Jam Thumbprint Cookies
From last Wednesday to this Tuesday I brought cookies to several offices of clients and many of the people who make my life easier all year long. I made 5 varieties of cookies, piparkakut, buckeyes, sugar cookies, chocolate cookies with candied bacon and these jam thumbprints. Without a doubt the most coveted and devoured cookies were jam thumbprints. I was glad. They're mine too, since childhood. A classic combination of rich butter cookies coated with nuts (or coconut, or neither) with a dab of jewel like jam in the center. Pretty and pleasing on multiple levels.
I grew up eating the cookies with red currant jam. The tart jam suits the rich cookie with a pure ruby color. I'm far too experimental for traditions. I filled mine with mulberry preserves that I canned this summer. The chunky preserves don't sit flat or fill the thumbprint indent well. The flavor is great and under-sweetened, as like it. I had a revelation just a few days ago. If I don't need to use jam in the cookie, then I don't need to use walnuts or pecans on the outside either. Apricot jam and pistachios, nutella with hazelnuts, coconut with lemon curd. Nothing is stopping me from banging out a whole series of thumbprints with a unique touch. Next year! or maybe next month. These are good cookies.
Jam Thumbprint Cookies
2 sticks of unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, yolks separated from the whites
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups flour
1/2 pound nuts, chopped medium fine
Cream butter with sugar for 5 minutes until pale and fluffy with a standing or electric mixer. Add egg yolks and blend another minute. Add vanilla and salt, blend again. Add half the flour and lightly blend until just combine. Add the remaining flour and carefully stir by hand until just combine. Shape dough into a disk, wrap in waxed paper, and chill for 3 hours to overnight. The dough can frozen for up to a week before baking.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Divide the dough into 24 sections. Roll each section into a 1 inch ball. Divide balls larger then 1 inch into extra cookies, you may have a few. Lightly whisk remaining egg whites in a bowl.
Time to decorate and form the cookies. Its a good idea to organize all of the remaining ingredients. I like to place the formed dough balls on a plate in a row next to the beaten egg whites, and chopped nuts all near the baking sheet. Roll dough balls in the egg whites. Place in the chopped nuts and cover with nuts. Don't roll the ball in the nuts. That will cover the nuts in egg whites, and prevent them from sticking to your dough balls. If that happens, which it does, press the nuts into the cookies gently with your palms.
Continue coating all the dough balls. Place the nut coated dough balls on a cookies sheet about 1 inch apart. Now the fun part. Press straight down with your thumb through the top and center of the dough ball to make an indentation. Bake for 10 minutes until pale to light golden, but set. My cookies often spread, causing less of a thumbprint. I'm not sure if its the recipe, or the way I treat my ingredients. Anyways, you may need to reform your thumbprint by pressing down again. Act quickly, don't burn yourself.
Use a small spoon to scoop up some jam. Scrape/push the jam with another spoon into the thumbprint center of all the cookies. Place back in the oven for 2-4 minutes until the cookies are golden, and the jam has melted/settled into the cookie. Remove from oven and cool on racks.
There are alternatives to my jam filling technique described above.
A) Bake the cookie with the jam in the cookie from the start. I find this cooks the jam giving it a weird skin.
B) Drop the jam into the cookies as they come out. This only sort of works in my experience. Often the jam doesn't melt into the thumbprint.
C) Melt the jam ahead of time, and spoon into the cookies as they come out. This is equally effective as my method, but creates an extra pan or bowl to clean. Not my style.