Jan 10, 2012

Extra Curricular Activities - Classic Thumbprint Cookies

Happy 2012!  And with the start of a new year, here is a Christmas cookie recipe…doh!  Well I certainly had good intentions of getting this recipe out to you before the holiday, but time was just not on my side.  In less than two weeks we traveled to both Lebanon and the US to visit our families for Christmas, so needless to say I got sidetracked…then jet lagged. 

But the good news is this cookie recipe is a classic and can really be made any time of the year.  For my family however, the Thumbprint Cookie was a Christmas staple.  My Grandmother made these every year and quite honestly as I child I was never interested in them.  I think the jam threw me off.  I was much more interested in chocolate and candy and anything overly processed. 
However as I grew older I really learned to love these little gems.  Not only do they look fabulous but the combination of the buttery crisp cookie, crunch of the toasted pecans and the sweet bite of the jam is a winning combo for any picky palette.

You'll notice that the recipe calls for 'butter flavored' Crisco.  God I know it sounds awful if you're not familiar with it.  I can't imagine that any top pastry chef would use something described as 'butter flavored' but trust me just go with it.  As I mentioned, this is an American classic cookie and sometimes you just have to follow the recipe, at least for traditions sake.  If you cannot find Crisco, you can easily substitute butter if you wish.  The substitution swap is equal, I cup Crisco = I cup butter.

Classic Thumbprint Cookies

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup Crisco Butter Flavored Shortening
3 large eggs, separated
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups finely chopped pecans (toast in oven prior to chopping, 5-7 minutes at 350 degrees)
1 cup preserves, your choice (I used 1/2 cup blackberry and 1/2 cup apricot to have two different fillings)

Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Adjust rack to middle position. Coat two cookie sheets lightly with non-stick cooking spray.
Beat brown sugar and shortening in medium bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes or until fluffy.

Scrape down sides of bowl. Add egg yolks, water, vanilla and salt.  Beat until well combined.  

Add flour on low speed until well blended.

 Beat egg whites in a shallow bowl until foamy.

Now you'll want to set up yourself an assembly line.  One bowl cookie dough, one bowl egg whites, and one bowl chopped pecans.  Have your greased cookie sheet handy since things are about to get sticky.

Measure about 2 teaspoons dough for each cookie.  I pre-rolled all the balls before I dipped them since your hands will get messy with the eggs/nuts.

Dip each dough ball into egg whites, then roll into pecans.  I suggest using one hand to dip into the egg whites and your other hand for the pecans.  Place on prepared cookie sheet.

Using the back of a teaspoon or your thumb, make a rounded indentation in the top of each cookie.  Don't worry if the sides crack as shown here.  Just go back and pinch them together. 

Bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven.  As you can see the cookies puff up while baking and you may need to create the indentation once again with a spoon.

Have your jam ready and place about 1 teaspoon preserves into the indentation of each cookie.

Bake an additional 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven. Cool on baking sheet for several minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool completely.

adapted from Crisco

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