Baking & Dessert

By Lindsay Hunt | January 5, 2011

Photo: Lindsay Hunt

This week, I traveled to the winter woods of Canada.  A recipe entitled “Canadian Maple-Date Cookies” intrigued me and called to my taste buds.  Despite a nagging feeling that dates are not native to that country, nor common in their baked goods, I decided to make them anyway.

 

While measuring the ingredients, I remembered my first project for my college sculpture class.  As a studio art major, I was required to take Sculpture 1, which I dreaded intensely.  The first project was to make a cardboard sculpture, using only hot glue and scissors for help.  The professor instructed the class to choose one word and make a sculpture of the idea of that word.

It was October in New England and the leaves were aflame in gorgeous reds and oranges, so I chose “fall” as my word.  I set to work, feeling daunted by sculpture, my experience was in 2-dimensional arts: photography and painting, I was unsure how to begin making a 3-dimensional piece of art, let alone one that embodied an idea of a word.

During many painstaking hours, I crafted a “trunk” out of the corrugated interior of the cardboard, and cut out leaf-shapes to glue in a cascading shape off the body of the sculpture.  After staying up all night to finish the piece, I had a stroke of genius.  I used the glue gun to imitate sap coming out of the tree.  My masterpiece was complete.

During the critique the next day, the class gathered around my sculpture.  I gave my word: “fall.”  Critiques were not too harsh: it was perhaps too literal, my classmates said, but it was crafted well.  At the end of the critique, I added, “You didn’t notice the sap coming out for the maple syrup!” and waited for a cheer of admiration for my artistic brilliance.

There was only silence.  My professor walked back over to the sculpture.  She peered in between the leaf cutouts and into the trunk.  ”Sap doesn’t come out of the trees in fall! It comes out in the late winter!”

My face burned. I am from California, I had no idea that sap comes from the tree in winter! To save my sculpture from additional derision, I offered that because it was my idea of fall, and in my mind, maple trees did release sap in fall, then it was okay.

“No,” she said, “Awful.” And moved on.

Now, perhaps some Canadians will reject this recipe, maintaining that it has no place in the pantheon of that country’s baked goods.  However, similarly to my sculpture of “fall,” these cookies embody my idea of Canada.  Hearty from the whole wheat flour, sweet from the maple syrup that flows in abundance in Canada, and savory from the toasted pecans, which make me think of roasting nuts on the fire during the long winter.

Yes, it’s only an idea, but that might be as good as an authentic recipe from that country.  And I’d like to think if I had a Canadian friend sitting with me right now, I could share a cookie and they would think of home.

From Better Homes and Gardens Magazine

Canadian Maple-Date Cookies Recipe

Servings: makes 60 cookies

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup toasted coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1 cup chopped pitted dates

Directions

1. In a medium bowl stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; set aside. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in maple syrup, eggs, and vanilla until combined (mixture will appear curdled). Add the flour mixture and stir until combined. Stir in the pecans and dates. Cover and chill dough about 2 hours or until easy to handle.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place balls 1-inch apart on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake about 10 minutes or until edges are firm. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool.

To Store: layer cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

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