- Prep time 2 hours 45 minutes
- Cook time 12 minutes
- makes About 2 dozen cookies
A twist on the traditional thumbprint cookie and a play on the old "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" vibe of the holiday season, this buttery soft cookie has hints of cinnamon, sweet fig, and a subtle chestnut crunch. It was once impossible to walk from one Manhattan street corner to the next without passing through the smoky billows of chestnuts roasting over open coals. Today the tradition is less common in the streets of New York but still present across the globe in Italy, across East Asia, and eternally memorialized in song.
Without a local street vendor, chestnuts are an easy find in the autumn and winter seasons at the grocery store, usually pre-packaged and pre-roasted for cooking convenience. Their hard shells, once roasted or boiled, crack open to a soft and starchy nut that you can sink your teeth into like a boiled potato. Their flavor is mild and, if roasted over fire, a little smoky. In savory recipes, chestnuts are wonderful for thickening soups and stews. They add nuttiness to dressings, and are great for candying. In this recipe, the chestnut is pulsed into a coarse meal and replaces some of the flour, adding moisture to the delicate and buttery crumb. The remaining coarsely chopped chestnuts are rolled onto the exterior of the thumbprint cookie with the addition of sugar and warming cinnamon or cardamom to add a touch of spice and crunch as the cookies bake up and invite the scent of the season in.
For the Cookies
(235 grams) all-purpose flour
sticks (¾ cup/170 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
(100 grams) granulated sugar
(100 grams) peeled and roasted chestnuts (pre-roasted from the grocery store is just fine)
(100 grams) of fig jam
For the Chestnut Crumble (optional)
(50 grams) peeled and roasted chestnuts
ground cardamom, cinnamon, or nutmeg
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Set aside.
- In a large bowl with a hand or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar, 2 to 3 minutes, until the butter is lighter in color and texture.
- Mix in the egg and beat until just incorporated.
- In a food processor, pulse the roasted chestnuts into a coarse grind; you should have about 1 cup ground chestnuts. Add to the cookie batter along with half of the dry mixture. Mix on low speed until just incorporated, then add the remaining flour and fold in until crumbly. Using clean hands, pull the dough into a smooth ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
- Remove the cookie dough from the refrigerator and let rest for about 10 minutes. If making the optional chestnut crumble, pulse the remaining ½ cup of roasted chestnuts in a food processor until coarsely ground. In a small bowl, mix the chestnuts with sugar and cardamom.
- Heat the oven to 350°F. Using a tablespoon to assist, roll the dough into 1-inch balls. If using, roll half of the ball in the chestnut and sugar mixture and place coated side up on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, about 2 inches apart. Using the back of a measuring teaspoon or your thumb, gently press into the center of the ball without touching the cookie sheet. If the thumbprint causes any cracks, allow the dough 3 to 5 minutes to rest and try again. Repeat with the remaining dough and chestnut crumble.
- Fill each thumbprint with ½ teaspoon fig jam. Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, until pale golden at the edges and dry-looking. Allow the cookies to cool about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.