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Sweet recipes from James Beard award-winning chef for Maple Syrup Festival

James Beard Award-winning Chef Mindy Segal joins Tim Burton from the Maple Syrup Festival to make a couple of delicious maple-syrup infused recipes: Pecan Praline Thumbprints and Strawberry Rhubarb Rugelach. Chef Segal is an expert at working with Maple Syrup.

It is a very complex flavor. It is phenomenal with multiple different things, obviously bacon, pecans, hickory nuts, hazel nuts, chocolate. It’s just very well-rounded and you can do so many different things…it really makes the flavors very complex.”

Grade B Maple Syrup is the best to  us for cooking.

Mindy’s new cookbook, Cookie Love: 60 Recipes and Techniques for Turning the Ordinary into the Extraordinary, comes out on April 7th and is available for pre-order on



makes 48 rugelach


2 cups finely diced rhubarb (approximately 2 large stalks)

1 pound washed, hulled, and dried strawberries, finely diced

3⁄4 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice


1 recipe Classic Cream Cheese Dough (see below), divided in half and chilled

2 cups Oatmeal Streusel (see below)

1 extra-large egg white, lightly beaten

1⁄4 cup vanilla sugar (see below) or granulated sugar

WHEN SPRING ARRIVES (EVENTUALLY) in Chicago, I am first in line for rhubarb.I use rhubarb to make fruit consommés and sorbets. But it is nearly always at its best with strawberries-its soul mate, which come into season later. This recipe is a fruit crisp disguised as rugelach. I slather cream cheese dough with the strawberry rhubarb preserves and then dust it with streusel for crunch. The results are crisp, gooey, sweet, and tart, tasting purely of spring.

Wipe the rhubarb clean before dicing, especially if using field rhubarb, whichI prefer. Field rhubarb has a grassier, earthier flavor than hothouse rhubarb.It is pinkish green (not red) in color. When working with strawberries, wash them and let them dry out on a towel-lined pan before cooking them. The quantity used in the recipe is 1 pound of hulled strawberries. Start with 18 ounces of strawberries to ensure you have 1 pound after you hull them. For the preserves, dice the rhubarb and strawberries into small cubes (approximately 1⁄4 inch) so they cook down evenly and spread smoothly onto the cream cheese dough.

To make the preserves:

Combine the rhubarb, strawberries, granulated sugar, and orange juice in a bowl and let macerate for at least4 hours at room temperature or cover and refrigerate overnight.

In a high-sided, heavy pot, heat the fruit mixture over medium-high heat until the juices start to boil and foam. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent the bottom from scorching, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the rhubarb has broken down completely, approximately 30 minutes. You will have close to2 cups. Transfer to a storage container and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 2 hours.

To make the cookies:

Put a sheet of parchment paper the same dimensions as a half sheet (13 by 18-inch) pan on the work surface and dust lightly with flour. Unwrap one dough half and place on top.

Using a rolling pin and a pastry roller, roll the dough half into a rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border from the edge of the parchment paper. The dough should be just shy of 1⁄4 inch thick. If the edges become uneven, push a bench scraper against the sides to straighten them out. To keep the dough from sticking to the parchment paper, periodically dust the top lightly with flour, cover with another piece of parchment paper, and, sand- wiching the dough between both sheets of parchment paper, flip the dough and paper over. Peel off the top layer of parchment paper and continue to roll. Repeat with the second dough half. Stack both sheets of dough on top of each other and refrigerate until chilled, approximately 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a few half sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray.

Invert the sheets of dough onto the work surface and peel off the top sheetof parchment paper. For each sheet of dough, spread 3⁄4 cup of strawberry rhubarb preserves in a thin, even layer across the surface. Sprinkle approximately 1⁄2 cup of streusel per sheet over the preserves. Trim the edges. Using a dough cutter or a pizza cutter, divide the sheet in half lengthwise into two long strips. Working with one strip at a time and moving crosswise, cut out triangles with flat tips, with each base approximately 1 1⁄2 inches wide and each tip approximately 1⁄4 inch wide. Shoot for 12 triangles per strip.

Using an offset spatula, separate a triangle away from the rest of the dough. Starting from the base, roll the doughup like a crescent roll. Place tip-side down on the prepared sheet pan and repeat with the remaining triangles, spacing them on the pans 1 inch apart. Brush the tops with the egg white and sprinkle with the vanilla sugar. Sprinkle the tops generously with the remaining1 cup streusel.

Bake one pan at a time for 15 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for another8 to 10 minutes, or until the streusel is golden brown. Let the cookies cool on the sheet pan for 1 to 2 minutes (do not wait too long or the preserves will stick to the parchment paper). Using an offset spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Rugelach can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. Rolled, unbaked rugelach can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.CLASSIC CREAM CHEESE DOUGH

makes 2 (13 by 18-inch) sheets of dough

1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1⁄3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt1 teaspoon sea salt flakes

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter on medium speed for 5 to 10 seconds. Add the cream cheese and mix on medium speed to combine, 10 to 15 seconds. Add the sugar and beat on medium speed until aerated, approximately 3 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to bring the batter together.

On medium speed, add the vanilla, mixing briefly until incorporated. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to bring the batter together.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour and salts.

Add the flour mixture all at once and mix on low speed until the dough just comes together but still looks shaggy, approximately 30 seconds. Do not over mix. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. With a plastic bench scraper, bring the dough completely together by hand.

Stretch two sheets of plastic wrap on a work surface. Divide the dough in half (each half will weigh around 14 1⁄2 ounces) and place a half on each piece of plastic. Pat the dough into rectangles, wrap tightly, and refrigerate until chilled throughout, at least 2 hours or up to 1 week.OATMEAL STREUSEL

makes 4 cups

3⁄4 cup (6 ounces) cold, unsalted butter, cubed

3⁄4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 1⁄4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3⁄4 cup old-fashioned oats 1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds only

In a food processor, pulse together the butter, sugar, flour, oats, salt, and vanilla bean seeds until it forms a fine meal, and the butter is evenly incorporated.

Do not overprocess. Transfer to a storage container and chill completely, approximately 1 hour. Or freeze and use within 1 month.VANILLA SUGAR

Scrape the seeds out of a vanilla pod and rub them into 1 cup granulated sugar. Let the pod dry out overnight. The next day, grind the seeds, pod, and sugar together. Sift before using.


makes approximately 48 cookies


1 3⁄4 cups (6 ounces) toasted, salted pecan pieces

3⁄4 cup granulated sugar

1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt3⁄4 teaspoon sea salt flakes


3⁄4 cup (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1⁄2 cup maple syrup

1⁄2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1⁄4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt

1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt flakes

1⁄2 cup heavy cream

1 1⁄4 cups (4 1⁄2 ounces) toasted, salted pecan pieces

EVERY TIME MY MOTHER baked nut horns while I was growing up, she made the dough the day before and refrigerated it in a Tupperware container. Late at night I would sneak down into the kitchen and steal some of the dough, which tasted even better in its contraband form. In my professional cookie-making career, I have used my mother’s nut horn dough to make countless cookies. It yields lovely Mexican wedding cookies, but it is especially good as a base for thumbprints.

The center of the thumbprint is a praline, which I cook on the stove as the cookies bake. While the cookies are still warm, I spoon the praline into the indentations and then chill the cookies until the centers have set. I buy toasted and salted pecans. If using unsalted nuts, add a pinch or two more salt. If the nut pieces are very large, run a knife through them before making the praline.

To make the cookies:

In a food processor, pulse the pecans and 1⁄4 cup of the granulated sugar until a fine meal forms but before the nuts start to release their oils.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter briefly on medium speed for 5 to 10 seconds. Add the remaining 1⁄2 cup granulated sugar and beat together until the butter mixture is aerated and pale in color, approximately 4 minutes. Briefly beat in the vanilla. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to bring the batter together.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour and salts. Add the dry ingredients all at once and mix on low speed until the dough comes together but still looks shaggy, approximately 30 seconds. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to bring the batter together. Mix for another10 seconds on medium speed. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. With a plastic bench scraper, bring the dough completely together by hand.

Stretch out a long sheet of plastic wrap on a work surface and put the dough on top. Pat into an 8-inch square, using the bench scraper to square off the sides. Wrap tightly and refrigerate until chilled throughout, at least 30 minutes or up to 3 days.

Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a couple of half sheet (13 by 18-inch) pans with parchment.

Cut the dough into 6 even strips. Roll the strips back and forth into logs to round out the edges. Using the top half of your thumb as a guide, cut each log into 8 pieces but keep the log together. Roll the logs again to round out the edges, then pull the pieces apart and place cut-side up on the prepared pans, evenly spacing up to 20 cookies per pan. With the tip of your index finger, make an indentation into the center of each cookie.

Bake one pan at a time for 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and tap down the centers with the rounded end of a wooden spoon or a cocktail muddler. Rotate the pan and bake until the cookies have slight cracks on the top and are set, another 4 to 6 minutes. When ready, the cookies will have set around the edges and you will be able to gently move them, but they still will be soft. Let the cookies cool completely on the pan. Repeat with the remaining pan.

To make the praline:

While the cookies are baking, start the praline.

In a pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Mix in the maple syrup, sugars, vanilla, and salts and stir until homogeneous. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for 3 minutes to thicken. Pour in the heavy cream, stirring to combine. Let the mixture reduce for 3 to 4 minutes, or until it lightly coats the back of a spoon. Stir in the nuts. You will have approximately 21⁄2 cups of praline.

While the thumbprints are still warm, use a small spoon to scoop the goopy praline into the centers. (It is okay if some spills over on the sides.) Refrigerate until set, approximately 30 minutes.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Dough can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Want to know more about Mindy’s restaurant?  Visit their website at

The Maple Syrup Festival runs now through Sunday, March 8th in Brown County.

From live sugaring demonstrations and historical reenactments to a culinary competition, pancake breakfast, and much more, there is something for everyone to enjoy at this year’s National Maple Syrup Festival happening this year in Nashville, IN.

Festivities began on March 5 with a Dinner Series that continues tonight, featuring maple masters Christine Tailer and Dr. Mike Farrell. Tonight Farrell and Tailer will share their tapping tales, sugaring adventures, and much more while guests dig in to a dinner featuring maple-based dishes. The Dinner Series is held at the Brown County History Center, beginning at 6 p.m. Tickets are $35 per person, with beer pairings for an additional $7.50 per person. Information on speakers and tickets are available online at or can be purchased in person at the Brown County Visitors Center.

The festivities kick into full swing on March 7 and 8. Guests will be able to join in the maple madness on Saturday and Sunday at various locations throughout Brown County, including the State Park, the Village of Nashville, as well as the Story Inn.

Activities taking place at the State Park are headquartered at the Lower Shelter. There festival goers can expect to see live reenactments of Native American and French Colonial maple sugaring techniques, as well as modern day sugaring demonstrations. Both days the Dutch Oven Diva also will be preparing one-of-a-kind maple creations cooked live over a campfire for guests to sample. Gourmet hot chocolate by Brooke’s Candy Co. and maple marshmallows from 240Sweet will be up for grabs as well. State Park activities will take place on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Naturalists from the State Park also will lead guests on interpretive hikes where festival guests will learn about the tapping process, learn to identify maple trees, as well as taste their sap. Hikes will take place on March 7 at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 2 p.m. and on March 8 at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Hikes will depart from the Lower Shelter. Admission to the park will be $5-7; however, once inside all festivities are free of charge.

On Saturday and Sunday, festival guests can head into town, where they will be able to experience the Village of Nashville like never before. Guests can step back in time at the Pioneer Village, where there will be pioneer-era reenactments of salt boiling, hide curing, spinning, and weaving, as well as puppet shows, horse-powered maple ice cream making, and maple-related art and food vendors. Pioneer Village will be open on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission to Pioneer Village will be $5; children 12 and younger are free.

Also in town, guests can enjoy Native American storytelling and a social dance at the Brown County History Center. On Saturday, storytelling will take place from 10 a.m. to noon, 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The stories will continue on Sunday at the Artists Colony Inn from 10 a.m. to noon and again from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Meanwhile, a Native American social dance is slated for Saturday, March 7 from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Guests are invited to join in this annual rite of spring, performed by descendants of the Delaware and Shawnee. Both events are at the History Center and are free of charge.

Additionally, on Saturday, March 7 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., fun activities will be available for children at the Brown County Public Library, including storytelling, coloring, and maple-shaped cookie decorating. On Sunday there also will be a church service by Horseman’s Camp Christian Outreach in the Village Green Pavilion at 9:30 a.m. All three events are free.

Guests can definitely expect to find plenty of maple on the menu in and around town as well. During the Festival, some of Brown County’s finest restaurants will be serving sweet and savory maple-infused dishes to highlight the variety of foods that can be enhanced with pure maple syrup as an ingredient. Not only will restaurants feature dishes that bring a unique maple twist to classic favorites, there also will be truly one-of-a-kind maple creations on the menu too. Participating restaurants will be designated with a “Maple on the Menu” sign, and all are listed on the Festival website.

Of course no maple syrup festival would be complete without pancakes, which is exactly why Chris Cakes will be serving up delicious hotcakes with a side of entertainment during the Festival’s Pancake Breakfasts on March 7 and 8. Breakfasts are all-you-can-eat and will be held at Brown County High School from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for ages 3-18; children 2 years and younger are free. Tickets are available at the door.

Meanwhile, the Story Inn will be home to the Sweet Victory Challenge on March 7 and 8. Sponsored by Burton’s Maplewood Farm, the Sweet Victory Challenge is the Festival’s national recipe contest, attracting food enthusiasts from all over the Midwest. On Saturday and Sunday, maple recipes submitted as part of the national contest will be prepared and judged at the Story Inn. Competitions will take place at 10 a.m., 12 p.m., and 2 p.m. on both days; events are free of charge.

Live entertainment and live art demonstrations also will be taking place on Saturday and Sunday as part of the Festival. Those interested in music can head to the Brown County Playhouse on Saturday, March 7 for the Brown County Music Celebration or the Brown County High School on Sunday, March 8 for Wilderness Ballads. Tickets for the Music Celebration are $12 and are available online at; Wilderness Ballads tickets are available at the door for $20 or can be purchased in advance for $15 by calling 812-988-6960.

Additionally, the Festival will feature an Artists Paint Out, presented by the Brown County Art Gallery Artists Association and the Indiana Plein Air Painters Association. On both Saturday and Sunday, artists will set up at various locations throughout the county to capture maple syrup festivities. Guests are welcome to watch artists as they paint live and to buy paintings directly from them, as well as from the Brown County Art Gallery where they will be on display for a show and sale Saturday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

With so much to do and see, the National Maple Syrup Festival is definitely worth checking out. Learn more about the Festival at and be sure to make plans to attend today through March 8.