Hazelnut thumbprint cookies

If it looks like we’ve been making lots of sweets around here, well, that would be about right. I have no problem letting my son eat vegetable sticks dipped in peanut butter or tahini at least one meal a day. Baking cookies, however, falls into the general category of “toddler entertainment,” not necessarily cooking per se.

In this case, I made the dough circles and he made the thumbprints. Squoosh. Squoosh.

This recipe is adapted from a Linzer cookie recipe from the “More from Magnolia” cookbook, my (old) new favorite dessert cookbook. It’s full of unfussy, American-style baked goods that have never let me down. The original recipe makes, well, Linzer cookies and not thumbprints, and also makes lots, lots more of them. I’ve also made a few adaptations to the actual ingredient list and the ratios.

This nutty dough goes well with all sorts of potential fillings. We chose a mix of cranberry orange jam – a.k.a. cranberry sauce, left over after we were invited to two Thanksgiving dinners here in Israel – and dark chocolate. You could also use raspberry jam, as the original recipe calls for, or all sorts of other fruit flavors.

For 24 thumbprint cookies:

1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup flour (I used cake flour)

Filling of your choice – chocolate disks, jam, or otherwise

On a baking sheet, toast the hazelnuts until lightly browned. I put them in my toaster for 10 minutes, stirring once in the middle.

Cream the butter and sugar in a mixer on medium speed (this generally means 2-3 minutes until it looks pale and fluffy). Add the vanilla and mix well. Mix in the salt and baking powder.

Chop the toasted hazelnuts – the papery peels will add dark flecks to your dough – and mix into the batter. Mix in the flour. The dough will be somewhat crumbly at this point. Pack it together with your hands, cover in plastic and put in the fridge to rest for a few minutes.

Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit).

Pinch off lumps of dough about twice the size of your thumb. Shape into little discs, and make an indent in the center to hold filling (toddler thumbs are perfect for this). Repeat with all the dough.

Fill the indentations with filling of your choice – a disc or two of chocolate melts nicely in the oven, and jam also bakes well, as it thickens somewhat.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. The cookies should be still pale on top, but lightly golden underneath. Remove from the oven to cool.

Orange cranberry sauce (or jam, if you prefer)

Cranberries aren’t exactly the most common fruit here in Israel, but if you spend long enough looking, you generally can find them frozen at stores catering to the Russian community. Frozen currants tend to be sold under the same name (“hamutziyot” in Hebrew) so double-check what you’re buying.

For a little more than 1 liter:

600 grams cranberries (mine were frozen, due to necessity)
zest and flesh of 2 oranges (toss out the white pith)
1 1/4 cup sugar

Roughly chop the oranges, and add the oranges, zest and cranberries to a pot. Cover with water and bring to a simmer until soft, adding more water as necessary.

Add the sugar and simmer until it begins to thicken and gel, stirring occasionally. Once you’ve added the sugar you’ll need to keep a closer eye on the sauce, as it is more prone to burning.

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