Cookie Tour 2015 – Raspberry Almond Thumbprint Cookies

The annual Currier and Ives Cookie Tour was a great success again in 2015!  Many thanks to all who participated!  The weather was warm (almost too warm), but it made for easy travel from stop-to-stop, and holiday spirits were high.  Our cookie this year was a Raspberry Almond Thumbprint Cookie… a yummy sugar cookie with a sweet/tart raspberry jam filling and a white chocolate drizzle.  We were thrilled this year to work with Grace Rowehl of Deer Meadow Homestead in nearby Antrim, NH who provided us with all the  delicious seedless raspberry jam we needed for our cookies.  Grace makes delicious jams and jellies, but also cookie mixes, biscuit and beer bread mixes, and granolas.  Her products can be found at local farmers markets and holiday fairs, but also at the Harvester Market in Greenfield, the Henniker Pharmacy in Henniker, and Hannah Grimes in Keene among other locations.  For more information, check out the Deer Meadow Homestead website or Facebook page.

As is typical for me, this year’s cookie involved a bit of “product development” (yes, that is the former chemist/baking geek in me talking).  If you are just looking for the recipe, please feel free to jump ahead to the recipe below, or download the recipe as a pdf here.  If you are interested in the “development phase” of the recipe, please read along!

The idea for this year’s cookie started with Pinterest and a shortbread thumbprint cookie I kept seeing over and over.  I really liked the idea of a shortbread cookie with its simple
ingredients and straightforward recipe, and since there were
lots of very similar versions available, I picked the recipe from ParentPretty
blog to start with because the pictures looked nice.  I made up a quick batch of the dough and refrigerated
the dough overnight because I didn’t have time to finish baking them at that time.  The next day, I had to let the dough warm up quite a bit to work with it, but was eventually able to form the cookies and bake them.  The cookies tasted good, but spread out pretty flat in the oven, the jam seeped through the bottom and were a little too buttery (did I just say that???).  I acknowledge that all of these issues were likely due to operator error… I let the dough warm up too much before baking and possibly
baked the cookies too long.. but I was hoping for a more robust recipe and figured there might be a recipe-fix to help. Some online
research suggested cornstarch could help reduce spreading issues, so I found a King Arthur Flour recipe
for “Shortbread” that used confectioners’ sugar (which has cornstarch in it)
and baked the cookies at a lower temp. Although this recipe was primarily
created for making a full 9” cake pan-size shortbread, there was a note
regarding making the into thumbprint cookies… which I followed.  Unfortunately,  even with added almond extract, the taste of these cookies was pretty bland. 
At the same time, I also tried another recipe from KAF for “Lemon Raspberry Thumbprints” which was more like sugar cookie dough (contained a
whole egg, but otherwise pretty simple) and adapted the recipe to the almond
flavor I was going for.  I also reduced the amount of flour a little bit, mostly because I was intentionally switching from unbleached flour to regular all-purpose flour which supposedly absorbs more liquid.  These were pretty good, but definitely had a different texture (more crunchy than chewy) and needed more
almond flavor.  As a bonus, the dough was super-easy to work with… no chilling required.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t give up on the shortbread idea (especially
since guests at the B and B who were helping with the taste-testing seemed to rave about them).  I
decided to try a recipe with an egg yolk added (posted by Jennifer on Tastebook), but Rob didn’t care for the texture of that one as much as the no-egg yolk-shortbreads. (It didn’t really make sense to me, but the texture seemed drier and crumblier.)   I also tried a recipe with more flour (from Sally’s Baking Addiction) to see
if that would help. Unfortunately, it didn’t. The dough was still fussy, wanted to crack
around the edges, spread too much, and had jam seeping through the bottom.  I looked online for tips and tried it again with “better” butter
(Cabot), did not soften the butter fully but cut into smaller pieces to be able
to beat with mixer, did not chill dough before forming (to avoid excess cracks
on cookies), placed the formed cookie dough in refrigerator for about 20
minutes before filling and baking at 325F (took about 22 minutes to bake each
batch).  This batch of shortbread thumbprints did
come out the best… it had fewer issues with spreading and cracking and the jam
did not seep through, but it was a lot of fussiness and time to get it to work
that way… and to be honest, by now Rob was sold on the sugar cookie version anyway.  So, I
went back to that recipe and just upped the almond extract for a little more
almond flavor and I was done!

Oh, did I say done? I did spend a little extra time working on alternate filling/toppings.  I tried:
1) straight confectioners’ sugar glaze –
too sweet for me, and glaze would sometimes pick up a bit of the pink color
from the jam,
2) melted dark chocolate – looked too stripey on the cookie and the flavor was not my favorite,
3) melted white chocolate – I liked this the best, added a
bit of a rich flavor to the cookie but not overly sugary,
4) chocolate ganache
in the thumbprint (added after baking) with a raspberry jam glaze – good, not for
Cookie Tour, but was surprised at raspberry flavor from just a tiny bit of jam in the glaze,
5) sliced almonds added onto jam about halfway through cooking time, then
topped with glaze – my second favorite, but probably not for Cookie Tour either.

variations could be made by using different flavors of jam (strawberry, blueberry, apricot), adding chopped nuts in the dough, or maybe
add chopped maraschino cherries into the cookie dough and add chocolate ganache for a cherry-chocolate cookie.

So without further ado, here’s the recipe and a few more photos too!

Raspberry Almond Thumbprint Cookies

1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 ½ teaspoon almond extract
¼ teaspoon salt
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup seedless raspberry jam
½ cup white chocolate chips
2 teaspoons shortening

Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat liners.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer, scraping sides of bowl as needed.  Add egg, extract and salt and beat until combined.  Add flour and beat on low until fully blended (dough may seem dry, but will come together).

Scoop dough by rounded tablespoons, roll into smooth balls and place on prepared cookie sheets.  Using your thumb, the back of a small scoop, or even a clean wine cork, make an indentation in each cookie.  Fill each indentation with about ½ teaspoon jam.

Bake for 12 – 15 minutes until edges are very lightly browned.  Let cool slightly, then melt white chocolate in the microwave or double-boiler, add shortening, and drizzle over cookies.  Makes 2 ½ to 3 dozen.

Here are a few extra tips:
– The dough is quite stiff, so a stand mixer works best for making this dough.
– It is good to overfill the thumbprint indentations a bit since the cookies spread a little in the oven.
– I like Ghirardelli White Melting Chocolate for the drizzle. (I’ve tried Nestle White Chocolate Chips and they don’t seem to melt or drizzle as well.)
– Don’t refrigerate this dough before forming the cookies (it will get too hard).  If you would like to get a head start on these cookies, make the dough and form the cookies with “thumbprints” (but do not fill).  Freeze the formed dough on a cookie sheet and transfer to a airtight container or freezer bag when frozen.  When you are ready to bake the cookies, allow cookies to defrost in refrigerator, then fill with jam and bake as directed.

For links to previous year’s blogs and recipes, click here:
     2010 – Mint-Filled Chocolate Fudge Cookies
     2011 – Granola Cookies
     2012 – S’mores Cookies
     2103 – Chocolate-Caramel Pretzel Cookies
     2014 – Peppermint Swirl Sugar Cookies