For whatever reason, “thumbprint” jelly cookies seem synonymous with the holidays. We’re not sure where or when this tradition started, but it seems that everyone has their own favorite recipe for them.
KD favors a recipe from Fine Cooking for Pecan Thumbprint Jam Cookies. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and start by whisking together 1/2 teaspoon salt with 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar until blended.
Next, mix 1 & 1/2 cups of softened, unsalted butter with 1&1/2 cups of toasted, finely ground pecans in a bowl. We used a hand mixer, at a medium speed for roughly 3 minutes. Once the mixture is soft, add the salt, sugar and 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract and beat for about a minute. Finally, scrape the bowl with a spatula and then, using low speed, slowly blend in 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons of unbleached all-purpose flour, mixing until fully combined.
The recipe calls for rolling the dough into roughly one inch balls, placing them two inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet and using your thumb to create a shallow depression to hold the jam.
KD prefers to make a more substantial square reservoir using the end of a chopstick rest.
It holds a bit more filling and helps prevent the jelly from running over the lip and spilling down the side of the cookie during the cooking process.
The original recipe uses red raspberry preserves (with seeds) to fill the thumbprints, which is fine, but we like to change things up a bit. Also, KD really likes the idea of jellies, jams and preserves and therefore buys a fair amount of them, often leaving us wondering what to do with them all. We decided to try out four different varieties, Prickly Pear Cactus Jelly, Choke Cherry Jelly from New Lane Sundries, Beach Plum Jelly made by Roberta Morgan of the Harbor Craft Shop in Menemsha (the little shop right next to The Bite), and Elderberry Jelly from Morning Glory Farm. The cookies bake for about twenty minutes, or until golden brown.
The cookies themselves are mildly sweet, with a crumbly texture similar to shortbread. The bits of pecan give them a nutty flavor that is brought out by the salt and contrasts nicely with the butteriness of the cookie. Closely related to Black Cherries, Choke Cherries are much smaller, and while usually dark, can sometimes be red in color. The fruit is naturally bitter, requiring additional sugar when preserved. New Lane’s jelly had a deep tartness, like a plump dark red cherry, but less sweet, with a complex flavor that has a touch of bitterness. The jelly reminded us a bit of homemade cranberry sauce, with a pleasant acidic bite.
The Prickly Pear Cactus Jellyhas an interesting flavor, sweet and tangy but also vegetal. It definitely tastes like cactus but also has a bright lemon flavor and perhaps a hint of mint. Worth checking out if you are bored with regular jellies.
Beach Plums can be used in many different ways (see our post on beach plum cordial) but jelly seems to be the most popular preparation. Not too sweet, this jelly balanced sugar with tartness and still tasted a bit “wild”, like the plums had just been picked. While not the most scientific term, we both agreed that it tasted very “purple.” Morning Glory’s Elderberry Jelly has a distinct, almost flowery quality and perhaps a hint of licorice flavor. It has an “old-time” taste like something your grandmother might’ve made. It goes really well with the cookies, and if certain folklore is true, might also keep witches away.
If, like us, you have half a dozen half full jars of jelly in the ‘fridge, these cookies are the perfect solution. They’re also really easy to make, and people love when you show up with a plate full of them to share.
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