Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Roasted almond thumbprints

I hung out with an eight year old on Friday night. I had several half-empty jars of jam in the fridge. We made thumbprints. What's not to like about cooking in which you're required to stick your thumb into a soft mound of dough? What's not to like about filling each little crater with different shades of sweet, sticky jam? What's not to like about something you can make quickly and not have to wait too long to eat? The appeal, really, is universal.

As a rule, the thicker the filling in the thumbprint, the better - the homemade raspberry jam I had was a stunning colour but its runny consistency meant it leaked into the cracks of the cookies, which though delicious, was somewhat less visually enticing. Particuarly successful was lemon curd - a puckering pop of bright, sour sweet against the nutty, buttery base of the cookie. Vegans, if you're feeling hard done by reading this, skip the lemon curd, stick to the jam and check out my friend Elizabeth's recipe for an egg and butter-free version. They're delicious. The ones I made also use nuts - in the form of roasted almonds - which make them slightly more labour-intensive than your basic butter/sugar/flour/egg thumbprint, but I would argue more subtle and satisfying. The cookie tastes of almond rather than sugar, so you're able to appreciate the jam more, and importantly, the combination of the two. Like someone with small thumbs and someone big enough to use an oven. Together, they make one great cookie.

Roasted almond thumbprints
Adapted from a recipe by Bon App├ętit 

The quantities listed below make 4 dozen, which is a lot of cookies - you may want to scale down (I made a half batch) if you're not feeding a crowd. Or you could always make the full quantity and freeze half (unfilled) for another day.

cups flour
cups unsalted, roasted almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher/coarse/sea salt (or quarter of a teaspoon regular)
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup raw sugar
Jams and/or lemon curd (for filling)

Place racks in lower and upper thirds of oven; preheat to 375°. 
Pulse flour and almonds in a food processor until almonds are very finely ground. Add baking powder and salt and pulse to blend. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Reduce speed to low and gradually add dry ingredients; mix just to combine.  
Place raw sugar in a shallow bowl. Scoop out dough by the tablespoonful and roll into balls (if dough is sticky, chill 20 minutes). Roll in sugar and place on two baking sheets lined with baking paper. Using your thumb, make a deep indent in each ball. (For more exaggerated cracks, bake dough 5 minutes before indenting.) 
Bake cookies, rotating baking sheets halfway through, until golden, 12–14 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and let cool. Fill with jam or curd using a small spoon.

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