Christmas Cookie Baking: Browned Butter Thumbprints

I spent the weekend baking and will continue to bake cookies everyday from now until December 23rd. The house smells great. I began last Friday by making a list of all the cookies I wanted to bake, any ingredients I might need to buy, who I would give them to, and on which days I would bake them. Some, like biscotti and pfeffernusse, can be made the week before Christmas because their flavors benefit from a period of aging. Others taste best fresh baked.

These browned butter thumbprints are some of my favorite cookies. They are nutty, buttery, rich, and delicious. The recipe is adapted from Gourmet Magazine. The original recipe was titled ‘spoon cookies’ because they were shaped with a spoon. I found it less time-consuming to make thumbprints. They need to sit for a few days to develop depth of flavor. I often fill them with blackberry or apricot jam. I also make them with my homemade black raspberry jelly. The dough can be grainy, and a little difficult to work with. Be patient; the results are worth it.

Browned Butter Thumbprints
1 c. cold unsalted butter
¾ c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1-3/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. sea salt
1/2 c. blackberry or apricot jam

Begin by browning the butter. Melt butter in a small frying pan over moderate heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until butter turns golden with a nutlike fragrance and flecks on bottom of pan turn a caramel brown. This takes 10-12 minutes. It can burn easily so watch carefully. Pour into bowl and let cool for 10 minutes. Stir in sugar and vanilla. Whisk flour, soda, and salt in a separate bowl and stir into butter mixture to form dough. Shape into a ball, wrap in plastic, and let stand at room temperature for 1-2 hours to allow flavors to develop. Shape dough into small balls, about the size of a malt ball, and place on a parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet. Indent center with finger to make a thumbprint cookie. Bake at 325 degrees for 8-12 minutes until just pale golden. Cool on rack. Heat preserves in saucepan until just runny, then pour through a sieve. Fill center of cookies with preserves. Let set 45 minutes. Then place in airtight container. Store in the refrigerator. Makes 3 dozen.

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