Christmas Cookie Magic – served best with ice cold milk or hot chocolate by Jessica
Updated: Dec 28, 2018
Chef Creon and I talk a lot about how food and family, memories and flavors- tastes and love influence us in creating amazing new recipes and flair and finesse on tried and true favorites. And what better time to think about this, then now, here in the middle of the holiday mêlée.
Holiday cooking traditions with my family really cemented my passion for making amazing food memories, ever since I was a very little girl.
My first Christmas cookie making memories involved me, standing on a chair at the kitchen counter next to my lovely mother and my dad’s grandma – she was my very first best friend and lived with us for a while.
My favorite, and hers (and my dad’s) were her Scandinavian Thumb Prints. Recipe shared below. These delicate little cookies don’t take a lot of ingredients, they are so simple and delicious- but always turn out with such a delicate crumb, and the tasty real-butter melt in your mouth feel that always leaves us hungry for at least one more cookie.
I think these were my first, and lifetime favorite Christmas cookie because even though I was so very little- she made me feel so important, so integral to the cookie baking process! She NEEDED my little thumbs in order to make the cookie! My little thumb! Can you even imagine? Dad and Santa’s favorite cookie was counting on the use of my very own little thumb! I can still remember the pride I took gently pressing my little thumbprint into the slightly warm, soft and velvety dough. The sweet smell of sugar and butter and pine tree in the air. These things bring me back to the very happiest Christmas memories of my life.
I realize now that of course, this is one of the simplest shortbread cookies you can make- and Creon and I love us some shortbread. We have experimented with a lot of browned butter cookie versions that would make my grandma blush, to be completely honest- but this simple original is somehow so delicious, you definitely won’t want to miss out on its classic goodness.
Once the cookies are shaped into their balls, you just quickly brush them with a simple egg wash (your leftover egg whites and water), dip them in crushed nuts- bake for about 5 minutes and then get your thumbs ready for action! Once they come out of the oven the first time- they bake for just 5-6 minutes at first- shape a little “thumbprint” for the filling- by pressing your thumb into the cookie ball- and voila, you have the perfect little bird nest-looking cookie. And then, the cookies go back into the over for about 8 more minutes. Once they come out, you must wait. Wait, wait, wait for the cookies to cool all the way. Now, full disclosure- looking back, I’m pretty sure my own little thumb probably was too small. They must have had to go back without me knowing and make that imprint a little bigger- but to me, I never would have thought that! I thought my special magic little girl thumbs had saved Christmas!
Once the cookies have cooled you just simply spoon in your favorite jam and they sparkle just like holiday jewels. In my childhood, my mom and grandma always used homemade jam. Strawberry jam was always a family favorite. I kind of personally enjoy raspberry jam, but my dad dislikes the seeds. These days you can buy a lot of high-quality organic jams and jellies in an astounding variety of flavors and colors- so I encourage you to play around and find your family’s favorites. Several times we dusted the little cookies with crushed pecans and filled them with a very softly sweet chocolate ganache. Yummy! Soo good! Oh and another time, we used a cream cheese filling and garnished with a sliced strawberry. So many fun options.
Enjoy the pictures, I’m sorry they’re not a better quality- you know from when the days where pictures were on small pieces of paper.
My mom has been gone 18 Christmases now. My Grandma Stanek has been gone 30 Christmases… but they will never ever be forgotten, and especially not at Christmas time. And my little sister and I now make these Christmas gems with her little kids, and I hope they feel just as special and just as loved and just as integral to creating the magic deliciousness of Christmas cookies. This is the kind of love and memories and heart that I pour into my recipes.
Merry Christmas Friends, from our families to yours. We love you!
Thumbprint Cookie Recipe
• 1 cup butter, softened- we always baked with salted butter, I know many people prefer to bake with unsalted; so honestly suit yourself
• 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
• 1-1/3 cup any flavor fruit jam
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Grease cookie sheets.
2. Separate eggs, reserving egg white. Cream butter, sugar, and egg yolk.
3. Add vanilla, flour and salt, mixing well.
4. Shape dough into balls- about 1” round or slightly bigger. Brush ball in egg white/water mixture, then roll in crushed walnuts- (or the nut of your choice.) Place on cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake for 5 minutes.
5. Remove cookies from oven. With thumb, dent each cookie. Bake for another 8 minutes.
6. Once cookies have cooled- Put jelly or preserves in each thumbprint.