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Monday, December 24, 2012

Jam Thumbprint Cookies

raspberry jam thumbprint cookies coated with toasted walnuts
Two days to Christmas! The tradition of baking Christmas cookies has never been something that run in our families. This year marks the very first year of me giving it a try in my own kitchen and probably setting my very own tradition here at home - first try with the very first batch of Christmas cookies. The decision to make these jam thumbprint cookies is one made when I stumbled onto a page while surfing randomly for Christmas cookies ideas online. Being my very first attempt at this and not having tried any of these previously, the whole process was one done with a mixed feelings. One loaded with excitement as the baking started, anticipation and patience in the midst of shaping and baking, and not forgetting the suspense as it got baked in the oven, not having a single clue as to how and what I shall expect or how it should turn out to be. 

This is a recipe adapted from Ina Garten from Food Network on her very version of jam thumbprint cookies rolled in sweetened flaked coconuts. Making a batch exactly as how each step is nicely laid out in her recipe, they turned out great as promised - where plain simplicity meets elegance and pure indulgence. From there, I made another batch of the same thumbprint cookies, this time rolled in toasted walnuts (pictured above) - not at all disappointing. A different dimension with a little extra crunch, both versions are uniquely different on the whole - appearance and taste. Same basic dough, but they shine so well on their own. Give it a try! Worry not about its complexity or any possible complications in the making especially considering that the clock is ticking down and Christmas is so near, because as a first timer myself, this is one that I can humbly say from experience that you will certainly nail it! 

apricot jam thumbprint cookies coated with sweetened flaked coconuts
raspberry jam thumbprint cookies coated with sweetened flaked coconuts

apricot jam thumbprint cookies
coated with toasted walnuts
Jam Thumbprint Cookies
Makes about 30-36 cookies
3/4lb (3 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3½ cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water (egg wash) 
*7oz sweetened flaked coconut
raspberry and/or apricot jam

* If you wish to make half a batch coated with the sweetened flaked coconut and another half in the toasted walnuts, have the amount of the sweetened flaked coconut halved and prepare about 4 oz of toasted walnuts. 
To make toasted walnuts, lay the walnuts on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at  375°F for about 7 minutes. Roughly chop them up with a knife, and they are all set!

1. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until just combined. Add in the vanilla extract and mix. 
2. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and salt. With the mixer set on low, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar in small batches. Mix well after each addition until all the flour mixture has been incorporated. Mix until the dough starts to come together.
3. Dump the dough on a floured working area and roll into a flat disk about 1"of thickness. Wrap the dough with the plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 to 40 minutes (until the dough hardens but still pliable).
4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. With the dough ready, pinch and roll the dough into balls of about 1 1/4" in diameter. I had mine weighed instead - 1oz each to be exact.
5. With the egg wash on a side and the sweetened flaked coconuts next to it forming a production line, dip each ball into the egg wash and then roll it in the sweetened flaked coconut. Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet. Be sure to leave some space (about 2") in between the balls. If you are making a batch with toasted walnuts, repeat the process with the toasted walnuts in place of the sweetened flaked coconuts. 
6. With the balls lined on the cookie sheet, press a light indentation into the top of each ball with your thumb (and hence the name! lol). Drop about 1/2 tsp of jam into each indentation (more or less depending on the size of indentations).
7. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the coconut turns golden brown. Let cool on a cooling rack. Serve or store away!

jam thumbprint cookies coated with toasted walnuts - half with apricot ham, the other half with raspberry jam
 A little touch on some personal notes here:
  • With the butter being the key ingredient to these cookies, have a real good quality one to begin with - that would have won you half the race!
  • The same rule goes to the jam used here. Some jam comes with a higher sugar or water content so when the cookies go to bake, some unfortunately may come out looking slightly tarnished, losing their vibrant colors. Or in some cases, they may leak out as they bubbles up in the baking process. So it may be a wise move to never overfill the indentations.
  • With the toasted walnuts, be sure not to chop them up too finely. They will have a tendency to get burnt when put to bake for another 20 minutes or so with the cookies later. Plus, coarsely chopped walnuts always give a better texture to the cookies on the whole, so go easy with the chopping part!
  • The baking time varies between different ovens and settings. So do check the progress of the very first batch of your cookies as it reaches the 20 minutes check point. Add a few more minutes as it goes. 
  • Be sure to leave the cookies to completely cool down before removing them. Any attempt to touch or move them around before they get their fair chance to set will almost always guarantee a distorted end appearance. 
  • And last but not least, parchment papers always come in handy - less cleaning time, smaller chance of having the cookies sticking to the baking sheets. So line the baking sheets with a piece of parchment paper - they do wonders!
all packed, ready for the party
Happy baking!

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