Remember those thumbprint cookies your grandma used to make? Perfectly crisp and buttery shortbread, filled with your choice of jam (or even jelly) and topped with pine nuts, walnuts, pistachios–whatever you fancy, really.
Thumbprint cookies. Remember them? They had a very specific function: Shortbread as jam delivery system. This subtly sophisticated, decidedly kid-friendly cookie may not be exactly like the one of your childhood, but it’ll still conjure the same memories, albeit in a more adult-like manner.–Renee Schettler Rossi
LC Any Which Way Note
This recipe allows for quite some playfulness when it comes to mixing and matching the nut in the shortbread with the preserves dolloped in the center. Some of us found pine nut and fig preserves to be a welcome, if fancy schmancy, departure from tradition, whereas some of us were quite partial to red jam with walnuts. Others found apricot preserves with pistachios to be quite nice. The options are as unbounded as your imagination. Troubled deciding? Make a sampler in kaleidoscopic colors.
Mix-and-Match Thumbprint Cookies
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for the baking sheets
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cups finely chopped pine nuts, walnuts, or pistachios
- About 1/2 cup fig jam or other preserves of choice
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C). Lightly butter 2 baking sheets or line them with Silpats.
- In a large bowl with a standing or handheld mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar, honey, and vanilla on medium speed until light, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in the flour just until incorporated. The dough will be quite stiff. Switch to a spoon and stir in 1 cup of the nuts.
- Pinch off walnut-size pieces of dough and roll them between your palms into balls. Place on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart.
- Bake until firm to the touch and just golden on the bottom, 10 to 13 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes before making an indentation in the center of each with your thumb, the handle of a large wooden spoon, or the tip of a clothespin. (If you try to make the dent too soon, the cookies will crack.) Transfer the indented cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.
- Fill the indentation in each cooled cookie with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of the jam. Then sprinkle the jammy center with the remaining nuts and watch the cookies disappear. (If giving the cookies away, be careful to package them in a single layer so as to avoid the dread jam-sticking-to-the-bottom-of-the-other-cookies-and-making-them-slightly-soggy situation.)
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Wow, this is a great shortbread recipe. I made these at home over Thanksgiving and my dad ate three cookies in one sitting!
Here are my suggestions: The recipe says to “lightly butter baking sheets,” but not exactly how many. I’d recommend using two 9-by-13 baking sheets. Also, my cookies were a little black on the bottom, so I’d recommend lining the baking sheets on parchment paper, instead of just buttering each baking sheet. I baked my cookies for 13 minutes, instead of 10. If I had taken them out at 10 minutes, I think they would’ve been too doughy. Overall, a wonderful cookie.
These are delightfully beautiful little treats that everyone adores. They’re also wonderful cookies to give for the holidays. It takes a bit of finagling to make the thumbprints without cracking the cookies, but it’s definitely doable. I couldn’t find good pine nuts, so I used walnuts. I filled some of the cookies with the fig jam, and some with blackberry raspberry rhubarb jam that was given to me by a friend from Seattle. The fig jam proved to be cloyingly sweet with the walnut cookie backdrop. The gifted jam was tart and sweet—perfect with the walnut cookie. Maybe pairing the fig jam with the pine nut cookie would work, but you can save yourself the expense of buying the fig jam if you use a different nut in the cookie. A tart and sweet jam will make this cookie sing!
I jumped at the chance to try these cookies because I love pine nuts, but they were extraordinarily expensive, so I used walnuts. I also used red currant jam because of its color, festive appearance and taste. I liked the end result of this recipe, which made 56 cookies for me.
1. Because the dough is stiff, using a stand mixer instead of a hand mixer will make mixing much easier.
2. Cream the butter first before adding the sugar, honey and vanilla, and scrape the bowl constantly.
3. For more consistent-sized cookies, use an ice cream scoop the size of a walnut.
4. Using 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon of jam is about right. 1/2 teaspoon may be too much.
Originally published December 07, 2010