Wednesday, March 11, 2020

One of Sam's "That deserves to be a cookie!" moments...

Sometimes, I see something out in the world and I think, "That's wonderful.  That deserves to be a cookie!"  One of those moments happened last year at the Bryant Park Holiday Market.  I was wondering through the stalls (like I always do) and struck up a conversation with a vendor (like I often do), and a lovely man named Austin offered me a taste of the maple syrup he and his wife make themselves up in Vermont.  I'd never had a shot of straight maple syrup before, but it was downright divine!  Hands-down the best maple syrup I'd ever had.  And I thought, "That deserves to be a cookie!  Nay, that must become a cookie!"  When I told him that, and then explained that my concern was that you need to add a LOT of maple syrup to a dough to get the flavor to really come through strongly enough, he pointed to a different bottle in his stall, the Grade B syrup, and explained that it has a much more intense flavor.  After tasting that one, I knew this was going to end well.

So I set out to make the perfect maple cookie.  This was not my first foray into this arena.  When Luke and I first started dating, he mentioned in passing that he really enjoyed maple syrup.  Eager to please, I decided that this must be his favorite thing in all the world, and I decided to bake for him to show what an amazing girlfriend I could be.  Back home, I scoured the internet and my mom's stack of old cookbooks and found a handful of recipes that sounded promising.  The first was...not good.  More cake than cookie, and very little flavor (one of those where you had to be told what flavor the thing is supposed to be before you can discern any hint of such flavor).  Then I made a different one that I deemed worthy of presentation to my new beau, and off I went to the City to deliver them.  I got about 50 feet from the door to Luke's building, and started getting nervous - Would he like them?  Would he be impressed? - and was so caught up in my thoughts that I oh-so-gracefully tripped on an uneven sidewalk tile, bursting open the Tupperware and dramatically spilling cookies everywhere (they were frosted, too, so they were now covered in dirt and gum and who-knows-what-else), eventually ending up in Luke's apartment in tears (decidedly less impressive than showing up with perfect baked goods).  When I eventually got over my heartbreak and baked a fresh batch of cookies, Luke declared them "ok" (and also gently explained that maple syrup was a flavor he enjoyed, not his absolute favorite thing in the whole wide world, so maybe I should feel free to make other flavors too).  In fact, I gave up on maple cookies for a long time - by the time I peeked into Dorset Maple Reserve's stall at Bryant Park, it had been around a decade since my last attempt.

Armed with my big jug of Grade B maple syrup and triumphantly declaring to Austin that I would do his syrup justice, off I went to my kitchen.  I spent days poring over every maple recipe Google could show me, searching for the perfect starting point.  I knew I wanted this cookie to be the antithesis of my original experiments - crispy and intense, not soft, cakey, and bland.  Eventually, I found a recipe for a vanilla snap that I thought I could work from, and a helpful post about which other wet ingredients to substitute out for a cup of maple syrup when making maple muffins, and the experimentation began.  This cookie, unlike its pale predecessors, doesn't hide its true self - the second you pick it up, the whole world suddenly smells like maple syrup, and the flavor is intense, yet mellow and homey and nostalgic.  There is no mistaking the flavor of this cookie.  And an added bonus: your entire house smells like maple syrup for a few hours after you bake them.  Austin, I hope you agree that I've done your syrup justice!

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