Soft and Chewy Brown Sugar Maple Cookies
I’ve been formulating these cookies in my head for about a year.
They’re one of those to-be-made in 2012 recipes that didn’t quite happen so I made sure they were one of the first of 2013.
They’re one of the bucket list recipes I wanted to check off my list and although I’ve seen numerous recipes for brown sugar cookies, there’s always something nitpicky that I wanted to change. Generally I don’t like nuts in desserts and many times the flavors of brown sugar and maple are accompanied by cashews, walnuts, or pecans so those recipes were out. Or sometimes the cookies don’t look thick enough, chewy enough, or seem too dry. So I took matters into my own hands and created a nut-free, thick, chewy, soft, and ridiculously moist cookie.
To make the cookies, begin by creaming the butter and sugars. Many recipes I’ve seen for brown sugar cookies use melted butter but I never get the thick and puffy results I want with melted butter so I creamed it with the sugars. And there are only two kinds of sugars used here. Brown, and brown. No white sugar need apply.
I predominantly used dark brown sugar, which is richer and more full-bodied in flavor than light brown. Both types are granulated sugar with molasses added to it, but dark brown has twice the amount of molasses. You can make light brown sugar by combining one cup of granulated sugar with two tablespoons molasses; and for dark brown sugar, increase the molasses to four tablespoons, or one quarter cup. This renders dark brown sugar a wetter and damper sugar and it’s great for keeping cookies moist and for imparting an extra boost of flavor.
Using a higher degree of brown sugar in any cookie recipe helps cookies stay softer and the cookies are as soft on day three as they are on day one since brown sugar absorbs moisture from the air. Not that you’ll have any problems with a yield of thirteen cookies lingering.
After creaming together the butter, sugars, and egg, I added both vanilla and maple extracts. The maple extract lends the comforting qualities of maple syrup to the cookies without weighing it down the dough with extra liquid volume like maple syrup would. Plus, extract doesn’t add any stickiness or additional sweetness to the dough.
I used one and a half teaspoons, which give the cookies ample maple flavor, but I recommend adding the extract slowly and to taste, since preferences vary as do intensities of various brands of extract. Maple extract has about the same intensity as vanilla extract or butter extract and is no where near as potent as peppermint extract. I use the store-brand and it’s located near the vanilla extract in the baking aisle.
After incorporating the extracts, add the flours. I used both bread and all-purpose flour. Bread flour has a higher gluten content, translating into cookies with greater chewiness. It also lends greater structure to the dough so cookies made with it bake up puffier and thicker. Exclusively using all-purpose will work, but the cookies may spread more during baking, may not bake up as thick and puffy, and will lack some chewiness. I highly recommend keeping a $4.95 bag of King Arthur bread flour in your pantry because you can use it tons.
Next I added two teaspoons of cornstarch, which is one of the best food discoveries to come out of 2012. I used it in the Chocolate Chip and Chunk Cookies, and because cornstarch has a tenderizing effect on dough, cookies made with it are soft and tender yet dense enough to sink your teeth in. These cookies are pillowy soft in the interior with chewy edges are heartiness. Nothing cakey or airy about them.
Before baking, the dough must be chilled for at least two hours. I cannot stress this enough. There is no way to achieve tall, thick, and puffy cookies using warm and limp dough. It just won’t work. After folding in the flour, scoop out cookie dough balls and place them on a large plate, cover it with plasticwrap, and set in the refrigerator. It’s easier to scoop the dough into balls when the dough is still warm before the chilling stint.
When forming the dough balls, weigh the dough so that each mound is approximately two and one-quarter ounces, or a scant one-quarter cup measure. If you don’t have a scale, dividing the dough into thirteen pieces should do the trick since the yield for this batch is just thirteen cookies. I don’t recommend trying to make smaller cookies and increase the yield past about fifteen cookies because part of what helps them stay chewy on the edges while remaining tender in the middle is the size and surface area. Although they’re thick and generous, they’re not jumbo or ridiculous.
I baked my cookies for ten minutes and pulled them from the oven when the edges were set and the tops had barely begun to set, but were still a bit underdone because all cookies firm up as they cool. The cookies did such a great job of staying thick while baking that I actually gave them two gentle taps with the back of a spoon after they came out of the oven to flatten them a bit, which helped create the crackled top. I love the visual effect of a crackle top and could get lost in those deep crevices and valleys.
They’re everything I want in a cookie and a new favorite. I was going to make my favorite glaze of all time, Vanilla Caramel Glaze, because I thought it would just take them over the top. But after tasting a cookie, I put the butter for the glaze back into the refrigerator because they don’t it. And that’s saying something because everything is better with glaze, frosting, or chocolate chips. Except these don’t need any of the above and are perfect as is.
The brown sugars caramelize and there are hints of molasses along with with notes of vanilla. They’re full of rich maple flavor without being overpowering and by using maple extract, you can make them as faintly or prominently maple-flavored as desired. They’re moist, buttery, and dense yet the cornstarch keeps them soft. The bread flour gives them chewiness and puffiness and I love sinking my teeth into them.
The first cookie of 2013 is going to be a tough cookie to beat.
The dark brown sugar creates rich flavor and helps these maple-flavored cookies stay soft and moist for days. As they bake, the sugars caramelize and these buttery smooth cookies take on a caramel quality with hints of vanilla and molasses. They're dense and not at all cakey with the perfect balance of chewy edges and soft, tender, pillowy centers. A bit of cornstarch keeps them extra soft while bread flour gives them chewiness. They bake up thick, puffy, and it feels so good sinking my teeth into one of these new favorites.
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4+ teaspoon maple extract, added slowly in 1/2 teaspoon increments and to taste
1 cup bread flour (all-purpose flour may be substituted and used exclusively in place of bread flour)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on low speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the sugars and beat on medium-high speed until creamed and well-combined, about 3 minutes. Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the egg, vanilla extract, maple extract to taste (start with 3/4 teaspoon and add more to taste; I used nearly 1 1/2 teaspoons and cookies are prominently maple-flavored) and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the flours (solely using all-purpose flour will work, but the cookies will not be as chewy or rise as well because bread flour creates chewier results and gives greater rise), corn starch, baking soda, salt, and mix until just combined, about 1 minute.
Using a 2-ounce cookie scoop, form heaping mounds weighing 2 1/4-ounces each (weighed on a scale, which is approximately a scant 1/4-cup measure); or divide dough into 13 to 15 pieces ( made 13 cookies). Place dough mounds on a large plate, cover with plasticwrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours; up to 5 days. Do not bake these cookies with dough that has not been properly chilled because they will spread and they won't stay thick and puffy.
Preheat oven to 350F, line a baking sheet with a Silpat Non-Stick Baking Mat, parchment, or spray with cooking spray. Place dough on the baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart; I bake 6 or 7 cookies per sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until just barely golden brown around the edges, even if slightly undercooked in the center, noting the tops will not be as browned and will be paler. The cookies in the photos were baked for 10 and 1/2 minutes, with one tray in the oven at a time, and rotated halfway through baking.
Upon removing trays from oven, if cookies stayed very domed while baking (likely they will if dough was well-chilled) immediately give cookies a firm yet gentle tap or two with the back of a spoon to flatten them. This creates a crackled top appearance. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheets for about 10 minutes before moving them to a rack to finish cooling.
Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Alternatively, unbaked cookie dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months, so consider baking only as many cookies as desired and save the remaining dough to be baked in the future when desired.
Recipe adapted from Chocolate Chip and Chunk Cookies
Chocolate Chip and Chunk Cookies – My favorite recipe for pure, unadulterated, perfect chocolate chip cookies. They’re soft, chewy, tender, moist, stay soft for days, are a snap to make, and have two kinds of chocolate in every bite. I wrote extensively about why I love them and if you need a solid, fuss-free, and straightforward recipe for chocolate chip cookies that yields fabulous results on every level, try this one. It’s my gold standard and the jumping off place for today’s recipe
Browned Butter Caramel and Butterscotch Bars – Nutty and aromatic browned butter is paired with dark brown sugar, sweet butterscotch chips, and creamy caramel to create a dense, comforting, and rich treat. The bars are moist and packed with an incredible depth of flavor. Between the butterscotch chips and the caramels, there’s plenty of texture in these easy-to-make, buttery bars
Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Cups – If you’ve ever had a problem with cookies spreading while baking, it’s impossible with these because they’re baked in a muffin pan. Between the nuttiness and richness from the browned butter, and brown sugar used in the dough, there’s great flavor depth. They’re dense and rich, with the perfect balance of chewy edges, squishy in the middle, and loaded with melted chocolate
Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies – Based on principles from the Cooks Illustrated Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip, but I also added peanut butter and oatmeal, creating a soft and moist cookie, with plenty of chewy texture. Because the cookies call for melted butter, no mixer is required and the higher ratio of brown to granulated sugar keeps them just as soft on day 4 as on day 1
Maple-Nut Chocolate Oaties (vegan, gluten-free, no refined sugar added) – Quite a vintage recipe but these easy, texture-filled, and healthier cookies are fast to make and are very customizable. Everything from the maple syrup, agave, peanut butter, choice of nut butter, to nuts and dried fruit can be swapped in or out based on taste preferences. They’re warmly spiced with cinnamon and the maple syrup gently sweetens them
Sugar-Doodle Vanilla Cookies – These cookies are much more than the sum of their simple parts and ingredients. I adore them and want try using the dough as a base for chocolate chip cookies. I’ve played around with it and used it as the base for another recipe coming up with great success, but not with chocolate chips. The beauty of these soft, extra chewy, and easy cookies is that the batch size is only 11, because I don’t need huge batch sizes laying around
Pumpkin Cinnamon Overnight Pull-Apart French Toast with Vanilla Maple Butter- That’s maple syrup- and vanilla-infused butter in those glasses, not orange juice, and it’s the perfect complement to the French toast. A marinade of pumpkin puree, maple syrup, cinnamon, sugar, and spices coats chunky cubes of bread overnight. Baking it off the next morning is as simple as pie. Or as simple as pull-apart French Toast. The resulting French toast is moist and tender, and bursting with pumpkin, cinnamon, and warming flavors
Do you bake with dark brown sugar or light? Ever tried the using cornstarch in cookies? Fan of maple-flavored things?
If you have a favorite recipes, links are welcome.
I love the comforting and warming flavors of molasses, maple, pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. The only good thing about fall and winter for me is that I get to bake with some of my favorite ingredients and no one bats an eye. Gingersnap cookies in July aren’t usually super popular.
Thanks for the Valentine’s Day Treats Giveaway entries