These cookies are fabulous. I loved everything about them. From their jewel toned eyes to their lacy dressing of powdered sugar. They remind me of exotic, ancient symbols (not as intricate as hieroglyphics) but quietly beautiful enough that had they been discovered in a heavy, bronze box, they may have caused a stir in the archaeological world. Or they are simply classic enough to have been served to the British Egyptologists at tea time during the 1920's. The remnants of my 'I want to be Indiana Jones' phase have left their mark.
Until this recipe came up, I had never made thumbprint cookies. The reason being that the name bothered me a little bit. Something about the thought of sticking a thumb directly into a cookie and serving it to people just didn't sit well. But then again this is coming from someone who will sometimes lick the bowl and beaters until they're bone dry, so it's not as though I'm a poster child for the prim and proper. Dorie said we can use the heel of a wooden spoon to poke the holes so that was a relief to my idiosyncratic mind.
These had that delicate yet sublime richness that comes from a lot of butter crammed into a small cookie. They could have easily been enjoyed plain with only the sweet company of powdered sugar. I used finely ground almonds but the actual recipe calls for hazelnuts. It's alright to use any kind of nut you prefer. I love blueberries. The only way to make blueberries better is to serve them with almonds. They are the culinary pastry version of the dynamic duo. The sweet juicy flavour of the blueberry married with the nutty vague bitterness of almonds. It's as though the blueberries save the almonds from a life of self-imposed solitude and the almonds offer the blueberries some intellectual worldliness. Apricots get along with everyone. They're kind of annoying that way. But it gave the cookies some variety.
Blueberry and Apricot Almond Thumbprints:
(recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours)
1/2 cup + a well-rounded 1/4 cup of finely ground almonds
1/2 cup + 1/4 + 1/8 of a cup of all purpose flour
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) of butter, at room temp.
1/4 cup of sugar
1/4 teaspoon of almond extract
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
About 1/2-1 cup of your favourite jam(s)
Confectioners sugar for dusting
In a medium bowl, whisk together the ground almonds, and flour. Set aside.
In a separate larger bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add both extracts and beat to blend. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the nut-flour mixture, mixing only until it is incorporated into the dough. Cover and refrigerate for about 20-30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set them aside.
Working with a well-rounded teaspoonful of dough at a time, roll the dough into balls and place them about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Steadying each cookie with your fingers, use the end of a wooden spoon to poke a hole in the center of each cookie. Be careful not to go all the way down to the baking sheet.
Bake for 13-16 minutes. The cookies should only be slightly browned. They may look underdone, which is fine. You don't want to overbake them. When the cookies are baked, remove the baking sheets from the oven and let the cookies rest on their sheets for 2 minutes before transferring them to cooling racks. If the holes have puffed up during baking, gently push them in again with the end of a wooden spoon (be sure to do this while they are still warm.) Place the cooling racks over a sheet of paper towel or parchment paper and sift some confectioners sugar over all the cookies.
Filling: In a small saucepan, bring the jam to just a boil over low heat. You can also do this in the microwave. Fill the holes of all the cookies with enough of the hot jam to come to level with the tops. Cool to room temperature.
Makes 25-30 Cookies
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