Make Ahead

Almond Thumbprint Cookies with Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt

June 10, 2012
4 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes About 2 dozen
Author Notes

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

What You'll Need
  • 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
  • 2 teaspoons golden syrup or light corn syrup
  • sea salt, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two small baking sheets (or one large one) with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour and almond meal.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Margaret Lukens
    Margaret Lukens
  • Raquel
  • janet tipple
    janet tipple
  • Carol Higgins
    Carol Higgins
  • Fancy and Casual
    Fancy and Casual

Recipe by: EmilyC

I'm a home cook. I love salads. Two things you'll always find in my refrigerator are lemons and butter, and in my pantry good quality chocolate and the makings for chocolate chip cookies.

56 Reviews

Lmnom November 7, 2022
My Mom loves anything almond flavored and chocolate, so these were a real winner for a Mothers Day gift a few years ago. This past Christmas, I tried doing a “chocolate orange” spin on the recipe and it turned out great! I used orange zest instead of lemon in the cookie and added some more orange zest to the chocolate mixture. So fun since a chocolate orange is one of my family’s favorite Christmas sweets! 😊
joyful December 16, 2021
these turned out great! A tiny bit fragile but so tasty. I even used a gluten free mix for the AP flour. I made a few batches and ran out of almond flour. I did have blanched almonds. I ground them up and it seemed OK. But when I cooked them they went flat. Well, live and learn. I just wanted to give you heads up about a substitution that didn't work. Directions in reviews calls for another type of almond (skin on), no reason to believe that won't work. But almond flour is readily available so many places now, it might be best getting that.
Margaret L. September 17, 2017
I made these a few days ago -- what a great recipe! I forgot to add the butter to the chocolate for the filling (clearly too eager to try them), so it was just chocolate and golden syrup, but that didn't hurt a thing. The texture of the filling was still fine. The cookies kept beautifully, even improving after a day or two at room temperature; beyond that, I can't say, since they didn't stay around.
Vanessa April 1, 2017
I liked that these use almond meal rather than extract, but next time I'd eliminate the zest. I think it overpowered the almond taste. I ground almonds but would try doing it finer next time as well because mine were a bit crumbly and some were hard to roll.
Michelle December 24, 2016
Wondering if I can sub 8oz marzipan for the almond meal + sugar
Raquel November 4, 2016
These were so good. I added a couple drops of almond extract for a more intense almond flavor and ate almost every cookie myself!
Alysonne H. December 23, 2015
I made these for Christmas, and I think they turned out great. I followed the recipe (but doubled it), and I did add one egg to the dough in response to the comments here re: dryness. I am traveling with the cookies and wanted them to be sturdy. They turned out beautifully, but I'll stick to the original recipe next time. I'm sure the egg didn't *hurt,* but I think the richness of the shortbread didn't quite come through the way it may have without the egg. They're still delicious, and very beautiful.
EmilyC December 23, 2015
So glad these worked out well for you! Merry Christmas!
Julie December 12, 2015
Made these today, and they were delicious! Based on the previous reviews about the dough being dry, I mixed in an egg in with the butter and sugar, before mixing in the dry ingredients. This made the dough perfect to work with, and it didn't seem to affect the baking time. I also didn't bother with the corn syrup and it was fine, although i did have to add a bit more butter to melt the chocolate to a creamier consistency. Will definitely make these again!
EmilyC December 14, 2015
Wonderful! Thanks for reporting back!
janet T. December 19, 2014
They seem very fragile. I have a recipe for a almond cookies that is very similar but adds egg; and they travel very well. I take a lot of cookies to friends at work and am wondering if adding an egg yolk would help theses hold together better. Any thoughts?
EmilyC December 19, 2014
Hi Janet -- I haven't tried this but it seems like a good idea. Please let us know if you go this route.
Carol H. April 6, 2014
Do you really need the syrup? Syrup is just so high in sugar. I am afraid the lovely dark chocolate will come out tasting sweet, also.
EmilyC April 7, 2014
Hi Carol, The golden syrup contributes a nice shine and body to the chocolate without adding a noticeable sweetness in my opinion. You could leave it out, but the chocolate will be duller in appearance.
potatoes February 15, 2014
Similar to others, my dough was very crumbly and dry. But, it was also SUPER difficult to form it into balls that would actually hold their shape, let alone hold enough for me to indent them. I ended up with a crumbly mess on my cookie sheet :( They tasted great, but for some reason these did not work well for me.
EmilyC February 21, 2014
Sorry to hear this! The times I've made them, I've never had dry dough, but I wonder if you could troubleshoot dry dough by forming it into a log, chilling it, and then breaking off small pieces and rolling them? In any case, thanks for trying them and for the feedback.
PssP February 8, 2014
I am unable to find the Almond meal in my regular grocery store.... How can i make it? Can i substitute it ?
EmilyC February 8, 2014
Here are good instructions:
Fancy A. December 15, 2013
These are absolutely delicious! The lemon zest really adds an interesting flavor to the cookie
EmilyC December 17, 2013
Oh good, so glad you liked them! Thanks for your note.
Michelle D. November 27, 2013
Nice cookie. I am enjoying one with coffee right now. I simply omitted the syrup and the chocolate filling still came out with a great texture. I also left out the parchment, as I often do to avoid waste, and removal and cleanup was still a cinch. I did find the dry dough was time-consuming to form into balls and indent.
EmilyC November 27, 2013
Thanks, Michelle, for your note -- glad you tried and liked them. Wish I had one with my coffee right now! Happy Thanksgiving!
betty888 October 26, 2013
Super easy and really tasty. One of my friends called it a "grownup cookie", because it's not too sweet. This one will be in rotation for a long time, I'm sure.
EmilyC October 27, 2013
Thanks so much!
lschrive October 3, 2013
These were great - I made them with my 3 year old. Even though the dough seemed dry, she and I had no trouble rolling them into balls. I foresee making these a lot! Thank you for the idea.
EmilyC October 3, 2013
So glad you liked them! I too have a 3 year old who is my cookie-making accomplice. Cute profile pic! : )
Kendra A. September 16, 2013
I made these on Friday evening to share with friends on Saturday, and they were a huge hit! I made one batch exactly as written, and a second one with some caramel under the chocolate. Both were wonderful, and I will definitely be making them again!
EmilyC September 23, 2013
Great to know -- thanks for trying them!
chef H. March 18, 2013
Brilliant! Thanks for your help.
chef H. March 17, 2013
I read in the introductory comments a reference to caramel...I do have some delicious caramel brought back from Brittany, France. How do I use this as a filling without it being too "oozy"?
EmilyC March 18, 2013
If the caramel isn't thick enough to work as the filling, I'll bet it would be delicious drizzled over the cookies instead!
chasey March 17, 2013
Has anyone made these with only almond meal and none of the wheat flour?