12/26/21

The Very BEST Thumbprint Cookies

A tried-and-true family recipe with the perfect cookie dough base filled with fruit jam or preserves. 

Husband has the fondest memories of sweat treats from his childhood in Canada. A lot of these treats were foreign to me (Spanish Bar, Taffy Tarts, Jim Jam Cookies, Boiled Raisin Cake) but I did start to notice two things they had in common.

None of the treats had chocolate in them and most had either raisins or raspberry jam. His favorite pie is raspberry and his mother made them throughout his life even though she is deathly allergic to raspberries. Isn’t that just like a good mom??

I figured out the Jim Jams and Taffy Tarts (more commonly called Butter Tarts). The Spanish Bar is an enigma and a legend in Canada and I’m too scared to attempt it because a) I’ve never had it so I don’t know what I’d be aiming for and b) to screw it up would be the equivalent to a Canadian trying to recreate Southern Baked Macaroni and Cheese having only ever heard a description of it. 

The Very BEST Thumbprint Cookies! A tried-and-true family recipe with the perfect cookie dough base filled with fruit jam or preserves.

Anyway, when I set out to do my Christmas baking this year I wanted to make something that would remind him of his childhood favorites that everyone would enjoy. While he and I love the Jim Jams, the kids aren’t too crazy about the spice cake flavor and texture of the cookies.

I decided to make the Thumbprint Cookies from my family’s arsenal of recipes then fill half of them with the raspberry jam he loves so much. Ordinarily I would make them with an assortment of jams and preserves but knowing he would zero in on and plow through all the raspberry, and the kids would target the strawberry, I just made strawberry and raspberry.

The Very BEST Thumbprint Cookies! A tried-and-true family recipe with the perfect cookie dough base filled with fruit jam or preserves.

WHICH JAMS OR PRESERVES TO USE IN CLASSIC THUMBPRINT COOKIES

I try to go for an assortment of colors so I typically use blueberry, apricot and raspberry (or strawberry) but you really can’t go wrong. Preserves will have bits of fruit whereas jam will not, so jam will finish with a brighter pop of color and look more jewel-like but I use whatever I have.

  • Raspberry 
  • Strawberry
  • Apricot
  • Blueberry
  • Peach
  • Orange marmalade
  • Cherry (substitute 1 teaspoon almond extract for the vanilla extract when using cherry preserves for a DELICIOUS variation!)

The Very BEST Thumbprint Cookies! A tried-and-true family recipe with the perfect cookie dough base filled with fruit jam or preserves.

I can’t tell you where this recipe came from; just that it’s the one in The Bible and it’s the one we always use. The Bible is what we call our big family cookbook with black cover, yellowed pages and handwritten recipes).

I do a few things differently than what’s written in the original. The original calls for oleo (margarine) but I use real butter. I add a little salt and vanilla extract too which aren’t in the original recipe. I may have tweaked the ingredients a bit but the method is solid and you can’t skip a step.

You have to freeze the dough for 45 minutes before filling with jam and baking. You really do have to do this or the cookies will spread too much and the jam with either cook into the dough or just spill over the sides. 

The Very BEST Thumbprint Cookies! A tried-and-true family recipe with the perfect cookie dough base filled with fruit jam or preserves.

NOTES ABOUT MAKING CLASSIC THRUMBPRINT COOKIES

  • The butter must be completely soft for the ingredients to blend together properly.
  • Measuring the flour correctly is very important as well. If there is too much flour, the dough may be too dry to come together. Use the “scoop and swipe” method – scoop the flour into the measuring cup using a spoon then use the straight side of a knife to swipe the excess across the top of the measuring cup, leaving a perfectly level cup of flour.
  • If you think you may have measured the flour wrong (and have too much), add the entire egg instead of just the yolk. 
  • You’ll think the batter isn’t going to come together but so long as you measured the flour correctly, it will. Just keep mixing. 
  • If your freezer space is limited, place all cookies in one pan to freeze. To bake, place the cookies 2 inches apart on the pan(s).

The Very BEST Thumbprint Cookies! A tried-and-true family recipe with the perfect cookie dough base filled with fruit jam or preserves.

  • You can freeze these up to 3 months (without filling with jam or preserves). 
  • Since these don’t bake very long, you can bake the cookies on wax paper if you’re out of parchment paper or don’t have silpat mats. 
  • I haven’t tried it myself, but I image you can bake on an unlined pan so long as you use cooking spray or grease the pan.

The dough is tender but sturdy, a little chewy and not overly sweet (sort of a cross between sugar cookies and shortbread) which is the perfect contrast to the sweet fruity filling. I think these are literally perfect and hope you try them soon! They’re gorgeous and fun to make with the kids!

The Very BEST Thumbprint Cookies! A tried-and-true family recipe with the perfect cookie dough base filled with fruit jam or preserves.
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Hi there! While I’m not able to respond to every comment, I try hard to answer any questions that haven’t been addressed in the post, recipe or in other comments.

I can tell you now 1) I have no idea if you can substitute Minute Rice or brown rice in my recipes because I’ve never used them and 2) If I know how to convert a recipe to a Crock Pot version, I will make a note about it (otherwise, I don’t know).

And though I may not respond to them all, I do read each and every comment and I LOVE to hear from you guys! Thanks, y’all! - Mandy