December 12, 2016

Gram's classic thumbprint cookies

Thumbprints are a classic holiday cookie. I make them pretty much every year, but somehow they've escaped being posted on my blog. Probably because most people have a version of this recipe already. I mean, they are a popular cookie for Christmas for good reason. But, I think it's high time to share these on here! This recipe comes originally from my great-grandmother, handed down to us through my mother. I remember making and eating these cookies throughout my childhood. They definitely have a sentimental feel about them when I make them, when I place them out on a platter, and when I eat them. 

Her recipe is sparse - no mention of how much nuts to use - they aren't even listed in the ingredients. In the instructions, it just says "roll in nuts" and there's no mention of separating the eggs - I guess when you make them every year for your adult life, it's pretty intuitive! I have modified her recipe just a bit and made it a little clearer over the years. This recipe will make about two and a half dozen cookies. If you don't already make thumbprints for your holiday cookie tray, please add them. You wont be disappointed.

Gram's classic thumbprint cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-1/2 to 3 cups chopped walnuts
your favorite jam, jelly, or fruit preserves

Separate the eggs putting the two yolks into a large mixing bowl and the two whites into a small, shallow bowl. Use a fork to lightly beat the egg whites with a teaspoon of water. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In your mixing bowl with the yolks, add the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla. Beat with a hand mixer or wooden spoon until lightened and fluffy. Stir in the flour and salt until combined.

Place the walnuts in a pie plate or large shallow dish.

Roll the dough into a ball 1 tablespoon at a time. Roll and coat in the egg whites and then roll and coat in the walnuts. Place on the baking sheet about 1-inch apart and repeat until all dough is used. 

Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and use your thumb to print the center of each cookie. Fill the center with about a half teaspoon of your jam/jelly/preserves (I like to use a red one like strawberry and/or raspberry). Bake for another 10-12 minutes, just until the cookies begin to turn golden.

Remove the cookies to a cooling rack and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container.   

What was I cooking one year ago?: eggnog pudding pie
Two years ago?: smoky garlic, delicata squash, & bacon pizza
Three years ago?: glazed eggnog loaf cake 
Four?: celery root & parsnip latkes w/ horseradish sour cream 
Five?: sesame-cranberry cookies
Six?: gingerbread pancakes w/ clementine-yogurt sauce 
7?: clementine-cranberry cornmeal thumbprint cookies 


  1. i love thumbprint cookies! my family recipe is very similar to this one. :)

  2. I don't have a family recipe for thumbprint cookies so I would love to try yours, Amy. I love the nuts in your gram's recipe.

  3. They are definitely a must in the holiday cookie platter!

  4. I adore thumbprint cookies! Made some not long ago and all gone. I never saw thumbprints with nuts what a great idea!

  5. an oldie but a goodie! they look perfect to my eyes. :)

  6. I love thumbprints and yours sound delicious! I had 2 sheets of them in the oven and accidentally turned off the oven instead of the light. Checked them when the timer rang and they weren't baked. Took them out, reheated the oven and put them back in to bake. No wonder they're crumbly! Funny what you said about instructions, intuitive for sure!

  7. Thumbprints are my favorite Christmas cookies, how wonderful to have a recipe from your great-grandma. Happy Holidays Amy!

  8. Great share and they look so festive and wonderful. Love thumbprints any time of year but particularly at Christmas. They're just special and so great your recipe comes from your great grandma.

  9. When I write recipes for myself (not to share), I also tend to say things like "roll in nuts" without any mention of quantity. I just figure I'll know what to do. :-) Anyway, love thumbprint cookies! A real classic. BTW, I’m taking off for the rest of the year, so I want to wish you happy holidays!

  10. These cookies are so festive Amy, perfect for the holidays...I have never baked thumbprint cookies...
    I hope you are having a great week :)

  11. Thanks for linking your recipe to First Monday Favorites at Sid's Sea Palm Cooking. Those cookies look amazing, but even better is that the recipe is from your Greatgrandmother. Hope to see you next month as well.

  12. Oh I love these. And there is something even more special being a family recipe

  13. You can't go wrong with a recipe from Gram. Thanks so much for sharing.

  14. Yes, this is a great classic cookie!

  15. Love a family classic! I only made thumbprint cookies once, they turned out cute, but I definitely need more practice ;-)

    Yours look wonderful!

  16. I like the use of walnuts in these cookies, I've not seen thumbprints like that before!

  17. I love recipes that have been passed down for generations, even if they do require a bit of tweaking sometimes. I had a cake recipe from my great-great-grandma that had baking instructions of bake in a moderate oven until done. You don't see that very often in cook books! Thanks for sharing at our virtual cookie exchange!


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