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.

Soft and Chewy Brown Sugar Maple Cookies - Two types of brown sugar and maple syrup give these soft, buttery cookies an incredible caramel-ey flavor! So good!

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.


Soft and Chewy Brown Sugar Maple Cookies - Two types of brown sugar and maple syrup give these soft, buttery cookies an incredible caramel-ey flavor! So good!

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.

Soft and Chewy Brown Sugar Maple Cookies - Two types of brown sugar and maple syrup give these soft, buttery cookies an incredible caramel-ey flavor! So good!

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.

Soft and Chewy Brown Sugar Maple Cookies - Two types of brown sugar and maple syrup give these soft, buttery cookies an incredible caramel-ey flavor! So good!

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.

Soft and Chewy Brown Sugar Maple Cookies - Two types of brown sugar and maple syrup give these soft, buttery cookies an incredible caramel-ey flavor! So good!

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.

Soft and Chewy Brown Sugar Maple Cookies - Two types of brown sugar and maple syrup give these soft, buttery cookies an incredible caramel-ey flavor! So good!

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.

Soft and Chewy Brown Sugar Maple Cookies - Two types of brown sugar and maple syrup give these soft, buttery cookies an incredible caramel-ey flavor! So good!

Soft and Chewy Brown Sugar Maple Cookies - Two types of brown sugar and maple syrup give these soft, buttery cookies an incredible caramel-ey flavor! So good!

Soft and Chewy Brown Sugar Maple Cookies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
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.
Serves: About 13 medium-to-larger sized cookies
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¾+ teaspoon maple extract, added slowly in ½ 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
  • ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  1. 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 ¾ teaspoon and add more to taste; I used nearly 1½ 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.
  2. Using a 2-ounce cookie scoop, form heaping mounds weighing 2¼-ounces each (weighed on a scale, which is approximately a scant ¼-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.
  3. 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 ½ minutes, with one tray in the oven at a time, and rotated halfway through baking.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Recipe adapted from Chocolate Chip and Chunk Cookies

Related Recipes:

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

148 comments on “Soft and Chewy Brown Sugar Maple Cookies”

  1. I love hearing what’s on your bucket list, Averie! You’ve always got so many delicious, creative things cooking, it’s fun to learn what other things you are dreaming up for the future. These are a good one!

    • I have like 10 other things right off the bat that are on it, too. I had 4 weeks in Aruba where I couldn’t bake that much and did lots of no-bake stuff and before that it was Thanksgiving and I was doing fall food and finally now I feel like it’s time to check those bucket list recipes off the list!

  2. It’s funny-I don’t get maple cravings, except for occasionally wanting the syrup(cold) with warm pancakes…but when I do eat maple stuff I love it.
    I had cotton candy at this fancy vegan restaurant recently that had maple in it!

    • I don’t get maple cravings, per se. I do get the whole fall flavor cravings pumpkin, molasses, cinnamon!! and since I hadn’t had any maple in awhile, these were the perfect way to work it it. And that cotton candy sounds epic!

    • Ahh, you just reminded me of my childhood–every year, my family would go to the Wisconsin State Fair, where we would always, always buy maple cotton candy at a booth in the ag building–so delicious!

  3. Wow! Way to set a high bar for the cookies of 2013!
    These look just as you describe them, thick, chewy, soft-centered. Perfect to put my teeth into.
    Thank you for going so much into the details of the effects of the different ingredients and methods on the texture/flavor of the cookies. I love baking science :D

  4. These cookies sound an incredible flavour and taste sensation and I love that you took us through your process for making them. Cookie perfection!

  5. I have a huge baking bucket list for 2013. But I have to get through the 2012 ones that I didn’t quite get to – just like these cookies that didn’t quite happen in your kitchen last year. :) The cornstarch, creaming butter, bread flour – they look and sound incredible Averie. I tend to love nuts in my baked goods but never used to and I know some of my taste testers (Kevin lol) prefer their cookies without pesky little nuts. They look so chewy, soft, and moist – just like your sugardoodles whose cookie thickness I envy! I love the small batch size, too. I’ve only baked cookies with butter extract or vanilla extract before – never maple. must give that a try! a winning recipe to have as the first cookie recipe in 2013, Averie. :)

    • Sally I think you would love these cookies. They are everything you love – the dark brown sugar, the cornstarch in the dough, the robust flavor, chewy, soft, and moist. And you’d love maple extract. One of those things that it’s not an every day item but in the right applications, it can really be so good! And nuts in baked goods to me are like little pebbles cluttering the smoothness. I do love texture but I dunno, something about them baked INTO things…just not a big fan.

  6. I have never been a fan of nuts in my foods either. I love the texture and flavor that using all brown sugar gives. I almost always use more brown sugar than white in cookies and bars. These looks so puffy and delicious! You have definitely set the bar high with this first cookie!!!

    • Thanks, Jocelyn. I love how chewy and soft these are. They are really a new fave and glad to hear you’re a fellow non-nut lover. I love eating them or making nut butter with them, just not using them IN desserts.

  7. I love how soft and chewy they look!!!!!

  8. I bought a bag of dark brown sugar last year for a gingersnap cookie recipe – I used the dark brown sugar in a few muffin/cookie recipes and did get comments from the tasters that the baked goods did have a more intense sugar taste. So I tend to stick to the light brown.
    Have a nice day.

  9. I don’t mind nuts in my baked goods, at times I think they’re a great addition. However, no one else in my family is a big fan of nuts, so most of my cookies are nut-less!

    These cookies look fabulous, I love the use of maple extract. I sometimes put maple extract in my pancake batter instead of vanilla.

  10. The inside of those cookies look to die for. Too bad for me, because I gave up all added sugar. Totally kicking myself.

  11. I think you’ve come up with the best combination of tweaks for perfect cookies–bread flour, cornstarch, brown sugar and chilling the dough. Those things are almost like my new “baking rules” because I love the results. I can imagine these cookies are wonderful with dark brown sugar in them! I’m a fan of maple flavored anything and love a drizzle of maple syrup over roasted butternut or acorn squash–it’s like dessert!

    • I thought of you when I was making these! I’ve been thinking about them for months and months and they were one of the things when I was in Aruba I was kicking myself I didnt make before Xmas and we left (that oven is hideous and cookies are a no-go there) and thought about them the whole time! I also thought about doing that traditional kind of brown sugar frosting (remember that link I sent you once) – but really, these did not need it and that’s saying something from me. It would have only hyper-sweetened a cookie that just doesn’t need anything but the pureness of what’s going on.

      my new “baking rules” because I love the results: bread flour, cornstarch, brown sugar and chilling the dough <--- GOOD!!

  12. These look fantastic, Averie! I too don’t really like nuts in my baked goods, so these are definitely cookies that I would love!

  13. I adore maple syrup! Aside from breakfast fare and bars that call for a tablespoon or two, it’s hard to find recipes that call for the deep-golden tree nectar. Great tip about using cornstarch too! *Adding these to my to-bake in 2013 list* :D

    • I love the flavor and when I want, I want it in enough quantity to really know it’s there. It’s like people who use 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon in a whole recipe for cinnamon-sugar this or that. It’s like…why bother!

  14. Look tasty and one of many ways to break my new healthy challenge lol!

  15. I love the cornstarch and bread flour tricks. I’m going to keep those in mind when I make cookies next!

  16. Gah, Averie these sound delicious. I love maple. I tried a recipe for soft maple sugar cookies around Thanksgiving that turned out to be a huge flop – I was so bummed. So these definitely need to be made asap!

  17. I’m totally with you..I want absolutely ZERO nuts in my cookies. Ever. But maple and brown sugar? I’m totally down with that.

  18. I love maple ANYTHING! These will be the perfect treat after a slice of your vegetable fried rice frittata! Yum!

  19. Averie, when a recipe calls for brown sugar, can I always just use granulated mixed with molasses? I absolutely hate brown sugar b/c it always hardens. Using granulated would be so much easier!

    • That’s a very loaded question and I can’t give a broad-based answer. You would have to MAKE brown sugar. You can’t just dump in white + molasses and call it a day. You would have to make the brown sugar each and every batch and then use that. A piece of bread in with your brown sugar is a tip to keep it from hardening but obvi you need to replace the bread b/c it will go stale/rotten. Invest in a 3.99 plastic container with a lid, i.e. Gladware, and put your sugar in that. I NEVER have issues and I live in a very dry climate!

      • Ahhh, I was hoping it was that simple. I’ll try the bread trick, thank you! And I have started using a lidded container which works much much better than anything else I’ve tried.

  20. I have so many recipes like that where I think about creating a recipe, then realize, no, then re-tweak it in my mind, forget about it, and then finally create it. lol

  21. You are so right about the bread flour. It’s a total must when I make cookies (ever since the NYT cookie recipes) and I LOVE the look of that cookie interior. So beautiful! You are a cookie master.

  22. THE INSIDE OF THESE COOKIES!!!! I cannot get over it! I was drooling by photo #1. I think the secret to a perfect cookie is that gooey almost doughiness on the inside, and these just look like perfection! I don’t usually like nuts in baked goods either, and so many of cookies with my favorite flavors always end up with nuts too. I can’t wait to give these a try!

  23. My last batch of maple cookies turned out rather less than fantastic. This is inspiring me to try maple again! They look really gooey and delicious!

    • I know you had made those brown sugar cookies awhile back and I wanted to give that recipe a go but whenever I use melted butter I never am successful. And sorry your maple experience wasn’t so hot but these, I can almost guarantee you’ll love!

  24. You are so talented at coming up with new cookie flavors! I know I wouldn’t be able to trust myself around a batch of these beauties… Maple and brown sugar are my weakness!

  25. One of the best cookies I made last year were Maple Cinnamon, very very similar to these! I used Hershey’s cinnamon chips in them too. Have you seen those? My mom got me addicted to them, and now I have to send them to her, because they don’t sell them at her grocery store anymore.

    I’ve been using 1 T of modified food starch (packaged as instant clear jel), which is what they use in the commercial cooking industry for the same reasons that you mention for cornstarch. Cookies are always perfect when I remember to add that in.

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