These classic thumbprint cookies are made with a simple sugar cookie dough, rolled in sparkling sugar, and then indented and filled with your choice of jam! These are an all-time favorite cookie recipe, and the filling options are absolutely endless!
We had our first snow here this past weekend! It was a light snow that’s pretty much all melted away by now, but Saturday (which also happened to be my birthday) was beautiful. It was so cozy in my kitchen with the glow from the Christmas tree and Christmas music playing, and to top everything off I had a batch of these thumbprint cookies baking in the oven, which I shared that evening when my family came over.
Even though the birthday cake that Zach made me was the dessert star of the show, I also had these thumbprint cookies out for a bite-sized treat option (because you can’t have too many desserts), and everyone loved them. Even Andi liked them, though she only ate the edges of the cookies and wouldn’t eat the jam filling because of seeds (I’d think that was ridiculous if I wasn’t exactly the same way at her age).
These thumbprint cookies are easy to make and the taste is incredible — they have soft, sweet interiors, sugared exteriors (though you can leave off the sugar if you’d like) and jam filled centers. Let’s get started on how to make the perfect thumbprint cookies.
Tips for perfect thumbprint cookies:
- For perfectly soft cookies that don’t spread: Whenever possible, I recommend using a scale to measure out your ingredients. It is so, so easy to over-measure or under-measure flour when using cups, causing your cookies to be too hard or to spread when they shouldn’t. If you don’t have a scale already, here is the one that I use in my own kitchen (affiliate link), it’s inexpensive and accurate and I can’t even bake without it anymore.
- For thumbprints that don’t crack: This dough is firm enough that you should be able to roll it into balls right after mixing it together (no chilling). Roll the balls between your hands until they are really, really smooth and there are no lines or cracks in the dough. Roll the cookie dough in sugar (optional) and then gently use your thumb or a teaspoon to slowly press an indent into the cookie. If you see the dough starting to crack anyway, you can usually press the dough back together successfully!
- Thumbprint Cookie Filling: I know that not all recipes do this, but I recommend adding the jam/preserves (you can use either) before baking the cookies. If the jam is too firm and isn’t easy to drop into the cookies, then place it in a microwave-safe bowl and heat it in the microwave for just a few seconds, just until it is easy to stir (you don’t want the jam to be hot, just more fluid and cooperative).
- Another tip to prevent spreading: This is a good rule of thumb for just about every cookie recipe. Never place your cookies on a hot cookie sheet. Make sure your cookie sheet has cooled completely before placing your next batch of cookies, otherwise they’ll start melting before they can start baking, and they’re much more likely to spread.
I used raspberry preserves in this recipe and really loved the way that the slightly tart raspberry flavor melded with the sweet sugar cookie bases. You can use any variety of jam or preserves that you prefer, though, I know that apricot and strawberry are popular options. You can also definitely opt for a seedless option, I liked the texture of the raspberry seeds (something my 12 year old self would be in utter shock to hear), but know that not everyone does!
As I mentioned above, I really recommend adding the jam before baking the cookies, but if you forget you can add it afterwards (you’ll need to re-indent the cookies immediately after they come out of the oven with a rounded teaspoon if you wait). As the cookies cool the jam will settle and firm up, and while it’ll remain slightly tacky even when cooled, they’re still firm enough that I stacked these thumbprint cookies on a platter to serve them over the weekend.
Enjoy, and I’d love to know what your favorite filling is!
A simple recipe for classic thumbprint cookies
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature (226g)
- 1/3 cup sugar (70g)
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed (70g)
- 1 large egg yolk
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cup all purpose flour (280g)
- 2 teaspooons cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup sugar for rolling (optional)
- 1/3 cup jam or preserves flavor of your choice -- I used raspberry preserves for this recipe (105g)
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer (you may instead use a large bowl and an electric hand mixer) and beat until creamy.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add sugars, and beat, gradually increasing mixer speed to medium-high until ingredients are well-combined (about 30-60 seconds).
Add egg yolk and vanilla extract and beat well.
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, and salt.
With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to wet ingredients until completely combined. This dough will seem very dry and crumbly, so be sure to pause occasionally to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. If it starts to strain your mixer you can use your hands to finish working the dough together.
Scoop cookie dough into 1 Tablespoon-sized balls and roll very well (so that the dough is round and there are no cracks/seams in the cookie dough -- this will help keep your thumbprints from cracking).
Roll in granulated sugar (if using) and place on a wax-paper covered plate or small cookie sheet. Use your thumb or the rounded back of a teaspoon to gently press an indent in the center of the cookie dough. Repeat until all of the dough has been used.
Transfer cookie dough to freezer and chill for 30 minutes.
Once dough is done chilling, preheat oven to 375F (190C) and place your jam in a small microwave-safe bowl. Heat briefly (about 5-10 seconds) or until jam is not hot but is no longer firm and is easy to stir.
Spoon jam into each thumbprint, filling each indent to the brim.
Once oven is preheated, place cookies at least 2" apart on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and bake on 375F (190C) for 11 minutes or until edges are just beginning to turn golden brown.
Allow cookies to cool completely on baking sheet before enjoying.
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