Monday, August 9, 2010

Two Thumbs Up

I am very lucky. In addition to having an adorable nephew, I have two adorable cousins. They are the daughters of my cousin Paul and his wife Stephanie, and every time I see them I'm amazed at how sweet, beautiful and well-behaved they are. They came to visit a couple of weeks ago, and after a fun day at the Children's Museum, we decided to make cookies. I decided on thumbprint cookies from "Baking from My Home to Yours." I substituted almonds for hazelnuts, since that's what we had in the house.

They were a lot of fun to make, although the girls needed some help with the thumbprints and were impatient about waiting for the cookies to cool to add the jam. Still, it allowed them to feel like they were an important part of the cookie-making process, and that was kind of the point. As for the final cookies: Paula, the older girl, really liked them, but Maya found the almonds a little too sophisticated for her palate. I thought they were yummy, though. And they sure liked the dough!

The master bakers at work

THUMBPRINTS FOR US BIG GUYS by Dorie Greenspan from “Baking: From My Home To Yours”

1 3/4 cups finely ground hazelnuts
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
About 1 cup raspberry jam (or the jam or marmalade of your choice)

GETTING READY: Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Whisk together ground nuts and flour.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the extracts and beat to blend. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the nut-flour mixture, mixing only until it is incorporated into the dough.

Working with a teaspoonful of dough at a time, roll the dough between your palms to form small balls and place the balls 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Steadying each cookie with the thumb and forefinger of one hand, use the pinkie of your other hand (or the end of a wooden spoon) to poke a hole in the center of each cookie. Be careful not to go all the way down to the baking sheet.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The cookies should be only slightly colored–they may even look underdone, which is fine: they should not be overbaked. When the cookies are baked, remove the baking sheets from the oven and let the cookies rest on the sheets for 2 minutes before transferring them to cooling racks with a wide metal spatula and sifting confectioner’s sugar over them.

Repeat with the remaining dough, remembering to cool the baking sheets before baking the next batch.

Bring jam to a boil in a small saucepan over low heat, or bring to a boil in a microwave oven; remove from the heat. Fill the indentations of all the cookies with enough of the hot jam to come level with the tops. Cool to room temperature.


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