The days are warmer but the nights are still cold and the sap is rising. We’ve tapped the maples close to our house and are reducing the sap on the wood stove at night to make a small amount of remarkably tasty syrup. We also carbonate the cold sap in our Sodastream to make the most refreshing, lightly sweet drink – I think of it as “maple zap.”
This time of year makes me miss Aunt Maggie something fierce. She was the Queen of All Things Maple Syrup. After her first bout of cancer, she and her partner, Oliver, joined the sugaring crew at her friend, Tim Merton’s operation in Putney, Vt. Sugaring was part of her “therapy” – the hard work, the camaraderie, the delicious syrup – the whole experience filled her up and made her glad to be alive: “we made 80 gallons tonite!!!!!!! i am beat, the sap is still running tho it’s 10 30 pm. we just got home, i’m covered with syrup and olly is exhuasted from 5 hrs shoving wood into the evaporator. gnite. love m” – from an e-mail she sent me on March 11, 2011.
“As i poured the hot syrup just now into ball jars, it was SHEETING off the edge of the kettle. god i love sheeting. sugaring. all of it. i will miss it damn it. how yu? M” – from one of the last e-mails she sent to Tim in 2015.
Maggie invented these delicious cookies in the last year or two of her life. She called them Maple Truck Farm Cookies and talked about turning them into a business – which may or may not have been a joke, they’re certainly tasty enough. She would bake big batches cut into the shapes of pick-up trucks and farmers, sometimes adding cocoa powder to the dough to make the farm crew more diverse. And she’d send us boxes of them in the mail, bless her.
They’re basically just a butter cookie with maple syrup in them and a tiny bit of rice flour to make them extra crunchy. Simple and divine.
Thanks to the syrup, the dough is pretty sticky, so let it rest in the fridge for a bit before you roll it out. You can make the dough ahead of time and chill for up to five days in the fridge or wrap it really well in waxed paper and a zip-top bag and freeze for up to a month (just remember to leave plenty of time to thaw it in the fridge before you plan to bake them.).
Then get out your cookie cutters and go to town. I used this set that my mom gave me since they were the best fit with Maggie’s farm theme. Just seeing this box takes me back to my childhood.
They don’t need to bake for long though it depends somewhat on how thick or thin you roll the dough out – 12 minutes give or take a bit on either side for thinner or thicker cookies is a good estimate. They’re delightful – buttery, crunchy and mapley. Good on their own and even better with a cup of hot tea or a maple latte.
Maple lattes are another Maggie thing – make some coffee (I use my beloved, unbreakable French press), add a generous spoonful of maple syrup or maple sugar, top with half-n-half and you will be spoiled for regular coffee for the rest of your life. I hope you are appreciating the growing daylight, the softening earth, the waking plants and the rising sap. Here’s to Maggie, wherever she may be.
Maggie’s Maple Butter Cookies
Makes a bunch – depends on what shapes and sizes you choose.
2 sticks organic butter
1/4 cup cane sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup pure maple syrup (the darker the better)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional - it was not in Maggie’s recipe)
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 cups organic unbleached white flour
3/4 teaspoon rice flour
1. Cream the butter and sugars then add the syrup, egg yolk and optional vanilla and mix until incorporated. Add the flours and salt and mix again until it forms a (sticky) dough. Wrap in waxed paper or a plastic bag and refrigerate for at least half an hour.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to roughly 1/8-inch thick then cut into whatever shapes you desire, saving your scraps as you go to re-roll and cut – the dough will get a little tougher the more you knead it and roll it out but it’d be criminal to waste it!
3. Lay the cookies out, not touching, on heavy baking sheets and bake for roughly 12 minutes or until the cookies reach your desired degree of brownness, rotating the pans around the six minute mark to ensure even browning. Remove to a wire rack to cool then store in an airtight container or cookie tin.
Related post on The Garden of Eating: Maple Crème Brûlée