I have been on a serious manhunt for my “go-to” thumbprint cookie recipe. I’ve tried nearly a half-dozen recipes over the last month and just hadn’t found the one. Thumbprints are a cookie that I remember seeing on countless cookie trays around the holidays growing up. The ones filled with strawberry jam and rolled in nuts were always my favorite. I wanted a thumbprint that was buttery soft and a perfect ratio of dough and jam filling. Most of the recipes that I tried were too much like buttery shortbread that, while delicious, were too crumbly when you bit into them. I finally swapped out half of the butter for shortening and used only brown sugar instead of white sugar, and I ended up with exactly what I had hoped for when I began my thumbprint quest. I now have a huge batch of them in my freezer, ready for Christmas cookie trays!
You can customize these cookies in a number of different ways to suit your tastes. Instead of rolling the cookies in sugar, you can dip them in some beaten egg whites, then roll them in chopped nuts or shredded coconut. The filling is totally up to you – I did a mixture of blackberry jam, strawberry jam, and apricot preserves. Surprisingly, my favorite is the apricot! You could also do chocolate, caramel, dulce de leche… there are tons of possibilities!
I’m thrilled to have come up with a favorite thumbprint recipe; it’s one that will be part of my holiday baking for years to come.
A traditional recipe for soft, butter-flavored thumbprints filled with jam.
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup vegetable shortening
½ cup light brown sugar
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons milk
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup your favorite jam, jelly or preserve
Granulated sugar, for rolling
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat; set aside.
2. Cream together the butter, shortening and brown sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes or until fluffy. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add the egg yolks, milk, vanilla and salt, and beat until well combined. Reduce the mixture speed to low and gradually add the flour, mixing until well blended.
3. Measure about 2 teaspoons dough for each cookie and roll into balls. Place the granulated sugar in a small bowl and roll the balls of dough in the sugar to coat. Using the back of a teaspoon or your thumb, make a deep rounded indentation in the top of each cookie.
4. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from oven. (At this point there was a little bit of melted butter underneath the cookies, but when they finished cooking it was all absorbed, and they were perfect!) It may be necessary to create the indentation once again with a spoon. Place about 1 teaspoon jam, jelly or preserves into the indentation of each cookie. Bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from oven. Cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. The cookies can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 1 month.