Oh my, this cookie has my number. Do you have a certain baked good that brings you down, that slays your willpower? A nemesis cookie? The filled maple shortbread is mine. That maple leaf-shaped maple cream-filled cookie is pretty much the only storebought one I cave to, so I thought it was time to come up with a homemade version. (Because who wants to BUY cookies when you could be warming up the house, and putting off everything else you have to do, by baking?)
I started with a really wonderful shortbread dough from Danube, a restaurant I worked at back in New York. I remember that these little brown (unimpressive-looking, really) cookies just melted on the tongue. When I looked at the recipe, I saw why. The pastry chef used bread flour instead of all-purpose. It seems counter-intuitive, because bread flour is high protein and formulated to create tough strands of bread dough, but if added at the very end of mixing and not overworked, bread flour also makes a tender, almost chewy shortbread.
It also help that I had a precious bag of pure maple sugar from Morley’s Maple Syrup. (I picked up a full pound of it at the Linden Hills Farmers Market for only $10, which I consider a total steal.) So because I used pure maple sugar in place of the brown sugar, I didn’t even have to add any maple extract. (Although lacking the maple sugar, I would add a teaspoon of the extract.) As it is, the maple presence is soft and gentle, but totally lovely, much like the texture of the cookie itself.
Looks like I’ve found my sweets frenemy!
Maple Cream Cookies
Makes 20 filled cookies, roundabout
2 sticks butter, preferably unsalted, softened
1/2 cup maple sugar (or brown sugar)
1 large egg
(optional: 1/2 teaspoon maple extract)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 + 2 tablespoons bread flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon maple or vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups confectioner’s sugar
pinch of salt
Make the dough in advance, as it needs to chill in the refrigerator.
Place 2 sticks of slightly softened (not hard, but not melty, either; clay-like is what you’re after) butter in a large mixing bowl. Add the maple or brown sugar and mix until the two are very well combined and smooth. (If using a stand mixer, use your paddle attachment.)
Add the egg (and optional extract) and beat until incorporated.
Whisk the flour before measuring into a bowl, and add the salt and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat together until just combined.
Form the dough roughly into a log shape and place on a large piece of plastic wrap. Roll the dough into a cylinder with a 2 1/2-inch (more or less) diameter, wrap in plastic, and twist the ends in opposite directions to tighten into an even cylinder. Set the dough in the refrigerator to harden, rotating every 20 minutes or so to keep it round. (Just a little tip: to keep the round shape of refrigerator cookie doughs, I set mine into the middle crevice in the top of an egg carton.)
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Slice the cookies 1/4-inch thick and place on a heavy baking sheet. Bake for approximately 12 minutes, until light golden brown on the edges. Cool the cookies on a baking rack.
For the filling, combine the cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl and paddle until soft and smoothly mixed. Add the maple syrup and extract and beat until combined. Add the confectioner’s sugar and beat until fluffy. Transfer the filling to a quart-sized plastic bag.
When the cookies are cool, snip the tip of the filling bag and pipe a hefty teaspoon of the filling onto the undersides of half of the cookies. Top them all. Store the cookies at room temperature.
(You may have extra maple filling. Oh, no. I slathered mine on some toast, and then some cooked squash, and it wasn’t too painful.)