I am all about being fussy in my kitchen. I make pasta and pie crusts from scratch, have committed to a repertoire of homemade ice creams and a whole host of home-fermented foods. But for some reason, fussy cookies like rolled sugar cookies or these jam thumbprints are never on the top of my list. When thinking about a good cookie recipe to share today, I decided to revisit the nit-picky thumbprint, and I’m quite glad I did.
Jam thumbprints have been in my family for years, made up of fat, homemade jam middles and petite sizes that allowed me and my brothers to quickly pop them into our mouths relatively undiscovered. I rediscovered my love of a good thumbprint last year when I had one from the Viroqua Food Co-Op. I made my own (vegan) version several times over the year, but I will say that version is less time consuming than these I’m about to share. Fortunately, this time of year is all about going above and beyond, and maybe even for impressing a little.
The recipe calls for blanched almonds, which are really very easy to do yourself if you happen only to have raw almonds on hand. To blanch them (which means to remove the brown skins), simply bring a little pot of water to a boil, add the almonds and replace the lid, remove from the heat, and let stand for 3 minutes. Then drain the almonds, and the skins will be loosened and easy to remove. A half cup of almonds took me all of 2 minutes to slip the skins from, and I dried them on a kitchen towel before transferring to the food processor to grind into a fine meal for coating my cookies.
These cookies are a hybrid of whole grain flours which I feel makes them a little more interesting. You can use plain all-purpose flour if that is all you have on hand (1 ¼ cups if you go that route), and they will work out just fine. It also pays to have a good system in place for making these little guys. A good method is to measure all the dough into rough teaspoon shapes, then roll them all into balls. Then keep one hand for dousing the little cookie ball in the egg white, and one for rolling it in the almond meal and transferring to a sheet pan, you’ll save yourself some mess and frustration. Even if you experience a few extra dishes or hand washings, you’ll love the jewel-like appearance of these on your cookie plate.
Jam Thumbprints (inspired by Dreena Burton and Martha Stewart)
yield 3 1/2 dozen
¾ c. barley flour
¼ c. whole wheat flour
¼ c. oat flour
¼ t. salt
4 oz. (1 stick) butter
1 egg, separated
½ c. granulated sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
½ c. whole, blanched almonds, finely ground
2 T. confectioner’s sugar
½ c. (more or less) jam, any flavor
Preheat oven to 325. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Sift flours and salt together into a medium sized bowl.
In a large bowl, beat butter with granulated sugar for a full 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. (I like to use a hand mixer, but you can use a stand mixer if you prefer.) Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat well. Add the flours/salt to the butter/egg mixture and beat on low until just combined. The batter will be on the moist side and fairly sticky.
Combine the ground almonds with the confectioner’s sugar in a small bowl, and beat the egg white in another small bowl. Form the cookie batter into about 1 inch balls (a heaping teaspoon measure). Dip first in egg white, then roll in almonds. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between each cookie.
Using the bottom of a wooden spoon, make a round indentation in each cookie. I like to widen it a little with my finger, too. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven, and press down the centers again with the wooden spoon handle or your finger if working quickly (as to avoid getting burned). Rotate the sheets and continue baking until the cookies are browned, about 8-10 minutes longer.
Remove cookies to a wire rack, and immediately fill with jam. I used about ½ teaspoon per cookie, but it will depend on the size of your indentation.
So, they are a little fussy I suppose, but isn’t that what Christmas cookies are all about? Your reward will be popping a buttery thumbprint into your mouth and savoring it’s delicate crunch and pleasantly toothsome texture. I used my strawberry-guajillo jam from this Summer, so mine had a hint of warm chile as well. After a week of cookie making, I think I’m on my way to drawing this year’s Christmas baking to a close. I hope you have completed what you hoped as well, and if you have time for one more little project, how about a jam thumbprint?