Thursday, November 27, 2014

Almond Thumbprints

One of the things that I miss after we moved from California are the coffee shops - and the pastries that go with them. Me, I'm a Peet's girl; I like the pitch black coffee they brew (unless I loose a whole cupful of it on the grey carpet at home, to leave a stain that will last until the carpet dies...) and the fact that they play the classical radio station; nothing against Jazz and Blues, but nice for a change. Close by where we used to live there is a Peet's next to a Whole Foods with a view of the hills: a win-win combination, coffee, pastry and a nice view (there's also a 6 lane Highway right next to it, but it sits lower than the hills, so you can't see it - you can't win every time).



Whole Foods makes some to-die-for morning rolls - literally and pun intended: covered in sugar, crispy and deep fried, you're looking cardiac arrest right in the eye when you're taking a bite; I didn't eat them often at all, because just like with donuts, there's this pesky conscience thing that won't let me. One of the cookies that didn't come with warning bells ringing was an Almond Thumbprint, filled with apricot or raspberry jam - it is a favorite of mine and since we moved I'm trying on and off to recreate that cookie, with mixed results; but finally I have hit on the right mix - the secret seems to be to bake them for a couple of minutes more after filling, so the jam sets and doesn't run all over the place when you bite into them. I like raspberry jam best, but there are no rules, apricot works fine, or chestnut puree, something a little more special and Christmas-like, since it's that time of year.


Note; After shaping and baking, you will have to fill the cookies with the jam of your choice. Be brave, you have ten fingers, switch to a different one when the one that you're using to make the indentations deeper is running hot. 180 C (375 F) warm cookie dough will do that, but it's worth it. Deeper thumbprints mean more jam in the finished product, after all.

They're best super fresh, the day they're baked when they're crisp. Storing turns them soft. Still good, though.



Almond Thumbprints 

makes about 30 to 40 cookies - make them any size you like, just increase the first baking time until they look about right

220 g (1 cup) butter, room temperature
130 g (1/2 cup) sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla sugar
1 vanilla bean
2 egg yolks
300 g (2 cups) flour
1/2 tsp salt
100 g (1/2 cup) almonds, skin on

1. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean (and stick the pod in a jar of sugar to make vanilla sugar). Beat together butter, sugar, vanilla sugar and the vanilla bean seeds until creamy.

2. Add the egg yolks and mix until incorporated. Carefully (to avoid a snowstorm in your kitchen) add the flour and salt and mix until all the flour is absorbed.

3. Chop the almonds in a food processor to small pieces, stop before you turn them into powder, it's nice with some bigger pieces in the cookie, it gives them some bite. Mix into the dough. 

4. Gather the dough into a ball and wrap and refrigerate, or bake right away.

5. Preheat your oven to 180 C (375 F). Break off walnut-sized pieces of dough, roll them into balls and flatten slightly. Press you thumb in the middle of the balls to make a well. Bake for 14 min, or until the cookies are turning color. Remove from the oven.

6. Deepen the wells with your fingertips, then fill with the jam of your choice. Put them back into the oven for another 3 - 4 minutes to set the jam, just make sure it won't start to boil, or it will run all over the cookie and dry out too much and you'll be left with chewy, skin-on jam; best avoid that.

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