Mom's Thumbprint Cookies

holiday_cookies_005.jpgIt just wouldn't be Christmas at my house without Thumbprint Cookies. This old recipe that my Czechoslovakian/Bohemian grandmother used to make created cookies that were my dad's favorite at holiday time. My grandma passed the recipe to my mom. They'd always have centerstage on the plates of cookies my mom would assemble and give to friends during the holidays.

I remember getting home from schoool and helping my mom roll all the dough into little balls. Under her watchful eye I would try to get the balls all the same size, resulting in dainty little cookies. Now I use a #100 portion scooper to insure uniform size.

The Thumbprint Cookies continue to live on. My daughter-in-law and I quadruple this recipe on our cookie-baking day so that we each have enough to include on our own cookie plates that are delivered to friends. This year my two young granddaughters helped make the cookies, each with a portion scooper in hand. They worked intently, rolling each ball of dough in an egg-white wash and then in finely shredded coconut. I always like to roll a few of the cookies in coarsely-ground nuts rather than the coconut.

After a few minutes in the oven, each cookie is pressed to make a shallow well in its middle. This will form a basin to hold creamy frosting -- and we're never stingy with the silky-smooth, colored frosting that makes the cookies look so attractive and taste so good. A pastry tube with a star tip works best for shooting the frosting onto the cookies. When my mom was really busy, she was known to use purchased frosting in a tube from the grocery store. But, really, your favorite buttercream frosting will be best.

Once the cookies have been filled with frosting, allow time for them to set so the frosting gets a little firm before packing into containers. But watch out for cookie monsters. This year my 20-month-old grandson was just the right height to snatch the sweet little treats from the table they were resting on. The frosting was his favorite. Then my golden retriever, Wrigley, decided she wanted a taste, too. Somehow, when no one was looking, she was able to lick the frosting off the cookies from the row nearest the edge of the table and leave the empty cookies just as they were. Don't worry. We tossed the licked cookies into the garbage. We didn't refrost them.

I usually mix the dough a day before baking and store it in the refrigerator. I store them in tins in my cold garage. (Extra cold-storage space in winter is a benefit of living in northern Minnesota.)

I hope your family and friends will enjoy these cookies as much as our family has for many, many holiday seasons.


Mom's Thumprint Cookies

1/2 cup Crisco shortening
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 egg yolks (save the whites)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Blend above ingredients together.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix well with a wooden spoon.

Roll the dough into small balls. Dip the balls into egg whites that have been slightly beaten with a couple of teaspoons of water. Transfer the balls to a shallow dish of coconut and roll to coat the dough completely.

Place the dough balls 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for 5 minutes in a preheated 375-degree oven. Take out of oven and press top of each cookie with your thumb or the end of a wooden utensil. We use the end of a wooden Swedish butter knife to make a nice big well. Return cookies to oven and bake about 8 minutes longer or until the cookies are golden brown. Remove from baking sheet to cool on waxed paper-lined work surface. When cool, fill each cookie with your favorite buttercream frosting.


Sue Doeden is a popular cooking instructor, food writer and integrative nutrition health coach. She is the host of Good Food, Good Life 365 on Lakeland Public Television. Her own hives full of hardworking bees and her love of honey led to the creation of her recently published cookbook, Homemade with Honey.