Monday, December 16, 2013

Four Weeks of Cookies: Big Kid Thumbprints

 Four Weeks of Cookies is back, my friends! One cookie recipe for each week in December, in an effort to pack as much baking as possible into the holiday season. This year I promise to be more timely in my posts, i.e. I won't finish the series in March this time, and I will also be providing some more interesting cookie recipes. I may be a bit liberal with what counts as a cookie, spice it up with some cake pops, even. But who cares, it's all in the name of deliciousness and holiday cheer, so here we go.

For my first cookie recipe, I decided to go with something that really reminded me of Christmas. My first thought was linzer cookies, as those always bring the holiday season to mind, but eventually I settled on these thumbprint cookies, which have a similar feel. I call them big kid thumbprints, as they're a bit more sophisticated than your average thumbprint cookies, which are highly kid-friendly and pretty basic in terms of ingredients. This take, from the wonderful Dorie Greenspan, incorporates ground hazelnuts and almond extract into the batter, which gives the cookies a deeper, more complex flavor profile. If you're not a fan of hazelnuts, feel free to use almonds instead. I didn't buy enough hazelnuts, so I settled for a mixture of hazelnuts, almonds and pecans, as that's what I had on hand. Another difference is that these cookies are a bit crunchier than your run of the mill thumbprint. Pat is convinced they got softer the longer they sat out, although I'm not totally sure about that theory.

Make sure and use your best quality jam for this, as I think it really makes the difference. I used raspberry jam with a hint of lime left over from a Michigan farmers' market this summer, which was awesome, and it made the cookies that much better.

In terms of difficulty, I would put this recipe at about a 5 out of 10. So if you're looking for an easy yet impressive Christmas cookie, these big kid thumbprints definitely fit the bill.

Bon appetit!

PS- I got my first ever solo Christmas tree! See below. Pretty psyched about it.

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Big Kid Thumbprints
Makes 2-3 dozen cookies
1 3/4 c finely ground hazelnuts
1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
About 1 cup raspberry jam (or another flavor of your choice)

Position the racks to divide the oven in thirds and preheat to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

Whisk together ground nuts and flour.

Beat sugar and butter together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add extracts and beat to blend. Reduce speed to low and gradually add the nut-flour mixture, mixing only until it is incorporated into the dough.

Working with a teaspoonful of dough at a time, roll the dough between your palms to form small balls and place the balls 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Steadying each cookie with the thumb and finger of one hand, use the pinkie of your other hand, or the back 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 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the sheets 180 degrees when time is halfway up. The cookies should only be slightly colored- they may even look underdone, which is fine: they should not be overbaked. When the cookies are done, remove baking sheets from the oven and let the cookies rest of the sheets for 2 minutes before transferring them to cooling racks with a wide metal spatula and sifting confectioners' sugar over them.

Repeat with the remaining dough, remembering to cool the baking sheets before baking the next batch.

When the cookies are all done, bring the jam to a boil in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove from the heat and fill the indentations in the cookies with enough of the hot jam to come level with the tops. Cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container at room temperature or freeze for longer term storage.

Souce: Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

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