pouring it on and plunging in with gusto.

Tasting genuine maple syrup also called to mind a childhood event when I was lucky enough to sample the “real thing” away from our corn syrup-infused kitchen at home.  Once, on an extra-curricular school trip in April, our grade three class visited a maple farm north of the city.  There, we attended an event known as “Sugaring Off.”  (To this day, the term sounds vaguely like an expletive to me: “Why, you sonofa–just sugar off!”  “Oh, yeah?  Well you sugar off! And your mother wears army boots, too!”)

The maple farmers would hold these events just as the sap began to run, using freshly tapped syrup.  They’d heat it just enough so that it caramelized instantly when poured over a base of pristine, white, freshly scooped snow that had been spread evenly across a long metal table.  Immediately, the syrup was transformed into toffee against the frosted snow, and we kids wielded soup spoons, scooping in a frenzy of delight as we dug in and all shared the huge slab of sweetness. 

Of course, these days, the practise would be banned for hygienic purposes. When I was a kid, however, no one worried about the snow harboring parasites, or fox pee, or fungus-infested decomposing pine cones. . . we just ate it.  We all double-dipped, even triple-dipped, sharing the same enormous, rectangular, metal plate. And it was delicious.  Like soft, warm, just-cooked caramel. . . . oh, how I loved it!



 So when I heard about this week’s Root Source challenge to create a recipe with maple syrup, I knew I had to participate.  Since I’ve been baking exclusively with natural sweeteners for the past few years, anyway, this task didn’t strike me as very different from what I’ve already been doing. And while I had a few maple syrup-based recipes in my repertoire, I wanted to create something original for this event.

Since I’m off chocolate for the time being, I considered other foods with which maple syrup can be paired successfully.  One of the most common combinations–walnuts and maple syrup–exists precisely because these two ingredients complement each other so well. So I decided this was no time to buck tradition; maple and walnut it is!

The result of my kitchen playtime is these Maple-Walnut Cookies.  They’re light, crisp, and really showcase the unique flavor of the syrup, especially the day after you bake them, when the flavors mature. If you prefer a chewy cookie, reduce the baking time by two or three minutes. 

 Maple-Walnut Cookies




[Ed. Note–This recipe won the CookThink Recipe Challenge for Maple Syrup, and was published on the CookThink site.  Almost as exciting as a good sugaring off party!]

[This recipe will also appear in my upcoming cookbook, Sweet Freedom, along with more than 100 others, most of which are not featured on this blog.  For more information, check the “Cookbook” button at right, or visit the cookbook blog.]


13 Responses to “Maple-Walnut Cookies”

  1. I tried this recipe out this afternoon.

    Absolutely delicious.

    Great blog by the way and thanks for sharing.


  2. Johanna Says:

    these look really good – I am still a little ambivalent about maple syrup (except when it comes to drowning pancakes) but this recipe makes me think I should try more maple syrup recipes!

    I enjoyed the story about the maple syrup in the snow – oh innocent days! (oh and you made me so paranoid that I didn’t have real maple syrup that I checked the ingredients on my bottle!)

  3. Courtney Says:

    I love real maple syrup too…when I was little I always hated the fake stuff. Now when I see kids pour it on their pancakes/waffles/etc I shudder! Eww!

    I can’t wait to try these–do you think that an equal amount of spelt flour would work in place of the barley flour? I can’t get barley flour in bulk at my co-op (for some reason they don’t carry it) but they DO have spelt and I really like spelt…


  4. Tania Says:

    Oh, what lovely cookies! I agree that maple syrup and walnuts are a match made in heaven.

    But I don’t think I’ll ever think of be able to think of “sugaring off” the same way again!

  5. Deb Schiff Says:

    Can’t wait to try these out! I love using tahini in sweet recipes.

    Hey, if you can’t take winter anymore, please come down and visit!

  6. Christina Says:

    These look fabulous! I was wondering what I might use as a substitute for barley?

  7. jenny Says:

    Those look delectable! Your third grade trips seems to have made quite an impression and I can see why, that sounds fantastic!

  8. Ricki Says:

    Thanks for your comment, and welcome to the blog! So glad that the cookies worked out for you, too. 🙂

    Sorry to make you paranoid. . . I think if it says “maple syrup” on the label, it has to be real(we have “syrup” or “Maple Flavor” versions over here). Ah, yes, those innocent childhood days! I would never even think of eating maple syrup that way today!

    I think you could easily substitute spelt flour (light) for the barley, and it should work just fine. I would bet tht oat flour would work too, though I haven’t tried either. If you do give it a go, let me know how they turn out!

    Ooh. Sorry if I spoiled sugaring off for you! (But I don’t think they allow people to eat it straight off the snow anymore, anyway). 😉

    I find I use tahini more in baking these days than in savory stuff–a great binder for doughs! Oh, and thanks for the generous invite! But be warned, I will certainly take you up on it next time we head southward!

    Thanks so much, and welcome to the blog! Re: substitutes, as I mentioned to Courtney, I think spelt or oat would work pretty well. Do let me know how it goes if you try them out!

    Yes, that trip did make quite the impression. I keep thinking I’ll try this again at home in our fresh, clean snow outside, but The Girls would probably lap it all up before I got to it!

  9. LisaRene Says:

    Excellent looking result for concocted cookies! This is my type of cookie, I’ll take one with maple and nuts over a chocolate cookie any day.

  10. Lindsey Says:

    Umm, I love maple syrup. I stock up when ever I see it cheap. I’ll have to make these. Today.

  11. […] We had to pick one to feature, and we chose these inventive Maple-Walnut Cookies from Ricki of Diet, Dessert and Dogs. […]

  12. Patty Says:

    Super recipe: healthy, yummy, gluten-free… Looking forward to making some 🙂

  13. […] Spicy Cauliflower Soup. But I have also been on a huge baking kick lately, so I adapted her Maple Walnut Cookies to be GF with the following […]

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