Baking cookies is an integral part of the holiday season. Cookies for Santa, cookie swap parties, cookie boxes for neighbors and friends; the list of reasons to bake cookies during the holidays goes on and on. I, personally, reach for cookie recipes no matter what season it is, simply because I love to bake cookies. Like most human beings, I too have swooned, drooled, and marveled over the chewy, sometimes gooey, flavorful bliss of a cookie fresh from the oven, but in all honesty, it’s the simple, familiar, and comforting process of baking cookies that really does it for me. Baking cookies, particularly during the holiday season, is comfort in its purest form; and I believe it’s a comfort we should share.
What I love most about these raspberry almond thumbprint cookies, aside from the melt-in-your-mouth vanilla almond shortbread combined with a delicious orange-infused raspberry jam, is the process of making these cookies. This recipe involves a series of steps that are more “hands on,” which makes it a great recipe for baking with others. Making these cookies can easily become a fun project shared with family, friends, or even little ones, which is a subject I’m particularly passionate about. Baking with children is a great way to spend time together, create memories, and teach things like creativity and patience. Sure, things can get a little messy and your cookies may not look perfect, but in my experience, the benefits of time well spent together is far more important than messy countertops and less-than-perfect cookies.
My little boy helped me make these raspberry almond thumbprint cookies, and we had the best time together. He helped me by rolling the dough into balls, coating them in the turbinado sugar, and using the end of a wooden spoon to create little wells to hold the raspberry jam. My best advice for baking with children? Focus on the memory and not the end-product. Aim for time well spent, not perfection. And when it’s all said and done, enjoy a cookie (or two) with each other and then share some with a friend.
Merry Christmas and happy cookie season! I hope these delicious little Raspberry Almond Thumbprints find their way into your holiday cookie swaps, cookie jars, or cookie boxes real soon; you can bet they’ll be in mine!
For the thumbprint cookies:
226 gm (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
150 gm (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
270 gm (2 1/4 cups, spoon and leveled*) cake flour
Turbinado sugar, for rolling
For the raspberry filling:
107 gm (1/3 cup) raspberry jam**
1 teaspoon orange zest
For the almond glaze:
150 gm (1 1/4 cups) powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
To make the thumbprint cookies:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until very light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl halfway through and again at the end. Add the egg yolks, vanilla and almond extracts, and kosher salt and mix on medium speed until fully combined, about 30 seconds more.
Sift the cake flour directly into the mixing bowl. Mix on low speed until the dough comes together, being careful not to overmix. If there’s excess flour on the sides of the bowl, use a rubber spatula to scrape down and do a few gentle turns to incorporate into the dough.
Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill for at least 3 hours, up to overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the turbinado sugar in a small bowl and set aside. In another small bowl, stir together the raspberry jam and orange zest and set aside.
Pinch off pieces of dough and roll between the palms of your hands to form 1-inch balls. Roll each dough ball in the turbinado sugar, then place on the prepared baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart (NOTE: if you’re baking in batches, keep dough that you’re not working with in the fridge until ready to use). Using the back of a 1/4 teaspoon or the end of a wood spoon, create a well in the center of each ball. If the dough cracks, simply pinch it back together with your fingers. Fill each well with raspberry jam, then place in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes (this helps the cookies keep their shape in the oven).
Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the edges of the cookies are set. Allow the cookies to cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the almond glaze:
Place the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, almond extract, and milk in a small bowl, and whisk to combine. If necessary, add more milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until you’ve reached the desired consistency for drizzling. Drizzle over the cooled cookies and allow to set, about 30 minutes.
*How to measure flour using the spoon and level method: if you don’t have a kitchen scale, I recommend using the spoon and level method to measure your flour. This will give you a much more accurate measurement than scooping with a measuring cup. First, loosen the flour in the canister or bag by fluffing it with a fork. Next, spoon the flour into your measuring cup until it’s full. Then, holding the cup over the canister or bag of flour, use the back of a knife to level off the flour.
**Jam: I love raspberry jam for these cookies, but feel free to use any jam you like. Apricot, fig, or strawberry would also be delicious!
Storage: Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature. When stacking cookies, I prefer to separate layers with wax paper to prevent cookies from sticking together.