“I want chocolate cake! With chocolate chips in it!” My young heart raced with the thought. “And chocolate icing…with chocolate shavings!” What else, I desperately thought, eager to not lose my chance of having the best cake ever. “And chocolate ice cream to go with it!” I concluded, triumphantly.
I got my wish, believe it or not; my birthday cake that year was in the shape of a teddy bear head, with cupcakes for ears. It was chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, with chocolate on the side. My mom always knew how to pull out all the stops for special occasions. Or even everyday occasions. Biscuits, cornbread, and sheet cakes, which she began making as a young, Southern girl; trifle, Nanaimo bars, and butter tarts, adopted from her time in Canada; venison roasts following us to every place we moved, hunted and frozen from Thanksgivings in Tennessee spent at the family farm. Jam-filled muffins, saucy baked meatballs, and steaming hot monkey bread all made frequent appearances, much to our pleasure. I suppose, if I had to choose one thing that stood above all others, it was her chocolate chip cookies.
Many extol delicate pastries as the most difficult of desserts to make, delighting in their achievement when the method is mastered (and this is rightfully so, in my opinion). But the perfect cookie can be just as elusive. You need more than a good recipe. My mom made chocolate chip cookies so often, it wouldn’t surprise me if she has it down to muscle memory. But that didn’t stop her from changing it and coming up with one of the best cookies I’ve ever tasted. When I got my new mixer and wanted to test it out before I packed it up to move, I asked her to make something. She replied, “Well, I’ve been thinking of making my cookies, but with maple syrup and pecans…”
“The worn pages of a cookbook have a unique ability to drill into a place where food memory mixes with love and loss.”Kim Severson
Yields approximately two and half dozen cookies.
225g (1 cup) butter, softened
160g (1 cup) brown sugar
120ml (1/2 cup) maple syrup
1 teaspoon maple flavoring
450g (3 cups) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
150g (1 1/2 cups) pecans
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F. Put the butter in a mixing bowl and beat for a few seconds. Add the sugar and mix on medium-high speed until fluffy. Add the syrup, eggs and maple flavoring, one at a time, and mix on medium speed. When all the liquid ingredients are added, scrape the sides with a rubber spatula if needed, then increase the speed and beat for 3-4 minutes, until everything is well combined.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt, then add to the butter mixture a bit at a time, mixing on low speed after each addition. Add the pecans (chopped if you like) and mix on low just until they’re evenly distributed.
Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a lined baking sheet. Bake for 9-11 minutes, until edges begin to brown. Remove from the oven and let rest for a minute or two before moving to cool completely on a rack.
Dunk in milk, if desired, and enjoy!