I was recently asked if there was a dish that I was “known” for and I surprised myself because I didn’t have an answer to the question. I replied with a Butternut Squash Lasagna, which is a dish I picked up from a former colleague and mentor. It’s true that the Butternut Squash Lasagna always gets compliments and I’ve passed the recipe on numerous times, but this isn’t the season for butternut squash.
A week after I was asked the question, I found myself baking gifts and going to my old standby – thumbprint cookies. It’s amazing how quickly these cookies became a standby recipe for me, I think I’ve only had the recipe for 3-4 years. The base recipe is from an issue of Food Network Magazine but now I can’t find the source recipe online and I’ve modified since then anyway. These cookies aren’t the most innovative or of a special gourmet caliber, but anyone who’s known me for a year or more has probably had them. I love this recipe because I have it memorized, it’s easy, and the results are consistent and predictable. The contrast of the savory sea salt and the sweetness of the jam makes this recipes surprising on the tongue and the buttery cookie holds it all together. I’ve made this with apricot and blackberry jams as well, but I think strawberry is the best. Every now and then, I add a little almond extract to change things up, but it isn’t necessary. The cookies keep well in the freezer for a couple of weeks and they also travel well, so they make great gifts. The strawberry is a great summer flavor, but the butter cookie also fits in the winter spirit. Need I do any more convincing? Try them for yourself.
STRAWBERRY THUMBPRINT COOKIES
(makes about 40 cookies)
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
12 tablespoons butter, softened
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
approx. ¼ cup strawberry jam (use the good stuff, all fruit preserves are ideal)
Pre-heat oven to 350F. In a small bowl, combine the flour, sea salt, and baking powder and whisk together. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and extracts until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
Add half of the dry ingredients and beat on low speed until just combined, then add the remaining ingredients and beat on low speed until the dough just starts to come together.
Knead the dough lightly just a few times to bring the dough together.
Form the dough into teaspoon shaped balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or, my fave, a silicone baking mat. Place the balls about ½ inch apart. On an 11×17 jelly roll pan I can fit twenty cookies, five across and four in width. I have two pans and two liners so another reason I love this recipe is that I can get all the cookies made in one fell swoop no need to cool the cookies, cool the baking sheets, etc.
Make a small indentation in each of the cookies. I usually do this with the back of a ¼ teaspoon measuring spoon and the press it lightly with my finger to make the indentation.
The dough might be a little sticky, so just be gentle. Fill the indentations with jam, usually this takes just under 1/4 teaspoon of jam per cookie.
Bake until the edges of the cookies are golden, about 15 minutes. Let them cool for 2-3 minutes on the baking sheet then transfer to wire racks to allow the cookies to cool completely. Eat!