These thumbprint cookies are so easy to make, and the filling options are endless. This dough is a mixture of shortbread cookies and sugar cookies – they melt in your mouth like shortbread but still have a sugar cookie chewy quality to them!
I’m in full blown Christmas mode.
Okay, I’ve been in full blown Christmas mode since like November 2nd. But it really started to hit me that we’re less than a MONTH away from Christmas!!??
I’ve been working A LOT to get through as many Christmas recipes as I can before the big day. And top of my list has been thumbprint cookies!
This is in my top 5 favorite Christmas cookies. Maybe second only to gingerbread cookies! They’re so easy to make, and there are a million and one different variations you can make!
First, let’s look at what these little gems are.
What are thumbprint cookies:
Thumbprint cookies (also known as hallongrotta in Sweden) are crumbly, melt in your mouth cookies with an indented center, which is most traditionally filled with raspberry jam. But you can make different variations of this treat with different fillings (more on that below!)
The cookie base is typically made up of a shortbread cookie or sugar cookie dough. My take on this recipe uses a bit of a mix between the two – which is what I think makes these the BEST thumbprint cookies around! They’ve got the sandy, melt in your mouth quality of shortbread cookies WITH the chewiness of sugar cookies. #cookieheaven
• cornstarch: THIS is what gives the cookies their shortbread texture! It helps crisp up the edges of the cookies without drying out the centers, and yields a sandy and crumbly texture. It also helps prevent overspreading
• brown sugar: now this is what gives the cookies their softness and chewiness. It also adds amazing flavor! If you don’t have any on hand, you can use granulated sugar in a pinch, or make your own brown sugar at home!
• egg yolks: for structure and chewiness
• vanilla: I like using vanilla bean paste or vanilla beans for speckles of vanilla seeds throughout! You can use any of those or pure vanilla extract
• jam: I used apricot jam…..obviously….and made a few with strawberry jam as well. You can use any type of jam you like, or basically anything with a similar consistency to jam. I go over tons of different filling options below!
How to make thumbprint cookies:
1. Whisk together wet ingredients.
2. Cream together butter and sugar.
3. Add egg yolks and vanilla to butter mix. Whisk to combine. The mixture may be a bit grainy, but that’s totally normal!
4. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Mix together until you get a sticky dough.
5. Wrap and chill. This firms up the dough and makes it easier to work with. It ALSO helps prevent overspreading while baking.
6. Portion and indent. Pinch off tablespoon sized portions of dough and roll into a smooth ball. Arrange on your baking sheet with about 1 inch of space between each portion. Press down the center of each ball with your thumb (or anything with a similar size) to create an indent in the middle.
7. Bake! You may notice the center indents puff up while baking and fill in the middle of the cookie. That’s normal – all you have to do is gently press them down right after you take them out of the oven. They’ll be soft and easy to shape while they’re hot. I like to use the bottom of an espresso cup to press the centers down again.
8. Fill! You can fill the cookies while they’re still hot – for a slightly chewier center – or let them cool completely and fill them afterwards. The filling will cause the cookies to soften over time, so if you prefer a crispier cookie, fill them right before enjoying!
Thumbprint cookies fillings:
When it comes to filling options for these cookies, the possibilities are endless! You’re basically looking for anything with a similar thickness and consistency to jam, but other than that, there really aren’t any rules.
Here are a few of my favorite fillings for thumbprint cookies:
• jam (raspberry is traditional, but you can use any type you like!)
• lemon curd
• chocolate ganache
• melted chocolate
• Hershey’s kisses
• caramel sauce
• blueberry sauce
• cranberry sauce
• Dulce de Leche
• annnnnnnnd MORE!
Thumbprint cookie storage:
Unfilled thumbprint cookies will keep longer than filled cookies. The filling will cause the centers to soften overtime – which isn’t going to be super noticeable as long as you finish the cookies within 3 days. If you’d like them to keep longer, hold off on filling the cookies until right before you plan on serving them.
Keep your cookies stored in an airtight container or plastic bag if you’d like to keep them on the softer side. ORRR loosely tent them with a cover, aluminum foil, or plastic wrap – leaving a small opening for air to get through – to keep them crisp.
Filled thumbprint cookies will keep for about 3 days at room temperature, or 4 to 5 days in the fridge. Unfilled cookies will keep for about 1 week at room temperature or 2 weeks in the fridge.
More festive recipes for you!
Thumbprint Cookies Recipe
- 1 & 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, light or dark
- 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- your choice of jam, I used apricot and strawberry jam
- In a medium sized bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk together, and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine butter and brown sugar. Using a wooden spoon or an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until the sugar is fully dissolved and the mixture is slightly fluffy. This'll take about 1 to 2 minutes with an electric mixer set to medium speed, or 3 minutes by hand.
- Add the egg yolks and vanilla to the butter mixture, and whisk to combine.
- Add your dry ingredients to the butter mixture and fold together until you get a soft, sticky dough. Cover and chill for 30 minutes, or until firm enough to work with.
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- Pinch off 1 tablespoon sized portions of cookie dough and roll into balls. Arrange on your baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch of space between each portion of dough. Use your thumb or something with a similar size to push down the center of each cookie dough ball to create an indent.
- Bake the cookies in the center of your preheated 350°F oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown along the edges. If you find the cookies have puffed up in the oven and the indent is gone, simply press the centers down right after baking to reshape the indent. They're easy to shape while they're still hot. I like to do this with the bottom of an espresso cup.
- Cool the cookies for about 5 to 10 minutes on your baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely to room temperature.
- Spoon in about 1/2 a teaspoon of jam into the center indents of each cookie. You can add your jam to the cookies while they're still warm for a softer center, or allow them to cool completely before adding jam to the middles for a crispier cookie.* Note: the jam filling will cause the cookies to soften overtime. For crispy cookies, fill right before serving.