Nov 14, 2009

Maple-Pecan Shortbread

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To continue our conversation about flavors that spark debate, I don’t think I’m way off base to add maple to the list, am I? For example, I implore you to show me the person who goes painstakingly pricking the bottom of each chocolate in an assorted box in a mad search for the maple-filled one (oh, don’t tell me you haven’t done the same seeking out a vanilla buttercream or caramel). Of course, I do think there are occasions where the deep, distinct flavor of maple can really shine, beyond the weekend breakfast table. And there’s no better time than November (ahem, right now) to incorporate some maple into your life, like in some buttery, crunchy Maple-Pecan Shortbread Cookies.

This recipe takes the familiar shortbread and gives it a little something special. Well, really two somethings–a studding of earthy pecans and the rich flavor of real maple syrup. That pancake syrup that’s been rolling around in your refrigerator door won’t do the trick here. You want the real deal, dark amber maple syrup. The grade you choose depends on how much maple flavor you want. I wanted just a hint, so I went with Grade A, but Grade B or C would be great for the real maple lovers out there.

I was inspired to do a maple cookie recipe not specifically because of some insane hankering for maple, but because I was dying for a logical reason to try out some of the coo-worthy cookie cutters that arrived on my doorstep last week. The upholder of Americana that is Ann Clark Ltd. got in touch with me recently, and really, I can’t think of a more adorable family business than hand-crafted cookie cutters that come from Vermont. As I type this, I’m just now realizing the maple-Vermont connection. Interesting that I chose to try out their maple leaf cutter first. Huh! How about that. Further evidence that raising a toddler causes you to operate subconsciously about 75% of the time.

Anyway, shortbread cookies of all sorts are the just the thing for this time of year. Simple to make with ingredients you probably have on hand right this very minute, and the perfect accompaniment to that afternoon mug of tea or coffee that keeps you pushing through the day, even when the day is seemingly turning to night at, like, 3:00 in the afternoon. Also, we’re not fully in holiday baking season just yet, so it might be nice to have a quick little baking project that doesn’t involve the all the production of the more intricate holiday cookie recipes that will be taking over our kitchens before we know it. And in honor of said holiday cookie extravaganzas, the good people from Ann Clark have sent me an adorable Holiday Cookie Cutter gift set to giveaway to one lovely reader! Hooray!

The set includes five big cutters–a star, a snowflake, a Christmas tree, a snowman and a reindeer. That’s a whole lot of cute holiday cookie-making going on!

All you have to do to enter to win is to leave a comment answering this question:

What’s your favorite holiday cookie?

**Contest has ended!**

Comments for the contest will be closed on Thursday, November 19th at 8:00 pm PST. Winner will be chosen at random and announced this Friday, November 20th. Good luck!

Maple-Pecan Shortbread Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart

To add some extra maple kick to this recipe, use 1/4 teaspoon maple extract in place of the vanilla, and use some maple sugar flakes (found at natural foods stores) instead of turbinado sugar for sprinkling on the cookies (with more ground pecans) before baking. To simplify the cutting process, shape the dough into two logs (each about 8-9 inches long) instead of a disc, before refrigerating. Slice the logs into rounds about 1/4 inch thick before brushing with the egg and sprinkling on the pecans and sugar mixture.

Makes about 2-3 dozen, depending on size

1 1/2 cups pecan halves
1/4 cup turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw), for sprinkling
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Begin by finely chopping the pecans in a food processor. Scoop out 1 cup of chopped pecans and place them in a large bowl. Give the remaining 1/2 cup pecans a few extra pulses to grind them even finer. Place these very finely chopped pecans into a small bowl and mix in the turbinado sugar with your fingertips to combine. Set aside.

Into the large bowl with the 1 cup of chopped pecans, sift together the flours and salt and whisk all to blend. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy on medium speed. Beat in the maple syrup and egg yolk and vanilla until well-blended. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients, stopping when the dough just begins to come together and clear the sides of the bowl–better to undermix than overmix here. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, kneading once or twice if necessary to ensure there are no dry pockets and the dough is evenly mixed. Shape into a disc (or logs for slice-and-bake cookies–see note) and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 1/2 hours.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.

Lightly dust a work surface with flour and lightly flour a rolling pin. Roll the dough out to about 1/4-inch thick, and cut into desired shapes, gathering the scraps and rerolling as necessary until nearly all the dough is cut (see note for slice-and-bake cookies). Place the cookies on the baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Brush the cookies lightly with the beaten egg and sprinkle generously with the pecan sugar. Bake until lightly golden on the edges and bottoms of the cookies, lifting one slightly to check underneath for doneness, about 12-15 minutes. Rotate the sheets halfway through baking. Cool on the baking sheets for a minute or two before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to four days.

  • My very favorite holiday cookies are rather simple, actually. My mom always used to make Peanut Butter Blossoms (you know, with the chocolate kiss in the center?) around Christmas time. Just out of the oven, rolled in sugar, and beginning to melt that sweet little kiss in the center… delicious.

  • Favorite holiday cookie = gingerbread men.

  • the pre sliced pillsbury snowmen cookies. =D

  • I guess I will choose frosted cut-out sugar cookies, but I also love gingerbread men at the holidays as well.

  • I like Russian Tea Cake cookies, my grandma's recipe.

  • my favourite is dark chocolate cookies sandwiched with peppermint filling. They take a while to make but are so delicious…

  • For me frosted cut out sugar cookies scream christmas! I still look forward to baking and decorating them

  • Chocolate Crinkles are my favorite. Chocolate dough balls rolled in powdered sugar then baked. Chewy good!

  • My dad has always makes a traditional collection of spritz cookies for christmas and my favorite changes every year. But my one favorite cookie that never changes are my Omi's springerle. If I can manage to not eat them up too quickly, I love them most when they are a couple months old and need a good dunk in a cup of tea to be edible.

  • Your cookies look great! My favorite holiday cookies have to be gingerbread men. I make the classic "gingies" recipe out of Betty Crocker and double all the spices because I love it really spicy!

  • My favorite holiday cookies are the simple and delicious sugar cookies with red or green sprinkles on top.

  • My favorite holiday cookies is gingerbread men and thumbprint jam cookies


  • Not really a cookie but my good friend throws a milk and cookies party every Christmas season and my fav by far is the toffee!!

  • My favorite cookies were originally made by my grandma – who passed away in the 1966 – crescent cookies with ground hazelnuts from her nut trees, rolled in powdered sugar…YUM!

  • My favorite holiday cookie is a frosted sugar cookie. It doesn't get much better than that!

  • I love Kourabiethes. My best friend in high school had a mother who was born and raised in Greece. She married a serviceman after WWII and came to America. She brought a cookbook written by the chefs to the kings of Greece. Apparently, this post was passed from father to son. At any rate, the recipe I have was translated from the original Greek and they are absolutely excellent!! Each cookie is wrapped in plastic wrap after being coated with powdered sugar but still wram. Makes a wonderful icing! These just turn to almond-flavored dust in your mouth!

  • chocolate chip cookies loaded with hershey's holiday kisses &
    holiday m & m's

  • favorite holiday cookies are moldy mice — kind of like Mexican wedding cakes. favorite holiday sweet is my mom's cinnamon kringle. can't wait!



  • My favorite holiday cookies have always been what we call "Mint Chocolate Snow-top Cookies". They are dark chocolate cookies with mint chocolate chips rolled in confectioner's sugar that have these fabulous cracks that form when baked. I have made them every year since I was 8; my mother and I used to make them, then when I joined the Navy I held the barracks kitchen hostage until I had a sufficient supply to get me through Christmas. Now that I'm a civilian again, my children and I make them every year (in addition to our sugar cookie cut-outs with sprinkles!). Hooray for holiday baking season! 🙂

  • Your maple cookies look great! I might dig around a chocolate box for the maple filled one, after the caramel filled one is gone.;) My favorite holiday cookie is the sugar cookie.

  • For me, I think just the regular sugar cookies are my favorite. It's just the tried and true cookie that can be fancy or plain…depending upon tradition. I like adding icing and crushed candy canes to mine. Our children love to decorate with colored sugar! They can be very personal and they always make me happy. I wouldn't have a holiday season without them!
    Can I just say that those maple cookies look divine. I don't have a maple leaf cookie cutter….but I think I'm going to make these for our family Thanksgiving.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • I'm not entering into your giveaway, because…too funny, I just did the same giveaway over at my blog…but your site is really great! Also, I got the best ever bake sale cookbook a while ago and I LOVE it!
    Great blog!!!

  • Looks like christmas!!

  • Snickerdoodles not a doubt

  • These are absolutely magical and cookielicious!

  • My favorite holiday cookies are the chocolate peanut butter drops! It's hard to pick just one, nearly any Christmas cookie makes me smile!

  • Christmas Balls – rich buttery cookies with walnuts, rolled in colored sugar. So simple, and so addictive.

  • I love frosted sugar cookies but Christmas is not Christmas without some good, homemade banket!

  • My favorite are definitely gingersnaps!

  • I love making fudge and oatmeal chocolate bars! Your leaves are SO cute 🙂

  • Love your blog and recipes! Follow you on google reader everyday! My favorite cookies are simple butter cookies my grandma and mom used to make and we'd help them decorate them (I don't particularly love their taste but the effort and fun that it was making them with mom and grandma), but flavor wise my favorite cookies are white chocolate, macadamia, coconut and cranberry cookies!

  • Favorite holiday cookies are Ricotta cookies with cream cheese frosting. But my favorite ones to make are the mexican/italian wedding cookies. Yum! I can't wait to try this maple cookie recipe…it will be great for Thanksgiving!

  • Biscotti. Since I'm famous for my cookie gift bags, I love things that look baeutiful and keep well. 🙂

  • I love making salted peanut cookies; I adapted a muffin recipe to make them. The cookie is a butter cookie with crunchy peanuts mixed in, then they are slathered with a salted chocolate buttercream (I prefer milk chocolate but it works better with dark. If I have time, I like to let them set and then frost the buttercream, it makes them look so christmassy!

  • Cut out sugar cookies, decorated with buttercream frosting. 🙂

  • My favorite holiday cookie has to be the bicotti my mom always (and still does) made. Simple white buttery deliciousness that she would roll into a long line and then twist before baking. My favs were of course the ones she would dip in chocolate and top with chopped pecans. Mmmmmmmm.

  • Gingerbread and sugar cookies dipped in chocolate. Decorating them is the fun part. I'd love to try something using maple syrup this year.

  • I do love the baking that accompanies Christmas and gingerbread seems to embody the whole spiciness of Christmas. They are definately my favourite. I have a Deliah Smith recipe for Gingerbread that includes a little citrus zest that really zings with the ginger. I love maple syrup but being in the UK means that the amount of things flavoured with maple syrup is very small. I will be trying out these cookies as soon as I can. I've not made cookies for ages knowing that I'll be bored of baking them by this time next month!

  • What torture! I'm 9 months pregnant & have gestational diabetes so as much as I want to break out and bake some holiday cookies, I can't! This baby will be here by 12/1 so I have all of December to look forward to cookies! Sugar cookies with frosting are a favorite but the cookies I'm salivating over are the chocolate-peppermint cookies from Martha!

  • My favorite holiday cookie is the white cranberry cookies I make; I also love seeing decorated sugar cookies during Christmas!
    Thanks for the giveaway!

  • my favorite is pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, yum

  • Almond cookies for the holiday are perfect!

  • Salted chocolate caramel shortbread…I have to say!

  • Shauna your recipes always make me drool!

    My favorite holiday cookies would have to be traditional sugar cookies! Some of my favorite childhood memories involve cutting and decorating these cookies with my mom and sister. We would always go overboard with all of the different colored sugars, but they tasted amazing!

  • My favorites are my mom's gingersnaps. She only makes them at Christmas, so it's a quintessential taste for me during the holidays.

  • My favorite are gingerbread cookie!

  • my favourite hoiday cookies are vanillekiperl, i believe they are called almond crescents in english. they`re lovely and simple,but a lot of work to form. best from berlin,anja

  • Currant Cake cookies

  • I think there is a tie between Roll-out Frosted Sugar Cookies and Butter & Jam Thumbprints for me!

  • My favorite holiday cookie is pfferneuse…kind of strange but kind of addicting 🙂

  • I am bookmarking these right now – they look amazing!
    Maple syrup is rather expensive here in Brazil (and not easy to find, too) but I brought two bottles from a trip abroad and now I want to try it in several recipes.

    Tks for sharing!

  • My favorite is gingerbread. They are so delicious when they are fresh and soft!

  • My favorite holiday cookie is chewy cake. It reminds me of my great grandmother. She always made for us during the holidays. And although I have the recipe it just doesn't taste like grandmas.

  • sugar cookies are always good but my favorite has to be date pinwheel cookies.

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