We miss Maine.
And we love shortbread.
So, inspired by the recent success of our lemon basil shortbread, it only made since that our next test kitchen experiment would be maple walnut shortbread.
We still had plenty of Grade B Maple Syrup left, even though Anne used some in her delicious Brazilian Stew the other night (be sure to look for that recipe in the near future!).
So we thought – why not just take Ina’s basic shortbread recipe, take out the vanilla, add some maple syrup, reduce the sugar a bit, and add some toasted walnuts? Seems simple enough, right?
And it is:
Maple Walnut Shortbread (adapted from Ina Garten’s basic shortbread recipe)
- 3 sticks unsalted butter, near room temperature
- 3/4 cup turbinado sugar
- 1/3 cup Grade B maple syrup
- 1 cup walnuts, toasted and “smashed up a good bit” (see below)
- 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour (plus a teaspoon or so more, if needed – see below)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
You’re going to toast the walnuts first. So start with about 1 1/2 cups of whole walnuts, poured out on a pan. Cover them with a paper towel and smash them with a mallet (or, we used a fist) about 15 times or so until you’ve broken up all the large pieces. Toast them on the middle rack of your oven with the oven set to broil – stirring once or twice – for about 5 minutes, or until you really smell the oils coming out of them (but watch closely not to burn them).
When you take them out of the oven, smash them some more, until you are left with pieces no larger than a peanut, and plenty of walnut “dust.”
This picture shows very well the consistency you want – notice it’s a mixture of peanut-sized chunks and other pieces that have been pulverized into “walnut dust.” We believe that this dust is key to the texture and flavor of these cookies.
Now pack the walnut bits tightly into a 1-cup measuring cup, making sure to collect all the “dust” off the pan. Pour this 1 cup of toasted, smashed walnuts into a bowl to cool.
Sift together the salt and flour in a large bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the turbinado sugar (we used turbinado instead of white because we thought the darker color was more fitting for these ingredients). Also add the butter, cut into chunks (the butter should have been sitting out of the fridge for about half an hour, so it has just begun to soften).
Mix the butter and sugar on medium to combine well.
Measure out 1/3 cup of the maple syrup (alternatively, you could start with 2/3 cup and reduce to 1/3 cup by simmering in a saucepan – this would concentrate the flavor a bit more).
Add the syrup to the mixing bowl and blend on medium-low just to mix well.
Now dump the cup of walnuts into the bowl of flour, then gradually add the nuts and flour while the mixer is running on low.
A well-proportioned dough should form a ball on the paddle, coming cleanly off the sides of the bowl, as shown above (the dough left in the bowl in this image actually fell off the paddle a few seconds before we snapped this photo). If dough is still sticking to the sides of the bowl, add just a bit more flour – just a teaspoon at a time – until the dough pulls cleanly off the sides of the bowl.
Remove the dough, form into a ball, and then flatten into a thick disk on a baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight.
Remove the refrigerated dough onto a flat surface. Flatten with a rolling pin to a thickness of 1/2″ (if refrigerated overnight, you may have to wait half an hour or so before the dough will be soft enough to work with the rolling pin). Then cut into cookies, which you will place directly onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
In an oven that has been preheated to 350 degrees, bake for about 20 minutes or until the edges just start to brown. After about a minute of cooling, remove the cookies from the baking sheet onto a cooling rack.
These are our favorite shortbreads so far. They are much more moist and less crumbly than the typical shortbread, and the “walnut dust” gives them a more complex texture.
And the flavor just can’t be beat; these cookies are just sweet enough, the toasted walnuts are very present, and the maple notes fill out the background ever so slyly. In fact, if you didn’t know these cookies had maple syrup in them, you probably wouldn’t be able to put your finger on the ingredient which adds that extra depth of flavor.
We’ll definitely be adding these cookies to our routine baking list. We hope you’ll give them a try!
In the meantime, what flavor combinations would you like to see in a shortbread cookie?