This post has been two years in the making. True.
Two years ago in December a patient’s husband brought a large platter of fresh, warm cookies for the staff. Among the cookies were some shortbread thumbprint cookies with raspberry jam. Medical staff, by nature, are suspect of homemade food brought in by anyone other than themselves. We can’t help it. We know what might be lurking in homemade treats and in the homes from which said treats come.
We are germaphobes, sort of. And with good reason. We clean our hands endlessly. We clean our work stations daily. We would clean each other with copious amounts of heavy duty germicides if we thought we could get away with it. A single sneeze or sniffle can clear an entire charting room instantly. We are so weird.
So, back to that amazing looking platter of cookies. While everyone else was regarding the cookies as the most avoidable elephant in the room, I was looking longingly at the shortbread thumbprint cookies. I believed in them. I knew with all my heart that they were safe. So, I finally reached under the plastic wrap and snagged one. And took a bite. And went to heaven.
Everyone was staring at me. I could hear their hysterical, incredulous thoughts about how I was an idiot for eating food not of our own making. Without batting an eye, I reached under the plastic and took another one before I announced, “You guys are crazy. These are the most amazing cookies I have ever eaten. AND, they are still warm!”
I got out of the way just in time as the pack pounced on that cookie platter. “Hey,” I yelled over the mayhem, “What room is the patient in whose husband brought those cookies?” Someone called out the room number to me and I dashed off to find The Cookie Man.
Upon entering the patient’s room, I found her husband sitting on the couch. “Are you the one who made that platter of cookies?”
The husband looked hesitant, but the wife smiled warmly even though she was obviously in a lot of pain. “I told you they’d like them,” she said between short, painful breaths.
“I just want you to know,” I blurted out to the husband, “I am in love with you!”
Sheesh. Talk about an ice breaker. The wife actually managed to chuckle. The husband smiled, ducked his head and turned a lovely, light pink color. “He makes those cookies every year,” the patient said. “He makes big platters of them to give away.”
I immediately asked for the recipe. “Well, they’re really easy,” said the husband. “There’s only a few ingredients…some flour and butter and sugar…and something else, but I can’t remember the amounts right this minute.” He was clearly embarrassed and at a loss for words because suddenly there were two others of my coworkers who had just somewhat rushed into the room, both babbling about the cookies.
The man assured me that he would bring the recipe the following day. Having extracted a promise from him, I returned to the charting room in time to see the last of the cookies being covered with paper towels and shoved into a waiting purse. “I’m taking this one home to my husband!” announced a coworker. Everyone else was draped over and around the chairs in the charting room, munching away on their cookie stashes.
The barren platter made me laugh. “Just think,” I told myself, “Those could have been all yours if you had just kept your mouth shut.”
Naturally, as luck would have it, I was not working the following day when, as promised, the cookie man brought copies of his recipe for us. No one bothered to save a copy for me. Ingrates. All they had to do was to put a copy of it in my mail box in the lounge. Seriously…just walk down the hall and put a copy in my mailbox!
With a bit of effort I found a momma bear recipe all by myself. You remember momma bear…as in The Three Bears. She was the one who had everything “just right”. It took me a long time to settle on a recipe. I think that maybe I had cookie anxiety. I had had the perfect cookie and how was any other recipe ever going to measure up to that recipe? The very recipe that I did not have. The recipe by which all other shortbread cookie recipes with raspberry jam are measured. The barometer of thumbprint cookie recipes.
After finding the momma bear recipe, I made those cookies several times last December. I made the cookies and ate the cookies and wore the cookies around on my hips for a few weeks. What I did not do was post the cookie recipe here, or anywhere else for that matter. It was a rough month last year, but at least I had those cookies.
This is not a new cookie recipe by far; it really is all over the internet…if you use the correct verbiage. I kept typing in “thumbprint cookies” and was not successful in finding something that sounded like the correct recipe. However, I have discovered that when the key word “shortbread” is added to the words “thumb print cookies” the momma bear recipe pops up on many different blogs and websites. Now I have it posted on my blog.
- Make sure the butter is at room temperature. Do not “soften” it in the microwave because it may get too soft or even melted. This will give an incorrect texture and will effect baking success.
- Spoon the flour into a measuring cup. Do not scoop the flour with the measuring cup. You will end up with too much flour. Each cup of flour weighs about 4.3 ounces. Use a kitchen scale, if you have one.
- If your dough is too soft to handle (mine was not), put it in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes before forming into cookies.
- The indentation for the jam can be made with the back of a round measuring 1/2 teaspoon, a small lid such as is on a chapstick tube or a bottle of extract, a cork, or the handle end of a wood spoon. Only press partway into the dough; don’t go all the way to the bottom of the cookie because the jam will leak through the bottom. If the indentation is not deep enough, however, the jam will spill out over the sides of the cookie while baking.
- If the dough cracks when the indentation is made, simply press it gently back together with your fingers. No biggy.
- Use jam, not jelly or preserves. Jam has the right consistency for baking. Stirring the jam well will aid in making it the right consistency for putting into the indentation.
I doubled the recipe for this batch of cookies, hence the four sticks of butter. It’s important to have the butter at the right temperature for cookies. Butter that is too soft will cause the cookies to spread all over the pan. No melted butter from the microwave, okee dokee?
Add the almond extract as well. Gosh, I love the flavor of cookies with almond extract. Which reminds me, you really need to try out Swedish Almond Cake. It is super easy to make and people to whom I have given it have been known to hoard it from their kids. It is more like a cookie than a cake and SO worth your time to make.
Huge Note: Spoon the flour into the measuring cup, no scooping! Scooping compacts the flour and you will end up with brick bats instead of cookies. If you have a kitchen scale, each cup of flour should weigh about 4.3 ounces. 4.3, the magic number. Now, you can start adding the flour to the bowl. It’s a good idea to add flour slowly while the mixer is running on low, if you are using a stand mixer. If using a hand mixer, alternate adding flour and mixing a for a few seconds on medium.
Once all of the flour has been added, the dough is going to look somewhat disastrous. You may have to stir in the last of the flour by hand. Make sure that the ingredients are well mixed, but don’t go overboard. You’re not making bread, so none of that crazy mixing stuff to work up the gluten.
Shape the dough into 1-1 1/2 inch balls. I use a small cookie scoop for size consistency, then roll the dough between my palms to shape it into a ball. Place 12 balls of dough evenly spaced on a baking pan. I use parchment paper for baking cookies. I really like using it. I also have a Silpat which works well, too.
Okay, you can use a variety of objects, including your thumb, to make an indentation in the dough. I have used the end of the handle from a wooden spoon, a small bottle cap, and a 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon. I like using the measuring spoon the best. My least favorite? My thumb. Press the spoon or whatever about halfway down through the dough. Don’t go all the way to the bottom or else the jam will leak through. Additionally, make the indentation deep enough to accommodate 1/2 teaspoon of jam.
If the indention is too shallow, the jam will flow over the edge of the cookie as the cookie expands during the baking process. If you noticed, I emphasized the word “jam”. Don’t use jelly because it will become too liquid and seep into the dough. Preserves have fruit lumps and won’t work well, either. 1/2 teaspoon of jam is perfect for this cookie. Bringing the jam to room temperature and stirring it briskly will make it easier to put into the indentation.
The first time I made these cookies, I did not believe that everything would work out alright with the jam. 1/2 teaspoon seemed like way too much jam, but it was the perfect amount. You may have to play around with learning to make the depression adequate for the jam. So, save yourself a potential headache and use parchment paper beneath the cookies to catch any jam drips.
Bake just until the cookie is a pale golden brown on the bottom. The check, gently lift the edge of one of the cookies with a spatula. If it is lightly golden, then the cookies are ready. The visible portion of the cookie will be pale. If you bake the cookies until the upper portion is golden, then the cookies are over-baked. Use your best spidey senses for a “just right” cookie.
Aren’t these so pretty? I had a little bit of fig jam left in a jar in the fridge, so I decided to use it up on these cookies. I had exactly enough to make 1 dozen cookies, although admittedly I had to scrape the sides of the jar clean to eek out jam for the 12th cookie.
Mix up the glaze ingredients. I don’t know how much milk to tell you to use; use your best guess. The original recipe called for 2 teaspoons of water, but I wanted to use milk. I ended up needing a little more than 5 teaspoons to get the glaze thin enough for drizzling. Personally, I think that the glaze is more for looks than it is for taste. To me, the cookies taste plenty sweet without the glaze. For glazing, place the cookies on a wire rack and then put the wire rack over some parchment paper to catch the drips.