These classic Thumbprint Cookies are lightly sweet with an almost shortbread-like texture, a coating of toasty coconut or pecans, and a center of your favorite jelly or jam.
I realize I'm down to the wire here, but I couldn't let December fly by without sharing at least one Christmas cookie recipe! Sure, I posted Christmas Tree Brownie Pops a couple weeks ago, and there have been a plethora of other sweet treats all month long, from Eggnog Pudding to Cinnamon Bread. But when I ran out of time to share my favorite Christmas cookie last winter, I vowed that I would post it this December! So here we are, ⅔ of the way through the month, and here it (finally) is: Thumbprint Cookies!
Now I know that there are already about a zillion and one recipes out there for Thumbprint Cookies, and I'm sure that they're all tasty in their own respective ways. But this is the recipe that I grew up with...the one that I made with my mom each holiday season and, really, all year long...the one that I now make with my own kids each December and, well, all year long...and the one that ranks right up there as one of my favorite cookies of all time. So whether or not you've made Thumbprint Cookies before, promise me you'll give this recipe a whirl!
What Are Thumbprint Cookies?
First off, in a season of cloyingly sugary treats, these cookies are not overly sweet. While there's not a ton of sugar in the cookie dough, the jammy thumbprints do give a nice boost of sweetness. As for the the texture of these cookies, I would consider it to be somewhat dense and similar to that of a shortbread or "sandy" type cookie.
Onto the coating!
Growing up, we always rolled our Thumbprint Cookies in finely chopped (actually ground, using a food processor or blender) pecans. Of course, you could substitute your favorite nut instead -- walnuts would be tasty -- but really, any variety should work so long as you ensure that your nuts are in teeny-tiny pieces.
In recent years, I got a little wild and crazy and started coating some of my Thumbprint Cookies in shredded coconut instead of nuts!
Don't ask me to pick a favorite, because I honestly can't...they're both equally scrumptious. But if you're feeling extra adventurous, you can even mix together your nuts and coconut and roll your cookies in a combo coating!
As for the jelly/jam/preserves to fill up the thumbprint indentations, again, use your favorite!
For this batch, I used seedless blackberry jam in the coconut-rolled cookies and seedless raspberry jam in the pecan cookies (even though the jams appear to be the same color in the photos -- dangit).
When I was growing up, we always filled our pecan Thumbprints with peach preserves, because how Texas is that?! 😉
But again, I can't think of a variety of jam that wouldn't be tasty -- feel free to go crazy! Just keep in mind that seeds and big chunks of fruit are best avoided in this recipe since you'll be filling a rather small indentation.
Making the Thumbprint
While I'm still rambling and before we get on with the recipe, can I let you in on a little secret?
I don't actually imprint these cookies with my thumb! (*insert gasps of shock and awe*)
Rather, I have a set of rectangular measuring spoons that includes a ¼-teaspoon size with a perfectly square little bowl. I press it into each cookie and -- voilà! -- a neat, symmetrical little "thumbprint" without getting cookie dough stuck under my thumbnail! But "Measuring Spoon Cookies" doesn't have quite the same ring to it, so let's just pretend I use my thumb, shall we?
With Santa's impending visit, I just know that you have it in you to bake up one last batch of Christmas cookies.
After all, he needs fortification for his busy night and long journey! And take it from me...the big guy in red loves Thumbprint Cookies, and he wouldn't be the least bit sad to find a plate of them awaiting him at the bottom of each and every chimney.
You wouldn't want to disappoint St. Nick now, would ya? 😉
Make 'em for Christmas, make 'em in June, make 'em all year long, make 'em with the kiddos, make 'em all by your lonesome...this is one cookie recipe that you need in your repertoire!
More Yummy Cookies
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups finely chopped pecans, walnuts, or your favorite nut (*see Tips & Tricks below for coconut variation)
- Your favorite seedless jelly or jam, about ¼ cup
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Set aside. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until creamy. Separate eggs, placing whites in a small bowl, lightly beating, and setting aside. Add yolks to butter mixture and blend in. Add vanilla and beat until well incorporated. Gradually mix flour mixture into butter mixture, blending thoroughly but taking care not to overmix.
- Pour finely chopped nuts into a bowl. Roll cookie dough into 1-inch balls. Dip each ball in beaten egg whites and then roll in nuts, gently pressing to coat. Space cookies 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets.
- Use your thumb or the tip of a spoon to make an indentation in the top of each cookie. Use a ½-teaspoon measuring spoon to carefully fill each indentation with jam. Bake cookies for 13 to 16 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
- I use a food processor (or blender) to grind my pecans into tiny pieces, since it's quicker and easier than chopping nuts finely with a knife.
- For a crunchier coating, I recommend toasting your nuts and allowing them to cool before chopping/grinding them. (To toast pecans, spread on a sheet pan and bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 7 to 10 minutes or until fragrant and lightly toasted.)
- Instead of nuts, you may roll your cookies in shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened). You'll probably need between 1 ½ and 2 cups of coconut to coat a batch of these cookies. You can also roll cookies in a mixture of half nuts, half coconut.
- I almost always make a double batch of these cookies since they quickly disappear. It takes only a little more time and effort to make twice as many cookies once you already have all of the ingredients and supplies out!
- My favorite flavors of jam to use in this recipe are seedless raspberry, seedless blackberry, strawberry, and peach, but I think just about any flavor of jam/jelly/preserves would be great (as long as it's not too chunky).
Post originally published on December 21, 2014.