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Monday, December 19, 2011

Thumbprint Cookies

I've come across recipes for thumbprint cookies in various cookbooks but never inspired to bake a batch.
A while back a local pastry shop was selling them for the amount of three dollars a piece and even though they were a bit larger than the usual it made me wonder what ingredients might be in them to warrant such a high price.
I recalled seeing a recipe for Thumbprint Cookies in an old Betty Crocker cookbook and decided it was time I give them a try.
This was the first of many cookie books in my collection. The worn out pages are doing their best to cling to the ever strong spiral binding.
When my children were young they would occasionally sit at the kitchen table and leaf through the pages as if it was a picture book. Many little fingerprints remain where they pointed out the next cookie they wanted to see emerge from the oven.
A little research revealed that there are many variations of this recipe and their origin is somewhat of a mystery.
However, credit is given to the Polish or Jewish people of Eastern Europe and they can also be known as Polish Tea Cakes, Butterballs and Bird's Nest Cookies.
The ingredients are basic and preparation simple enough for kids to get their hands into and make.
The recipe in my cookie book appealed to me more than other recipes since brown sugar is used instead of granulated along with a combination of shortening and butter.
They have a wonderful shortbread taste which can only be enhanced by the quality of filling that is placed in the center.
I understand why people could be persuaded to pay such a price but personally speaking, the ease in which they can be made and inexpensive ingredients required would keep me from taking a trip to the bake shop.
Not caring much for using my thumb to make the dent in the center of the cookie I decided to use a thimble instead.
I soon discovered that I wasn't the first to come up with this idea. Recently, I came across an almost identical recipe and you guessed it...Thimble Cookies.

Thumbprint Cookies

1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
1 egg, separated
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
jelly or jam
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Beat sugar, shortening, butter, egg yolk and vanilla thoroughly.
  3. Sift together flour and salt then stir into butter mixture.
  4. Roll dough into balls (around one inch size)
  5. Beat egg white slightly with a fork.
  6. Dip balls into egg white then roll in nuts.
  7. Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheet.
  8. Make a dent in the center of each ball of dough.
  9. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until set.
  10. Cool, then fill with favourite jelly or jam.
  11. Makes about 30 cookies depending on size of balls.

Notes, Tips and Suggestions
  • After baking, dents will rise making less room for the filling. While the cookies are still on the baking sheet and hot, use thimble (or thumb if you wish to remain true to the name of the cookie) to reform the dent.
  • A small scoop comes in handy to measure out equal amounts of dough.
  • As always, a pastry bag and plain round tip makes the best filling tool.
  • Dents can also be made using the bottom of a round shaped 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon.
  • Cookies can be filled with melted chocolate as well.
  • Finely chopped pecans or almonds can also be used to roll the cookies in.
  • Store in one layer so not to mess up the jam centers.
  • These freeze very well.
  • thirty cookies at three dollars a piece... do the math.


  1. I just had a cookie at your daughter's home and can't find the recipe here. It was way too yummy to be legal, which is probably why it's not here.
    It's shaped like a crescent, with powdered sugar on it and it melts in your mouth like shortbread but has an almond taste. Please help!!!

  2. The "local bake shop" you speak of makes my eyes well up with tears as 'Sweet Tooth' was my most beloved shop near us and its abrupt closing last winter has still left a hole in my heart... but not my stomach as these cookies have helped! I like the thimble idea, clearly my 'nimble' thumb just wasn't cutting it! Lastly, this olive oil shortening works incredibly well with this recipe. I recommend a re-write! Maybe a whole post on its merits? Geez, you'd think I was working for the company.

  3. Dear lovely daughter,
    I believe you would be better qualified to do an exclusive post on olive oil shortening.
    Be my guest!

  4. These are my new second favorite Ma Manafo Christmas cookies (thanks to Daniel for pointing them out). The shortbreads are still up there in close contention though. But nothing will ever come close to the almond paste cookies. #1 forever!!!!!!