Maple Butter Birthday Cookies

maple-shortbread

If you look at the ingredient list it’s fairly obvious why I call these “maple butter” cookies, but the “birthday” part is more of an inside joke. Almost six years ago, I was eight months pregnant and craving cookies– so I made a batch of these one day and had a lovely evening devouring them with little regard to the consequences. However, the next morning I woke up with an upset stomach, and when I happened to look into the jug of leftover maple syrup I saw a huge circle of mold floating right on top! Convinced that I had food poisoning from moldy syrup, I promptly threw away the remainder of the syrup and the rest of the cookies.

Of course, about three hours later it became obvious that my “food poisoning” was actually early labor, and by the time I returned home from the hospital a few days later, adorable newborn daughter in tow, I sincerely regretted my clearly unnecessary disposal of these extremely delicious and not-at-all poisoned cookies. They’ll always be “birthday cookies” to me, since they’ll forever be associated with the day my girl was born!

As usual, these are from Deb at Smitten Kitchen, though rather than rolling them out and cutting them I decided to avoid extra gluten formation and simply press the dough into my mini mooncake molds (I love these things!) to make stamped cookies. Sadly, even after freezing the molded dough they didn’t really hold their shape in the oven. Still pretty, just not as dainty as I’d hoped. Maybe next time I’ll roll and cut them into cute shapes.

Maple Butter Birthday Cookies (slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup (Grade B is ideal here, but the original recipe suggested that Grade A with a few drops of maple extract would also work)
1 egg yolk
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt or 1 teaspoon table salt

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

2. With mixer running, add yolk and slowly drizzle in maple syrup.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, nutmeg and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix until just combined. The dough will be in loose clumps.

4. Gather the dough together into a tight packet with a large piece of plastic wrap and chill dough for at least two hours (and up to four days) until firm.

maple-raw

5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a few baking sheets with parchment paper.

6. Taking large marble-sized balls dipped in flour*, press the dough into well-floured mooncake molds and unmold onto parchment. Freeze unbaked cookies for at least 30 minutes before baking.

7. Arrange chilled cookies on baking sheets and bake for 12-20 minutes (depending on thickness), or until lightly golden at the edges. Transfer to racks to cool. Cookies keep in airtight containers for a week, or in the freezer basically indefinitely.

*I not only flour my mooncake molds between every 1-2 uses, I also dip the top of each ball of dough (the side that will go against the mold’s surface) into flour and tap off the excess, just to ensure that it won’t stick. AND when I’ve finished pressing the dough against the pan, I let the spring-loaded mold top spring back up before trying to unmold the dough. Then I press the mold down again and pull the dough off– I think that this extra step helps things to release more easily. Still seems like an awful lot of trouble, in retrospect, since the molded pattern didn’t stay distinct.

Also, keep an eye on thickness– it’s easier to mold and release thicker cookies (mine were a teeny bit over 1/4″ thick before baking), but they take longer to bake and won’t have the same *snap* that the thinner cookies will have. Still very tasty, though, so it’s up to you.

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