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Vermont Maple Cookies

 

March is a dreary month in New England.  We are sick of snow and desperate for sunshine and warmth, but nature isn’t quite ready to commit to spring.  It’s lions and lambs all month long…warm and summery one day, and snowing the next. 

The one redeeming thing about March in New England is two little words…maple syrup

In cold climate areas like New England, Maple trees store starch in their stems and roots before the winter.  In the spring, the starch is converted to sugar and rises in the sap.  The trees are tapped for their sap, which is then collected and boiled in a “sugar shack” to evaporate the water, leaving maple syrup behind.  It takes a whopping 40-50 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of maple syrup, which explains its high price.

I had thought my chances of visiting a traditional sugar shack were slim to none this year, but then I heard about the annual Somerville Maple Syrup Boil Down, taking place literally around the corner from my house at the Somerville Community Growing Center.

Over 250 gallons of sap from the Maple trees in my lovely city were collected and transported in large plastic buckets to be boiled down in the Somerville Growing Center evaporation “trough” (my word, I just don’t know what else to call it).  It was a warm day and many people turned out to taste the sap, watch the syrup being made, and sample some already-made syrup on waffles.

I’ve compiled a few photos of the sap in buckets, boiling and evaporating in the enormous “trough”, and the stockpot of finished syrup.

After spending a few hours in maple syrup heaven, I knew I needed to bake something with it.  I turned to my trusty Yankee Magazine Cookbook, and found the perfect recipe for Vermont Maple Cookies.  It’s appropriate that they are named after Vermont, since it’s the Green Mountain State that is the largest maple syrup producer in America.

The dough looked and smelled like softened maple walnut ice cream, and the texture was perfect for shaping by hand.  It was soft but not sticky.

 

These cookies are soft, chewy, and deliciously buttery.  The light maple flavor (I used Grade A, but you can get more maple flavor from a Grade B syrup) and crunch of chopped walnuts gives them some real personality.

I included these cookies in a care package to my friend Kate in Portland.  She is in the home stretch of her pregnancy, so I thought some cookies would be just the thing.  I only hope they didn’t arrive in 100 pieces…

Vermont Maple Cookies
Adapted from Yankee Magazine Cookbook

Ingredients
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup maple syrup*
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, plus more for tops

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment. If not using parchment, do not grease.
  • In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in egg and vanilla.
  • In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with maple syrup.
  • Blend well, then fold in nuts.
  • Pinch off 2 Tbsp. size pieces of dough and shape into a rough ball. Top with a small cluster of walnut pieces.
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until light golden brown around the edges.
  • Transfer to a wire rack to cool, then store in an airtight container.

*If you like a stronger maple flavor, use Grade B syrup, which is darker and has a more robust flavor.

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16 thoughts on “Vermont Maple Cookies

  1. leashieloo says:

    Eee, I love chewy cookies and I can even tell in the photos that they are the perfect consistency. I just want to take a bite out of my computer screen, scientists need to get on it!

  2. Maggie @ Loaded Kitchen says:

    Oh. My. Gosh. Those look so goooooood. Where I grew up in Michigan, we had a maple syrup farm (?) just down the road. I can remember walking around in the slush amongst their trees and seeing all of the buckets. The real stuff is the best! I think I’m going to make these soon…:) Great post!

  3. k8 says:

    They were all virtually intact! Not that it matters, really because I would have scooped out the crumbs and eaten them anyhow. DELISH!!
    Thank you for the cookies and the prezzies. They made my day (and Alex’s–he’s had more than a few at this point :) )

    • Aimee says:

      My readers should know one of the other things I sent you was a trashy Scottish romance novel for your maternity leave. It had a rugged, hairy Highlander on the cover. It was a joke, because it was RIDICULOUS, but since we met in Scotland I considered it more than humorously appropriate. :)

      Glad they arrived intact! Can’t wait for baby news! xo

  4. courtney says:

    ahhhh – i love how we were only allowed to use “real maple syrup” growing up….not the fake stuff! i will always pay extra for the real thing. cookies look unbelievable, of course! xo

  5. McKenna says:

    The thing I miss the most about no longer living in (as I used to live CT) New England is maple anything. Every year I was one of those annoying NY/CT people who would jam up the highway to Vermont on a beautiful Sept weekend to see the leaves change color and eat maple flavored stuff. Though I can buy maple syrup here in Australia, it’s the experience of buying it that I miss. I even dragged my Aussie husband to Wilmington VT to a little restaurant that I feel has the absolute BEST corn chowder I ever ate that I wanted him to experience. When we got there and there was no corn chowder on the menu, I explained we had traveled a very long way just for it. In typical New England fashion the restaurant owner said “you should have called ahead”.

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