Most of the brilliant fall colors are gone, and today it’s cold and grey. As I walked around the yard and saw this solitary leaf on the sidewalk, the words of an old song came to mind:
“All the leaves are brown, and the skies are grey”. Three weeks ago the trees were just beginning to lose their leaves and I noticed this abandoned bird’s nest that had been hidden by the foliage.
This is how it looks today…
All of those fallen maple leaves got me to thinking about autumn flavors. And what better way to warm up the house than by turning on the oven and filling the air with the aroma of cookies. I’m calling these “butter cookies” because any shortbread purist would be shocked and dismayed by the addition of maple sugar and ground walnuts to a shortbread ‘biscuit”. But these embody the essence of autumn, with their crunchy, maple sugar-topped crust and buttery flavor. They are a sturdy cookie, more so than a traditional shortbread, and amply suitable for gifting. They might even survive a cross-country journey in the mail (but I would expedite them, for the sake of freshness). Be sure to butter your cake pan generously; the sprinkling of maple sugar can cause some stickiness, and you don’t want your cookies glued to the pan.
Turn the baked cookies out onto a cutting board while they are still warm, and cut into wedges with a pizza wheel. You can cut eight or twelve cookies from this batch of dough. Wrap them up with fancy paper and a ribbon and take them to a friend, to be enjoyed with a warm cup of tea or coffee.
The recipe is an adaptation from my favorite cookie-making tome, “The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion”. Here is what you do:
Maple Walnut Butter Cookies
- 1/3 cup walnut pieces , toasted and cooled
- 2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup maple sugar , divided*
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon maple extract
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
Preheat the oven to 325F. Butter an 8-inch cake pan and sprinkle the bottom with 2 teaspoons of the maple sugar. Set aside another 2 teaspoons of maple sugar for topping the finished dough.
Put the cooled walnut pieces and the confectioner's sugar in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until finely ground. Transfer to a medium bowl and whisk together with the flour and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and remaining maple sugar. Add the extracts, then mix in the flour and ground walnut mixture, just until combined. Press the dough evenly into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Sprinkle with the reserved 2 teaspoons of maple sugar. Prick the surface of the dough with a skewer or fork. Set the pan in the oven and reduce the heat to 300F. Bake the cookies for 30 to 35 minutes, or until set and golden brown at the edges. Remove from the oven and run a spatula or small knife around the edges of the cookie to loosen from the pan. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then turn onto a clean work surface. Cut the cookie into 8 or 12 wedges, with a pizza wheel or sharp knife, while still warm. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.