Thursday, January 29, 2009

Holiday Baking Part 4: Apricot and Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookie Recipe

I have my staple recipes that I make every Christmas. Some of them are family traditions and some are my own personal tradition. This year I felt like I needed an extra cookie in my baking.

I already had the heavy big cookies, light and fluffy shortbreads and decorative sugar cookies, so I decided that the next cookie should have fruit and nuts. I like fruit and nuts in Christmas baking because it reminds me of my ancestors who couldn't buy passionfruits or lychees or even grapes in December like I can. I've always felt that Christmas is a time for tradition, so it's a good time to remember your ancestors as well. Dried fruits and nuts were a treat to them, so I try to respect that in my holiday baking. Christmas is one of the few times in the year where I incorporate these ingredients into desserts.

This year I borrowed a recipe from Martha Stewart for hazelnut thumbprints which I've adapted a little bit. They turned out fluffy and delicious and were quite pretty, so I wanted to share the recipe with you. I will definitely make them next year.

Note about the recipe: Refrigerating the dough takes a long time and it makes the dough more difficult to work with, so it's tempting to skip it, but try to resist! If you don't refrigerate the dough, the cookies will not hold their shape as well while baking so they may not turn out round or the space in the top for the jam may end up bigger than intended so you end up having to use too much jam to fill the cookie.

Recipe: Apricot and Hazelnut Thumbprints


1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
1 large egg, separated, each part lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup flour
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup ground hazelnuts (or filberts)
a jar of apricot jam

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Dry roast hazelnut by placing in a dry frying pan over medium heat and stirring continuously until nuts become aromatic and turn a nice toasted brown colour. Remove from heat and place in a small bowl.

Cream together butter and 1/3 cup of sugar at medium speed until pale and fluffy (3 to 5 minutes). Add egg yolk and vanilla and cream for an additional minute.

Reduce speed to low and add flour and salt. Mix just until combined. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Add remaining sugar to the bowl with the hazelnuts and mix. Roll dough into 1" balls, dip in the egg white and then roll in the nut mixture until completely covered. Space one inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Press down the center of each ball with your thumb. Bake for ten minutes.

Press down the centers of each cookie a second time using the tip of the handle of a wooden spoon or rolling pin. Return to the oven and bake until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes.

Let cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet and then remove to wire racks to finish cooling. Fill each center with jam.

For a picture of these cookies, please see the above post on Christmas gift baskets.


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