Recipe By: Chef John
“My mother, Pauline, made really nice thumbprint cookies, but I never wrote down her recipe. I knew the ingredients, but unless you have the right proportions, you won’t get that perfect melt-in-your-mouth texture. So, I did an image search and found a recipe that looked very similar, credited to a great-grandma named Mitzi. Since my last name is Mitzewich, that pretty much sealed the deal. In case you can’t decide between a shortbread-focused cookie and a more jammy one, here’s how to make both.”
- 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup unsifted powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup white sugar, or as needed
- 1/2 cup fruit jam, divided
- 1 cup powdered sugar, or as needed
- 1 tablespoon milk, or as needed
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
- Mix butter and powdered sugar together with a rubber spatula until creamy. Add vanilla extract, almond extract, salt, and egg yolk. Mix with the spatula. Add flour and blend until just combined.
- Use a sorbet scoop to portion dough into 1/2-ounce (1-tablespoon) balls. Roll balls in a plate of white sugar to coat; roll again between your palms. Place several inches apart on a silicone-lined baking sheet. Flatten balls lightly with your fingers.
- To make shortbread cookies with a little jam, poke a well into each cookie using the end of a thick wooden spoon dusted with powdered sugar or using one of your fingers. Fill cookies with fruit jam. Tap baking sheet against the counter to let jam settle.
- Bake in the preheated oven until tops are barely blonde and bottoms are slightly golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack before icing.
- Meanwhile, mix powdered sugar with a little milk until you have a consistency that will hold its shape when piped. Pipe icing on top of cookies in a zigzag pattern. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving.
- For a more jam-forward cookie, press your thumb into the cookies to make large, shallow indentations. Spoon in jam. Tap baking sheet against the counter.
- Bake until not quite golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let rest on pan for 5 minutes before transferring a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar.