In New England where I live the maple- tapping season begins around mid- February and lasts four to six weeks. People come from miles away to visit farms with maple groves where buckets hang from tree trunks to catch the sap. When this liquid is boiled down, it turns into a rich, golden syrup.
The tapping season always inspires me take advantage of this beautiful “liquid gold.” I love to drizzle pure maple syrup over a stack of pancakes, a plate of waffles, or a platter of French toast. But, I also use this delicious syrup in less traditional ways. Instead of sugar it makes a fine sweetener for whipped cream to serve with a slice of apple pie, or it can be combined with fresh lime juice to enhance mashed sweet potatoes or butternut squash.
It might surprise you to learn that my favorite chocolate chip cookies are baked with a secret ingredient-- maple syrup. Although the hint of maple seasoning is not obvious when you bite into these sublime morsels, it definitely provides an extra layer of flavor.
Chocolate Chip Maple Pecan Cookies
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
5 ounces best quality dark bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (See note.)
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and diced
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 cup chopped pecans plus about 20 pecan halves for garnish
Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with aluminum foil and set aside.
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Place chocolate on a work surface and with a sharp knife, chop finely.
With an electric mixer on medium high speed, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and pour in maple syrup. Gradually, add sifted dry ingredients and beat to combine. Mixture will be somewhat lumpy, rather than smooth. If necessary, stop mixer and scrape down the sides of bowl with a rubber spatula.
Remove from mixer and stir in the chocolate and pecans with a wooden spoon. Gather the dough into a mass and shape it into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to chill and firm dough.
Divide dough in half. From one half pinch off ten pieces (about 2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons each) and roll each into a ball. Place balls on one of the baking sheets, leaving at least 2 inches around each. Flatten balls with your fingers so they are about 1/2 inch thick and then press a pecan into the center of each. Repeat with remaining dough to fill the second baking sheet.
Put one baking sheet in refrigerator. Place the other in the oven and bake until cookies are brown around the edges, about 14 minutes. Remove and cool 3 minutes on baking sheet, then remove cookies with a spatula and cool completely on a rack. Bake second sheet of cookies in the same way. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes 20 cookies.
Note: A dark, high quality chocolate with 70% cocoa particles works best in this recipe.
Recipe from The Big Book of Backyard Cooking by Betty Rosbottom (Chronicle Books 2004)