Maple Cookie Recipe

As I biked home tonight on the last day of November through high winds and snow flurries, it suddenly seemed appropriate to start thinking about holiday cookie baking. These maple syrup butter cookies are the perfect treat as the temperature dips. It's always a bit sad to notice the last of the leaves have fallen from the trees, but I look forward to winter for clear skies, gorgeous sunsets, clementines, and time with family and friends. 

For the first time in years, I had a full week of vacation for Thanksgiving. I spent a few days in Chicago seeing off friends who are moving away, I joined my mother and my brother for a tour of our family's old neighborhood on the southside, and I spent some quality time in Logan Square.

Our Thanksgiving was small and cozy. Nick made his Chile Glazed Sweet Potatoes and I made my Molasses Pumpkin Pie with fresh pumpkin puree from our neighbor. After the holiday, my parents and I traveled a few hours south to Starved Rock State Park where we hiked through the canyons, watched hawks over the Illinois River, and read by the fireplace in the old lodge. It was a great way to relax before returning to finals, presentations, and research papers as I finish my first semester of library school.

Maple Cookies
Cookies adapted from Gourmet
Icing adapted from Homegrown Happy
Makes 5 dozen

Ingredients

Cookies:
1 C unsalted butter, softened
1 C sugar
1/2 C Grade B maple syrup
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp salt
3 C all-purpose flour

Icing:
2 C powdered sugar
1 Tbl butter, softened
4 Tbl Grade B maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbl milk (or a dash more, if necessary)

Method:

In a medium bowl, mix together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add maple syrup and egg yolk, stirring well. Sift flour and salt over batter and combine thoroughly. Roll dough into a log one-foot long and wrap dough in plastic wrap. Chill until firm, at least two hours (can be made ahead).

Preheat oven to 350F

Cut dough into 1/8 inch pieces and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Bake cookies until the edges are golden, about 12 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool. Cookies will keep in an airtight container for one week. 

For the icing, sift powdered sugar into a medium bowl. Mix in butter until smooth. Stir in maple syrup and vanilla. Add milk a bit at a time until the icing is the desired consistency. Spread a bit of icing on to each cookie and allow to set. 

 

 

 

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Alanna - Ah the “easy” life of a student with “breaks” … so glad to hear you so happy!

Alanna - Ah the “easy” life of a student with “breaks” … so glad to hear you so happy!

Gemma - Thanks Alanna! It is a pretty wild transition, but one I am very grateful to have.

Gemma - Thanks Alanna! It is a pretty wild transition, but one I am very grateful to have.

Joe - These really do sound fantastic! I always have a jug of syrup in the fridge. Plus I love that they are slice-n-bakes… perfect to keep a log in the freezer!

Joe - These really do sound fantastic! I always have a jug of syrup in the fridge. Plus I love that they are slice-n-bakes… perfect to keep a log in the freezer!

Gemma - I agree Joe. Having logs of cookie dough in the freezer is always smart!

Gemma - I agree Joe. Having logs of cookie dough in the freezer is always smart!

Rose Gold - Wow! It looks great and delicious. I love maple syrup. It’s perfect for kid’s party. I’m sure my kids will like this if I baked some of this for them.

Rose Gold - Wow! It looks great and delicious. I love maple syrup. It’s perfect for kid’s party. I’m sure my kids will like this if I baked some of this for them.

Gemma - I’ve found that they please people of all ages. Enjoy!

Gemma - I’ve found that they please people of all ages. Enjoy!

Molasses Pumpkin Pie

One of the things I love most about Thanksgiving, besides family and friends of course, is the opportunity to try new recipes. Each year, I bookmark new ideas for Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, and dinner rolls. Though, there is undeniably some comfort in tradition. My mother always makes the turkey and I always make this Molasses Pumpkin Pie. The molasses works perfectly with the pumpkin and spices, giving it a subtle spin on the average pie. 

Molasses Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients

1 pie crust, rolled out and chilled in a pie dish
2/3 C brown sugar
1/2 C white sugar
2 Tbl flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp each of: allspice, cloves and ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 C canned pumpkin
2 Tbl molasses
1 tsp vanilla
3 large eggs
1 C whipping cream

Method

Place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 450F.  Combine sugars, flour, spices and salt in a large bowl.  Add the pumpkin, molasses, vanilla and eggs and incorporate the cream last.

Pour batter into chilled pie crust and bake for ten minutes.

Reduce oven heat to 325F and bake for another 40 to 45 minutes.  The middle should be set and the sides of the pie should puff up a bit.

Allow pie to cool and serve at room temperature or chilled. 

I usually whip any excess cream with a touch of vanilla to serve along with each slice.   This pie can be made up to a day ahead, making it easy for large holiday dinners.

Happy Thanksgiving to my U.S. readers!

(This recipe was posted previously on Pro Bono Baker)

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rebecca - interesting, i never thought to add molasses to pumpkin pie. can’t wait to try that ingredient. i also noticed an early post wherein you talked about your librarianship coursework. good for you. librarians rock. i’m one too.

kickpleat - Oooh, I like the addition of molasses and how dark it makes the filling. Yum.

Gemma - Hi Rebecca, it’s great to meet another librarian who writes about food. Thank you for visiting! I agree, librarians rock.
Hi Jeannette, I love how the molasses changes the appearance of the pie too. There is something oddly more satisfying about a deeply hued pumpkin pie.

Dave - Gemma – My favorite pumpkin pie recipe since I first saw it on your site. I made it twice this year. Always a hit! I have referred a number of people to your blog for the recipe. It’s really amazing! Thanks.

Gemma - Thank you Dave! As one of the best cooks I know, that is an especially flattering compliment! I am looking forward to seeing you on Sunday.

Fennel & Pistachio Cookies

During the holiday season, I always plan a baking project that will double as a simple gift option. Homemade cookies are sure to brighten anyone's day and these Fennel & Pistachio Cookies are a superb nontraditional option. The ingredients in these cookies might cost a bit more than your standard chocolate chip, but I'm sure you will agree that the extra few dollars is absolutely worth it when you taste them.

I'm often wary of desserts that call for citrus, but the lemon zest in this recipe is a perfect complement to the pistachio, fennel and almond flavors. I've included instructions for a very simple packaging option in this post. 

Fennel & Pistachio Cookies

Adapted from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board

(The only change I made to this recipe was to increase the fennel seeds slightly.)

Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons almond extract (or amaretto)
1 tablespoons lemon zest
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup pistachio nuts, chopped, plus extra for garnish

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat butter until creamy. Add sugar and mix well. Add egg and beat well. Add almond extract, lemon zest, and fennel seeds and mix to combine.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add to the butter mixture and beat well. Stir in pistachio nuts (dough will be stiff).

Shape dough into one inch balls and place two inches apart on baking sheets lined with a silcone mat or parchment. Flatten balls slightly and add additional pistachios. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Cool slightly on baking sheets and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

Packaging

To package the cookies you will need scissors, cellophane bags, embroidery thread in the color of your choice and green cloth-wrapped floral wire. You should be able to find all of these items are your local craft store. 

I chose to use a pale yellow embroidery thread that was reminiscent of fennel blossoms. Simply hook the floral wire over at one end and wrap the thread around two fingers several times. Snip from the rest of the thread and place the bundle under the hooked wire. Wrap the hooked wire around the bundle tightly to secure it and ensure that the thread sticks up rather than out. Then, cut open the thread loops and trim the floral wire stem to your desired length.

Place your cookies in the cellophane bags and close with fennel blossom flowers. Keep your cookies in an airtight container until you are ready to give them away to ensure the best flavor. The recipe makes three dozen cookies and I was able to bake and package six gifts of half a dozen cookies in just over one hour. 

*Full disclosure: I was asked to participate in this holiday baking event by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. I selected and modified this recipe, and created my own packaging. I received compensation for my participation. 

show hide 8 comments

kickpleat - Yay, I’m so glad you posted the recipe for this cookie. I’m bookmarking for sure and I love that there is fennel here! Looks beautiful, packaging and all.

kickpleat - Yay, I’m so glad you posted the recipe for this cookie. I’m bookmarking for sure and I love that there is fennel here! Looks beautiful, packaging and all.

Gemma - Thanks Jeannette! These cookies really blew me away. I’ve made them three times in the last month. I hope you love them!

Gemma - Thanks Jeannette! These cookies really blew me away. I’ve made them three times in the last month. I hope you love them!

yossy - mmmm i love the pistachio, lemon combo and those little flowers are adorable.

yossy - mmmm i love the pistachio, lemon combo and those little flowers are adorable.

Gemma - Thanks yossy! I love your site, thank you for stopping by!

Gemma - Thanks yossy! I love your site, thank you for stopping by!

Escargot-Style Roasted Mushrooms Recipe

The autumn leaves that brightly line our streets are quickly falling and the time change marks the point in the year that I begin to plot out my days around maximizing daylight.  However, this mid-November has also greeted us with unseasonably warm temperatures, causing a brief interlude of bare legs and patio dining. 

I spent last weekend in Chicago – one of the first in quite a while – and enjoyed a Publican brunch with my family followed by a visit to the Chicago Cultural Center. The afternoon ushered in my first thoughts of the holidays and I've been thinking about my Thanksgiving menu contributions since. This simple side dish makes a great vegetarian addition to the holiday table.  Serve the mushrooms on their own or with some crusty bread to soak up the flavorful, buttery sauce. 

Roasted Mushrooms Escargot-Style

Adapted from Gourmet January 2009

Ingredients

1 lb mushrooms such as cremini or white, halved lengthwise if large
2 Tbl capers, rinsed and chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbl vegetable oil
3 Tbl unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
salt and pepper

Method

Preheat oven to 450F. Toss the mushrooms with the capers, garlic, oil, and salt and pepper in a two-quart shallow baking dish. Top with butter and roast the mushrooms for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden and tender, stirring occasionally. Toss with the lemon juice and parsley, and serve.

show hide 8 comments

Denise Michaels - Adventurous Foodie - Elegant and easy – what could be better? You could even chop the mushrooms a bit to make sort of a rustic “spread” and top toasted baguette with them to make sort of a Crostini as an appetizer with these Mushrooms. Ooooh, be still my beating heart. *smile*

Denise Michaels - Adventurous Foodie - Elegant and easy – what could be better? You could even chop the mushrooms a bit to make sort of a rustic “spread” and top toasted baguette with them to make sort of a Crostini as an appetizer with these Mushrooms. Ooooh, be still my beating heart. *smile*

Kalynskitchen - This looks like a brilliant recipe. Reminds me of something that was served at a French restaurant where I worked many years ago.

Kalynskitchen - This looks like a brilliant recipe. Reminds me of something that was served at a French restaurant where I worked many years ago.

Aimie - Sounds like a tasty dish. I might try this out in the upcoming holidays.

Aimie - Sounds like a tasty dish. I might try this out in the upcoming holidays.

Gemma - Thanks Denise. I think chopping the mushrooms into a more baguette friendly dish is a great idea!
Thank you Kalyn! I love the simple, earthly flavors.
I hope you love the recipe Aimie!

Gemma - Thanks Denise. I think chopping the mushrooms into a more baguette friendly dish is a great idea!
Thank you Kalyn! I love the simple, earthly flavors.
I hope you love the recipe Aimie!

Green Tomato Jam Recipe

I enjoyed a merry weekend filled with new grad school friends, costumes, dance parties, and baking. I often look ahead or dwell behind instead of being present. After a week of feeling disconnected and anxious for no good reason, it was fun to dance around to soul music with a bison and a bookworm, drinking keg beer and feeling happy.

Last weekend I traveled to the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois for camping and hiking with a lovely woman in my program. She took part in a climbing workshop all day Saturday and I had the opportunity to hike through Jackson Falls and enjoy the fall colors, fresh air, and solitude.

When I returned to work after the camping trip, the kind and knowledgable faculty librarian I work under handed me a large bag of green tomatoes from her garden. I decided to preserve this bounty by making green tomato jam. I'm not the first to prepare green tomatoes this way, but I still felt a bit brilliant as I savored one of the best sandwiches I have ever eaten: sharp cheddar and green tomato jam grilled between slices of marble rye. 

Green Tomato Jam

Ingredients

2 lbs of green tomatoes, rinsed
3 C sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp allspice

Method

(Note: I bypassed the formal canning process and split my jam between a refrigerator and a freezer container. Can if you please, of course.)

Cut the tomatoes into eighths, trimming off the stem. (The green tomatoes I used were small to medium sized and fairly firm.  If your tomatoes are juicier, consider squeezing out the seeds and juice so your jam can properly thicken.) Combine the tomatoes with the rest of the ingredients in a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium-high heat.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often. Reduce the heat to medium and allow the mixture to gently simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally. When the mixture has thickened and darkened, remove from the heat. Allow to cool before transferring to storage containers. The jam will keep for two weeks in the refrigerator. 

 

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Jim - I live 20 minutes from some great climbing in the Shawnee. Nice photos. I can’t wait for the snow to melt to get back on the rocks!

Jim - I live 20 minutes from some great climbing in the Shawnee. Nice photos. I can’t wait for the snow to melt to get back on the rocks!

Gemma - It really was a beautiful place. I hope to get back in the spring. I bet it’s fun to hike around in the snow though, too.

Gemma - It really was a beautiful place. I hope to get back in the spring. I bet it’s fun to hike around in the snow though, too.