Preserves in Action: Thumbprint Cookies from The Cookiepedia

December 10, 2011(updated on October 18, 2023)
The Cookiepedia

Thumbprint cookies are a classic way to incorporate homemade preserves into a simple dessert and a favorite of mine. Funny thing though. In the nearly three years that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve never managed to post a recipe for this sweet little cookie.

inside The Cookiepedia

Then, about a month or so ago, a review copy of The Cookiepedia landed in my mailbox. It’s a charming book, full of beautiful photos and approachable recipes. The recipes are divided by Buttery, Chocolatey, Fancy, Fruity, Spicy and Nutty/Seedy and I hoping to bake from them all. But very best of all, it contains a VERY nice looking thumbprint recipe. It was kismet.

sour cherry thumbprints

Now, before any of you chime in to say that you can’t stand gloppy thumbprints of our collective youth, remember that the quality of the cookie is entirely related the quality of the ingredients you start with. A thumbprint is essentially a lightly sweetened butter cookie that gets the bulk of the flavor from the jam you spoon in. If you use crappy butter and characterless jam, your cookies will be sub-par.

hollow cookies

However, if you use good butter and excellent, homemade jam, your cookies will be exceptional. I used sweet organic butter and two jams from last summer. Half the cookies were filled with chunky apricot jam and the others were filled with sour cherry preserves. The sour cherries made a particularly good cookie filling because they held together really well.

filled thumbprints

You start these cookies by creaming 1 cup unsalted butter with 2/3 cup granulated white sugar. When it’s nice and fluffy, add 2 egg yolks and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract*.

Sift together 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix to combine. At first it will look like there’s no way that it will come together to form a moist dough, but I promise, it will happen.

sour cherry thumbprints

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper. Scoop dough out into 1 tablespoon sized balls (a cookie scoop makes this MUCH easier. I also use the same one to portion meatballs on a regular basis. It’s a handy tool).

Roll the dough into balls and press a hollow into the center of each cookie with your thumb (dip your thumb into a dish of water every third or fourth cookie to keep the dough from sticking).

thumbprint cookies

Dollop approximately 1/2 teaspoon of jam into each cookie. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the cookies are just barely browned (the recipe actually says that they shouldn’t be browned at all, but I like just a bit of color on my thumbprints). Makes between 3 1/2 and 4 dozen cookies.

Eat and enjoy.

*The original recipe does not call for vanilla, but I added it because I’m a vanilla freak.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review purposes. My opinions, as always, remain my own.

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22 thoughts on "Preserves in Action: Thumbprint Cookies from The Cookiepedia"

  • Yes, we need flour! Becuase I want to make these. Actually I want to eat them right now. But tomorrow will work if you can tell us the flour amount! I have some aprioct vanilla jam to put in them!

  • I absolutely loved this recipe. I put in 2 cups of flour and it worked beautifully. Next time I will sub the vanilla for almond extract and see how that goes. Lovely. Thanks

  • I agree on the quality of ingredients equals the quality of the cookie. I made thumbprints to put in some cookie baskets and they were a hit. I used some Santa Rosa Plum jam and some peach jam that I made and they were delicious! I’m going to try them again with blueberry or blackberry jam, should be dreamy.

  • My favorite thumbprints use finely chopped (or is that roughly ground?) pecans or other nuts for half the flour. So good!

  • Great minds think alike! I just made thumbprint cookies with my sour cherry jam and my peach ginger jam. Delicious! A great little cookie that looks wonderful on a cookie plate. And I agree – use only the best ingredients – including homemade jam!

  • Oooh, I love thumbprint cookies! Because of the jam, I feel almost virtuous eating a whole bunch of them. (It’s fruit, right?!)

    Also, I’m super-jealous of your sil-pats. They’re definitely on my Christmas list…

  • Looks great — I took Ruhlman’s recipe and swapped almond extract for vanilla and added some fresh rosemary to the dough along with my homemade blood orange jam.

  • These are my husband’s favorite cookie. He likes it when I roll the little balls of dough in finely chopped almonds before I make the thumbprint and add the jam. I agree with using the best quality jam. Also use a variety of colors of jam. I’m particularly fond of French preserves.

  • I made these last night, and something strange happened. Approximately 1/2 of them turned out well, and the other half kind of turned into cookie puddles. I mixed my dough in my mixer and formed them by hand. Could it be that I overhandled a few and kind of melted the butter ahead of time?

    1. Yikes, that’s so strange. I imagine you’re right though, the cookie puddles were probably the result of the dough getting too warm before going into the oven. I didn’t have that experience, but it makes a lot of sense. So sorry about your cookies, though.

  • What if you refrigerated the balls for a little while before putting on the pan? That might help the butter issue – I’m going to try it.

  • I made these today and they were fab! I did make changes for personal preference as I knew the taste of the original. I subbed one cup of the APF for spelt making sure to sift flours once mixed. I added maybe 1/3 cup of almond meal(not flour) that I made in the food processor. I was thinking of a coconut texture. I added 1/2 tsp almond extract along with the tsp vanilla. I used Plugra butter. I also cut sugar to half a cup.
    Jams were a sour cherry jam I made this spring and the other was an apricot jam bought(crofter brand) from the store.
    So good!