These cookies were inspired by a Hotline question I posted in the spring seeking ideas for what to serve at an open house for my daughter's baptism. ATG117 suggested jam thumbprint cookies. I not only thought it was a good idea, but I couldn’t wait to get into the kitchen to make some. I started by adapting a Dorie Greenspan recipe for thumbprint cookies which features hazelnuts and raspberry jam. I swapped out hazelnuts with almonds, added lemon zest for brightness (I think almost any butter cookie benefits from lemon zest), upped the vanilla, and omitted the confectioners’ sugar for dusting, finding it to detract from the shortbread. Instead of using jam, I decided to fill the thumbprints with dark chocolate sprinkled with a little sea salt. It definitely works well -- the rich, salty chocolate center is absolutely delicious with the fragrant vanilla-almond shortbread. And like most shortbread cookies, they keep remarkably well, making them perfect for gifting or preparing in advance for guests. Tightly covered, they should hold well for about a week, if they last that long! —EmilyC
about 2 dozen
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup almond meal
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature + 2 tablespoons (for chocolate filling)
¼ cup granulated sugar
finely grated zest from 1 small lemon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two small baking sheets (or one large one) with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour and almond meal.
In another small bowl, combine lemon zest with sugar. With the tips of your fingers, rub the zest and sugar together until they’re well integrated.
Combine the butter and sugar-zest mixture in the bowl of a stand or hand mixer. Beat them together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides of your bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the vanilla extract and beat for a few more seconds. Reduce the mixer speed to low, then add the almond meal-flour mixture a little at a time. Beat just until just incorporated into the dough -- don’t overmix.
Scoop teaspoon-sized balls of dough (a melon scoop works well) and roll them to form small balls. Place the balls about 2” apart on the parchment-lined baking sheets. Using your thumb, make an indentation in the center of each cookie. Make sure you don't press through the dough, but make sure the centers are plenty deep and wide to hold the chocolate filling.
Bake about 15 minutes, or until the cookies are only slightly colored around the edges; be careful to not overbake. (About 10 minutes in, I often check the thumbprint indentations -- if they seem too shallow, remove the cookie sheet and depress the centers while the dough is still soft. The curved back of a melon scoop or teaspoon works well.) When done, remove the baking sheets from oven and transfer the cookies to cooling racks. I like to do this by keeping the cookies on the parchment, and sliding the parchment onto the cooling rack.
To make chocolate filling: Using a double boiler or a small heat-proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, combine chocolate, 2 tablespoons butter, and golden syrup. Stir until melted and smooth. Cool slightly. When cookies are cool, fill the thumbprints with the chocolate, and then sprinkle with sea salt. Allow about an hour for the chocolate centers to set.