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Sugar Plum Thumbprint Cookies

Sugar Plum Thumbprint Cookies

When visions of sugar plums dance in your head, you’re probably picturing juicy plums coated in sugar to give the a holiday sparkle. Unfortunately, that isn’t what sugar plums are. Sugar plums are, essentially, a type of candy where layers of sugar are built up around a central “seed.” Traditionally, this seed may actually have been seeds in dried fruit, but almonds are a little more common these days when you find actual sugar plums. The name comes from the fact that the finished candy has the (approximate) shape of a plum and a modern might be something like a jordan almond.

These Sugar Plum Thumbprint Cookies are not made with real sugar plums. They are, however, made with sugar and plum jam, so I decided to keep the festive name. They’re a colorful and easy option for your holiday cookie plate.

The cookies are a cross between a butter cookie and a shortbread cookie. They’re tender and contain no leavening, but they are not crisp and have a slight chew to them. Once the dough is made, it is shaped into rounds. Using the tip of your pinky finger – or the handle of a wooden spoon, which I prefer – make an indentation for the “thumbprint” and fill it with plum jam. It might take a little bit of looking to find plum jam (I got mine at Trader Joe’s), as it is a less common flavor, but it is worth it. The sweet and slightly tart jam is a great contrast for the vanilla-almond butter cookies – both in color and in flavor.

Bake the cookies until they are just set. They will not brown much on the outside, but the bottoms of the cookies will turn light golden. They will spread slightly in the oven, giving the cookies a clear “thumbprint” look as the jam spreads. As they cookies bake, the jam may bubble a bit. Usually, by the time the jam is bubbling, the cookies are just about ready to come out of the oven. These are ready to eat as soon as they cool, but keep well and can be stored in an airtight container for a couple of days after baking.

Sugar Plum Thumbprint Cookies
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup plum jam

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in powdered sugar. Beat in the egg, vanilla extract and almond extract until mixture is smooth. Working by hand or with a mixer on low speed, stir in the flour and salt
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 1 1/2-inches between balls. Using a fingertip or the handle of a wooden spoon, make a deep indentation into each ball. Fill the “thumbprint” with plum jam (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.

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  • Jean
    December 13, 2017

    I have noticed recipes for Thumbprint cookies where the jam is added to the cookies after they are baked. What is your take on the pros and cons of either technique: fill and bake or bake and fill?

  • Nicole
    December 13, 2017

    Jean – Great question! I prefer to add the jam to mine before baking. The jam then sets up in the oven, becoming a little bit firmer. This makes the finished cookies easier to handle and store. Cookies that are filled after can hold more jam because the thumbprint is often added after baking and you can make it larger. The jam will remain very wet, however, so the cookies must be served right away or risk becoming soggy.

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