Tart and tangy cranberries are often pared with oranges and orange juice, but cranberries actually go very well with all kinds of citrus. I like cranberries with lemon in cakes and quickbreads, for instance, and lime might be an even better match for them. Limes have a bold, tart flavor that is similar to that of cranberries, and as long as you balance the sugar out so that your finished product isn’t overly tart, you will get a combination that is a winner no matter what you are baking.
These Lime and Cranberry Thumbprint Cookies have a great balance of lime and cranberry in a very pretty cookie that is a festive addition to any dessert plate. The cookies start out with a shortbread-type cookie dough that is flavored with lime zest and vanilla. There is no leavening in the dough because you need the cookies to hold their shape during baking, after you make “thumbprints” to fill with cranberry sauce. You can use just about any cranberry sauce for this recipe (I usually use a homemade sauce) as long as it has chunks of real fruit in it. Cranberry jelly, which is more like jello, is not ideal for this recipe.
The cookies are tender and buttery, with a good lime flavor and a bright burst of cranberry in the center. They’re a little bit soft, rather than crispy, which is nice with the cranberry sauce center.
I typically make the thumbprint marks for these cookies by using my finger, dipping it in a little bit of flour in case it gets sticky while I’m working. You can also use the end of a large wooden spoon, if you have one that has a round handle on it, or the back of a half or quarter teaspoon measure. I always eyeball the amount of filling, trying to mound it just over the top of the cookie dough around my thumbprint. Don’t worry too much about getting an exact amount of filling in each indent, just fill up the thumbprint you have made – large or small. It’s more important not to go overboard with too much cranberry sauce, because your cookies won’t have a clean look if the filling bubbles over the side of the cookie during baking.
Lime and Cranberry Thumbprint Cookies
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp fresh lime zest
1/3 cup cranberry sauce (not cranberry jelly)
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in powdered sugar. Beat in the egg, vanilla extract and lime zest until mixture is smooth.
Working by hand or with a mixer on low speed, stir in the flour mixture.
Roll into balls about 3/4 to 1-inch in diameter (make sure they are all about the same size) and arrange on baking sheet, leaving about 2-inches between balls. Using your fingertip, make a deep indentation into each ball. Fill the “thumbprint” with cranberry sauce (approx 1/2 tsp in each). Do not attempt to flatten the cookies; the dough will spread slightly as it bakes.
Bake for 11-13 minutes, until the cookies are set and only have a touch of golden brown at the edges.
Allow to cool for 4-5 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes 2 1/2 dozen.