Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My Favorite Thumbprint Cookies


Unlike Pecan Balls, I haven't seen a lot of thumbprint cookies in the blogosphere. Women's magazines, on the other hand, always seem to include one obligatory thumbprint in their collections of holiday cookie recipes. They usually look fairly uninspired, although they may be wonderful recipes. I'll never know because these are the only thumbprints I will ever make.

This recipe is another oldie but goodie from grandma. The original typewritten recipe that I have a photocopy of calls for all shortening. And this is from back when Crisco had plenty of trans-fat. When I was a kid, I think we made them with margarine, which was the good-health fat of choice back then. Now, I make them with delicious, organic unsalted butter (Organic Valley is my everyday butter of choice), and they taste as wonderful as ever.

I've mentioned how much I like soft, tender, nearly under-baked cookies, and that is how I like these. Thanks to the butter and brown sugar, they melt in your mouth. Still, a contrast of textures is important if you want a truly sophisticated cookie experience, so these thumbprints are rolled in finely chopped--almost ground--walnuts.

And, as with so many desserts, a sweet, simple frosting takes these cookies from great to really great. Jam in thumbprint cookies never did it for me. Why have jam when you can have actual icing? To each her own, I guess. If you happen to have ideas about thumbprints that are equally as strong as mine, I would love it if you tried the cookie part and added your filling of choice, whether it be chocolate, jam or candied fruit--just as long as you tell me all about it!

I'm submitting this post to Susan's Christmas Cookie round-up at Food Blogga. She's gathering cookie recipes from far and wide, so it might be a good place to go if you're still looking for cookie inspiration!

My Favorite Thumbprint Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups (9 oz.) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 egg whites
1 1/4 cup walnuts, ground or very finely chopped
1 cup powdered sugar
2 to 4 tbs. milk
red and green food coloring

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. With an electric mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and egg yolks at medium-high speed until thoroughly combined. Beat in vanilla. Stir in the flour and salt at very low speed or by hand.

Place the egg whites in a small bowl and spread the walnuts out in a shallow bowl or plate. Roll a spoonful of dough into a one-inch ball with your hands, quickly dip in egg white, roll in ground walnuts, shaking off any excess, and place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, spacing cookies about 1 1/2 inches apart on baking sheets.

Bake for 6 minutes, remove pans from oven and quickly make a deep thumbprint in the center of each cookie. Return pans to oven and bake for 7 minutes more, or until just barely beginning to brown on the bottom. If notice the indentation you made disappearing as the cookies bake, pull them out and press again. Cool on baking sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer to wire racks until cooled completely.

In each of two small bowls, mix 1/2 cup powdered sugar with 1 to 2 tablespoons milk. Add red food coloring to one bowl and green food coloring to the other. Stir well to combine and create a thick icing that slowly drizzles off your spoon. When cookies are completely cool, fill thumbprints with icing. If you want to freeze some of the cookies, allow icing to dry completely, 8 hours to overnight.

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13 comments:

Dana said...

So cute!! Very holiday appropriate :).

Susan from Food Blogga said...

What? You're dissing the jam? I'm a jam thumbprint girl! ;) Though I'm an open-minded jam thumbprint girl who is being lured toward making your colorful icing-topped version instead. This is a great addition to Eat Christmas Cookies! Thanks, Julie.- Susan

Emiline said...

I really need to make some thumbprints! Too many cookies, not enough time.
I like jam thumbprints. I like icing, too, so it would be a nice change.

Kristen said...

Frosting in thumbprint cookies? What a great idea!

akus said...

Never,ever, ate a thumbprint wihout red and green icing.

Samantha King said...

I have to admit, these are the first thumbprint cookies I've attempted in an effort to recreate cookies from our local shop. I was very impressed. Awesome cookies!

Julie said...

Samantha: thanks for letting me know how they turned out for you! I'm so glad you liked them...I haven't made them this year. I'm trying to change it up, but these are still my fave.

Anonymous said...

I finally found a recipe using icing! These are the kind I grew up on from our local bakery. yum!

Paula M. said...

In recent Christmas seasons, I've become keen on finding an iced thumbprint recipe that would produce a cookie I recall from my childhood. After lots of time looking online and in magazines and old books, I think this recipe is it, or certainly as close as I need to get! The cookie is tender, melt-in-your-mouth good. Totally delish! One very minor alteration: I found it worked better for me to indent the cookies before putting them in the oven (and then re-indenting partway through as noted in the recipe). If I waited til partway through baking to make the first indent, it potentially caused some cracking in the partially baked dough. (and I totally agree about the familiar jam option; I could never see the attraction in that. Icing in thumbprint cookies is definitely the way to go!)

Julie said...

Paula: These are definitely from an OLD recipe! I'm so glad you liked them--thanks for leaving a comment! That's a good tip about doing the imprint beforehand. I do it the way my grandma did and it works for me, but it's totally just tradition in my case!

Veronica said...

These sound like the traditional thumbprints (with icing centers-- NOT jam!!) that I have been searching for! Thank you! Cannot wait to try!

chelekell said...

thank you for sharing, these were always one of my favorites at Christmas time (and yes, with frosting NOT jam)

Anonymous said...

We always put icing in our thumbprint cookies, but also added a little bit of peppermint flavoring to the icing. We tint them red and green for Christmas, and yellow, blue and green for Easter!