It's been awhile. I hope you've all been well. I didn't mean to be away for this long. I'd intended at least to have a pie or two for you ready by Thanksgiving, but none really worked out quite the way I'd been hoping. Grainy custards, sloppy fruit, scorched pastry--it wasn't pretty. I hope you understand.
But have a thumbprint cookie. These are from the second batch I've made this week. I know--thumbprints are nothing new, nothing you haven't seen before. But, you know, there's something to be said for the classics. Besides, I adore these thumbprints--their delicate butteriness, their deep jammy wells, their faint sugary crackle. And if you happen to have some homemade preserves around, crack open a jar, show them off. A good, tart homemade preserve will shine here. (I used cherry-plum and strawberry-balsamic from my reserves. I especially like that they're a little chunkier. Biting into half a cherry or a bit of strawberry in the middle of a cookie is quite nice.)
And by all means, take this recipe as a guideline. Swap out a few tablespoons of the all-purpose flour for rye or buckwheat, maybe. Tumble your cookies through a mound of coconut instead of chopped almonds. Replace the vanilla with a few drops of rosewater. It would be hard to go wrong.
Adapted from Martha Stewart
NOTE: With this second batch, for a little more depth, I swapped out 1/4 cup of the all-purpose for rye, and a few tablespoons more wouldn't have hurt, I think. At first, I wasn't sure about quite how much of a difference the rye made, but Octavian, who ate quite a few thumbprints from the first batch, remarked that the new ones were even better, and this was before I'd told him that I'd made any changes. So, go rye!
4 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons demerara sugar
1 large egg, separated
3/4 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (see note above)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup good-quality preserves (raspberry, apricot, or something else tart)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, cream the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla paste and mix well. Add the flour and salt and mix until combined.
Put the egg white in a small bowl and whisk to break it up. Combine the almonds and demerara sugar in a wide dish.
Form the dough into 1-inch balls. Dip in the egg white, then in the almond mixture. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, a couple of inches apart. Make a deep well in the centre of each ball with the end of a thick-handled wooden spoon. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and press down the centres again. Fill each cookie with about a 1/2 teaspoon of preserves. Bake for another 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
Makes about 18 cookies.