Thumbprint cookies (also known as thumbprints, Polish tea cakes, bird's nest cookies or butterballs) are usually made during Christmas and they are quite well-known all over the world. Well, you won't find them under the same name of course, but the shape and method is usually very similar. In my country here they are the best known as "Sadlaky" (read sah-dlah-key, means lard cookies) - I don't like using lard in neither my cookies nor creams but these cookies are my all time favourite from childhood and I just can't stop loving them. Okay, let's get back to thumbprints. There are so many different recipes that it's impossible to choose one which would be 100% traditional. The only thing they have in common is the way you prepare them. However, the most commonly believed place of origin is either Poland or Eastern Europe. They are called Ciasteczka z dzemem in Poland (means cookies with jam, pronunciation here).
Usually the dough is rolled into a small ball and then pressed with the thumb which creates an indent that can be filled with anything you can think of (custard, chocolate, ganache, preserve....possibilities are endless). Sometimes the balls are covered in ground nuts before baking to give them some extra crunch and taste. Most commnoly the ball is filled before the baking, itself. However, I prefer filling them after the baking because the filling makes them moister and softens them (plus you can store them for longer time).
As for the method I don't use my thumb anymore (guess mine is just way too big for pretty nice small cookies). I've found out that for me the end of wooden spoon works the best. It' got exactly the right shape and size for perfect thumbprint cookies and it doesn't stick to the dough. This probably means I should call my cookies Spoonprints rather than Thumbprints, doesn't it? Okay, no more teasing, make them, eat them and be happy :D
100g butter, softened
50g powdered sugar
1 tsp oil
seeds from 1 vanilla pod
150g all-purpose flour
50g ground almonds
aprox. 100g homemade apricot preserve
almond sticks for decorating
In a bowl, beat together butter, powdered sugar, oil and vanilla seeds until light and fluffy. In separate bowl, whisk together sifted flour and ground almonds. Add the flour mixture into the butter-sugar mixture and beat just until combined. Form into a large ball, cover in plastic foil and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Divide the dough into 40 small balls (or you can make less and bigger). Place them on a lined baking sheet aprox. 3cm apart. Using your thumb (or the end of a wooden spoon), make an indetation into the centre of each cookie. Bake in preheated oven to 200C and bake for about 10-12 minutes or until the edges are nicely golden (the cookie should stay pale in color). Remove from oven and immediately fill each cookie with apricot preserve (I like the pieces of apricots in my cookies, but you can remove them). Decorate with almond sticks (or chopped almonds). Let cool completely. Store in an airtight container in a cool and dry place.
- If you don't have homemade apricot preserve, you can use a store bought one. Just make sure it's a good quality preserve.
- Make sure the indetations are small and deep (not wide and shallow) - the cookies will spread a bit and the indetations will become much bigger.
I love these! I really really do. First I was afraid they will be tough and rock-hard and not soft and melt-in-your-mouth. Fortunately, they are very melt-in-your-mouth, crunchy and soft at the same time and so full of flavour! The dough tends to fall apart a bit, so more patience is required, but it's worth the effort! The cookies are quite sweet (but not too much, no way :D) and the apricot preserve is a little bit tangy which complements the cookie wonderfully. I think the older they are the better - I like them the most the third or fourth day. The cookie softens thanks to the preserve and all the flavour mix up and it's one great little summer experience in your mouth :)