December 7, 2010

Maple Black Walnut Cookies

I don't know if it's because December is here... or the bitter cold temperatures we're having... or because the everything around me looks like it's been covered in powdered sugar... but I could not stop thinking about Maple Black Walnut Cookies yesterday.

Black Walnuts remind me of Christmas (although that doesn't stop me from eating them any other time of year). And turning the oven on just seemed like a good idea when the thermometer read 18 degrees. But I think the thing that really got me was the light layer of snow... it looked as if God shook confectioner's sugar all over the earth. Yum!Black Walnuts are a bit smaller than their better known cousin, the English Walnut. Additionally, their shell is thick, resulting in a very small nut meat. And they are hard to crack. To get the tiny nut out of it's shell I kneel down on some concrete, crack the shell with a hammer and then use a toothpick to pry the pieces of nut out. Broken bits of nut hide within deep caverns of the shell. It's tedious work.

Luckily, a little bit of Black Walnut goes a long way. Unlike mild English Walnuts, Black Walnuts are powerful. A small amount will impart their unique rich earthy goodness to your cookies. They taste musty and wild to me.Maple Black Walnut Cookies may appear similar to some other cookies you know under the aliases of Mexican Wedding Cookies, Russian Tea Cakes, Noel Nut Balls, and Pecan Butter Balls. But Maple Black Walnut Cookies stand out from that crowd because of their distinctive taste. And because you work so hard to get those delicious nuts.

Don't be disheartened if you don't have an accessible Black Walnut tree, or if you don't feel like going through all that fuss to get the nuts out of their shell. You may likely find small bags of shelled Black Walnuts at your local grocery market (especially around Christmas time). And this is an easy recipe once you have a few shelled Black Walnuts in your hand.MAPLE BLACK WALNUT COOKIES

1/2 cup soft butter
1/4 cup finely chopped Black Walnuts
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 cup flour

and a small bowl of confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix first six ingredients together in order given. Roll into walnut sized balls and place on parchment lined baking sheet. (These will not rise or puff up when baking so they can be placed quite close together on baking sheet.) Bake for 12-15 minutes, when their bottoms start to turn golden. Let cool for just a few minutes. Roll in small bowl of confectioner's sugar while still warm. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

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