Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmas Cookies: Jam Thumbprints

It's December 1st so I guess I can officially start posting about Christmas!  (I just made that rule up right now, by the way).  Apparently, my thermostat also knew it was the first day of December because when I got up this morning it registered 49 degrees and all morning has been hovering around 54 degrees F!  I can see eyes rolling in Maryland, New York and Massachusetts.  But this is FLORIDA, people!!!  (Colleen, at least you get me, right?!)

Well, I wish I could say it was the calendar or the thermostat that forced me to start baking, but really it was just that I've had this recipe bookmarked for a while and I was dying to give them a try.  And honestly, what better excuse is there than making Christmas Cookies?!!

These do require a little bit lot of patience:  you have to make the dough and then let it chill out in the fridge for a few hours or overnight, and forming the powdery cookie dough into balls and then rolling in egg whites and chopped nuts is not for the faint-hearted cookie-maker (Talking to you, Mom.  I know you won't take offense to that!) BUT they are Oh-So-Worth-It!  Buttery, delicate shortbread, sweet and tart jam or lemon curd and crunchy, toasty nuts.  These are Christmas Cookies at their finest, a perfect addition to a Holiday Cookie Tray or sweet homemade holiday gift.  Of course, I am not suggesting you should only make these around the holidays, they would be perfect with a cup of tea or served as a light dessert to company any time of the year.  Did I mention what a great gift they would make?  I certainly wouldn't mind getting a tin full of these babies for Christmas (hint, hint)....

You can take some liberties with this recipe too, as I did.  The original recipe called for walnuts but I had pecans, so I used those.  Just make sure they are very finely chopped so they stick to the cookie dough.  And you can be creative with the filling too, I filled half of my cookies with strawberry jam and the other half with lemon curd (both were DELICIOUS!), and I think raspberry jam or even apricot preserves would be lovely.  Or what about orange marmalade?  I think you could even use something like melted caramels or melted chocolate for an even more decadent treat...just a suggestion.

Jam Thumbprints
makes 18 cookies
original recipe from the Better Homes and Garden Cookbook, as found here

2/3 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, whites and yolks divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans (or walnuts)
1/2 cup cookie filling of choice:  jam, preserves, lemon curd, melted caramel or chocolate (I filled half of the cookies with strawberry jam and the other half with lemon curd)

Beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds.  Then, add the sugar and cream them together until light and fluffy.  Beat in both egg yolks and vanilla until combined.  Add in flour and stir, just until combined (you may have to work the last bit in by hand, as the dough will be rather dense,  powdery and dry).  Turn the cookie dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and form it into a large ball, wrapping the dough tightly with the plastic wrap.  Chill dough ball in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  If your dough is very hard to work with (i.e. too cold and crumbly), allow it to sit out at room temperature for about 15-20 minutes to soften before forming into balls.  (See note, below)  Shape the dough into small balls, about 1- 1 1/2 inch in diameter, then roll the ball in the egg whites, followed by the chopped nuts.

Place the cookies at least 1 inch apart on the lined cookie sheet.  Press your thumb (or the back of a teaspoon) into the tops of the cookies to leave a slight dip in the center.  Spoon the jam or curd into the little wells you have formed in the cookies (alternately, you can wait and fill the cookies after baking, once the cookies have cooled - perhaps this would be best for the melted caramel or chocolate option).

Bake cookies for 10-13 minutes, until edges are lightly browned.  Transfer to a wire rack and cool.  Fill indented centers with jam/filling if you haven't already done so.

Julia's note:  I left my dough in the refrigerator overnight.  When I took it out the next day it was very hard and I did not wait for it to warm up before I started forming it into cookie balls.  The first few balls I made were very crumbly and kept falling apart, then they broke up when I baked them.  The cookies I formed after the dough had been sitting out about 15 minutes were much easier to form and they stayed intact during baking!  You have been warned :-)  Also, I filled my cookies before baking.  As I noted above, if you decide to try filling your cookies with something really melty/oozy like chocolate or caramel you may want to wait to fill them until they have come out of the oven.

Do you bake Christmas Cookies?  What are your favorite kinds to give and get?

My Grandma has made christmas cookies every year that I can remember:  Lots of different kinds of German cookies:  spritzgebaack cookies, sacher tortes, frosted gingerbread cookies, vanille kipferl....some are dipped in chocolate, some have sprinkles or colored sugar crystals, others are dusted with powdered sugar.  They are my favorite Christmas present every year because I know how many hours days it takes her to bake them all, it just wouldn't be Christmas without them!

 P.S.  By special request, I'll be sharing my regular feature, my weekend recap...just a little later in the week than usual.  Stay tuned...

1 comment:

  1. favorites are the vanilla kipferl and sacher tortes. I love the idea of using lemon curd in these cookies, what a delightful idea, and would go perfectly with tea.


I love comments! Leave me some love!