A terrible storm has hit Los Angeles.
See? Terrible. There are barely any sun breaks at all. The news stations are full of dire warnings (WATERSPOUTS!) which I’m sure are legitimate for certain small areas of the region, but for 99% of us, it’s a rainy day. And for a girl from Seattle-adjacent, well, it’s basically a summery day. I love the rain. I miss it daily. I suspect I might be part newt, because the minute the sky goes that gorgeous shade of dirty laundry water, I get all ten kinds of energetic. Also I have a fear of public interaction, and rain means no talking! Hooray!
So I woke up this morning kind of mopey from the bad news we received last week, and then it started raining and I felt better and wanted cookies. I mean, either way I wanted cookies, those last two things were unrelated.
Enter: mom’s thumbprint cookies. I have very old memories of being a toddler? Barely older than that? And being allowed to make the thumbprint in the cookie. As I aged and cultivated a less mature taste, I started to prefer more jam, and the “thumbprint” turned into giant cup for the jam to rest in, god bless it and keep it.
The dough is dead easy to make, and the hardest part of the whole ordeal is rolling each ball of dough in egg white and then pressing the chopped nuts into it. After that it’s any kind of jam or jelly or curd you have on hand, and if you’re me then you’ll have a hard time narrowing it down to which six you want to use.
rhubarb, marionberry, elderflower marmalade, fig marmalade, passionfruit curd, apricot
They’re good holiday cookies since they can be baked, frozen and then thawed to eat, but really that means they’re great all the time. Make a batch, freeze half, take one out when you want to eat it, wait 15 minutes and voila, thawed and ready. Maybe a touch chilly. Microwave for authentic nuclear-hot-jam-cauterizing-your-tongue-straight-from-the-oven action.
the cookies can be made almost any size. we’ve made them tiny, we’ve made them huge (like for reals, maybe we should have called them “fistprints”), just watch the time and see how fast they’re browning. also, part of the fun is seeing which jams turn to liquid and run all out of the cookies and which don’t. i honestly and truly cannot believe that none of my six jams did this in that photo up there. totally unheard of. if you don’t believe in using vegetable shortening (or can’t find it) then all butter will work, but the texture will be different.
4oz (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 egg yolks (reserve the whites)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups flour
2 egg whites (reserved from the yolks)
2 cups nuts, chopped, any kind you like but I like walnuts best
jam, any kind you like
- Heat oven to 325.
- Cream butter and sugar together by mixing on medium speed until smooth and light in color, about 5 minutes. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, mixing until combined. Scrape the bowl down. Add the vanilla and almond extracts, mix to combine, and then add the flour and salt, mixing until just combined. The dough will be stiff and not at all sticky.
- In a small bowl, whisk the egg whites with a fork or small whisk until the stringy gloopy bits are broken down a little, about 1 minute. The whites will get a little frothy from this, and that’s okay. Put the chopped nuts into a second small bowl.
- Starting a little assembly line, first form the dough into balls, about 1 Tbsp in size (I used a 1.5 Tbsp. scoop to make mine). Then, using one hand, quickly drop the ball into the egg whites to coat, then lift right out to let it drain for a few seconds. That hand is now the “egg white hand”. Drop the ball into the chopped nuts and use the other hand to turn and press into the nuts to get a nice, even coat. That hand is now the “nuts hand”. Continue in this manner until all the balls are coated and set out on cookie sheets.
- Wipe your hands free of any excessive egg white and nuts and then form the thumbprints. I find I like to use two hands, one to keep the sides of the cookie roughly circular and the other thumb to actually to the pressing. Don’t fuss or worry about what it looks like, these are rustic-looking cookies. Just take some care not to leave any massive cracks or low spots or else your jam will run out of the cookie as it bakes.
- Fill each cookie with jam and then bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the cookie is visibly light brown around the edges. Transfer to a cookie sheet to cool and resist trying to eat one as long as possible or you’ll have a lip blister for your troubles. The jam is like pizza cheese – impossibly hot against all laws of physics.
- To freeze when they are cool, stack in a plastic container with sheets of wax paper between layers. To thaw, either microwave for 10 seconds or let sit at room temperature for 15 – 30 minutes. Eat with tea and scheme the downfall of others.