Reader’s Recipes: Evelyn’s Christmas Cookies — buttery little jam thumbprint cookies perfect for the holidays and beyond! These easy shortbread cookies add a pop of color to your holiday collection.
Welcome to my Reader’s Recipes series of holiday cookies. I’m going to be sharing YOUR family recipes here every Saturday from now until the New Year. Thanks to all of you who’ve sent in recipes for me to try!
Evelyn’s Christmas Cookie recipe was sent to me by Joan, from Clawson, Michigan. Joan is 78 years young and has been making and enjoying these cookies for over 30 years. Once again, I chose to make these cookies because they’re unlike anything I’ve shared before on the blog, and yet they’re classics.
The best jam for thumbprint cookies
This is an utterly simple dough that takes just a few minutes to whip up, and a few more minutes to bake. I think the beauty of these cookies is that glistening dollop of jam in the center. As they bake, the jam sets and becomes a little chewy. I love to collect interesting jams and jellies, so this cookie is perfect for using them up.
- Joan’s recipe calls for current jelly, but I used a beautiful Red Raspberry Jam from Stonewall Kitchens. The flavor is bright and tart and a perfect complement to the buttery cookie. I think it would also be fun to mix and match jams and jellies to make a colorful assortment.
The only change I made to the recipe was to coat the little balls of dough in sugar before placing them on the baking sheet. I found that helped me make the little indents without any stickiness, and gave the finished cookies an extra glisten. Oh, and I used my favorite Vanilla Bean Paste instead of extract because I’m addicted to those little vanilla specks!
Don’t use your thumb for thumbprint cookies!
I found that the back of a little 1/8 (or 1/4) teaspoon worked better than my thumb to make the perfect indent on these tiny cookies. I mound the jam up just a bit in the pockets, but not to overflowing.
How long to bake thumbprint cookies
They bake up to an irresistible bite size in just 8 minutes, so that the cookie is still soft, the jam is set, and the bottoms are a light golden. The nice thing about these cookies is that, once baked, the jam is firm and not sticky, so they can be packed or stacked. A nice feature in a holiday cookie!
The story behind this reader’s recipe…
This recipe is wrapped up in the story of a lifelong friendship between Joan and Evelyn that began in 1936 when Joan and her family moved into a new house and were greeted by the neighbors, who happened to have a daughter of the same age, Evelyn. This is Evelyn’s recipe, which is originally from the 80’s era “Christmas Cookbook“, by John Clancy. Joan and Evelyn have been baking and exchanging these cookies for over 30 years. I know you’re going to love them too.
These cookies have a very simple, old fashioned appeal. Every holiday assortment needs them! — thank you Joan for sending along the recipe!
Tips for making these thumbprint cookies
- I halved the recipe and it worked perfectly.
- I used my mini 1 inch cookie scoop to make the perfect sized balls of dough.
- I rolled the balls of dough in granulated sugar before making the indentation and filling with jam. It just made them less sticky, and added a little glisten to the finished cookie.
- These are small cookies, make sure your oven temperature is correct and don’t over bake them. They will be pale when done.
Reader’s Recipes: Evelyn’s Christmas Cookies
- 1/2 lb unsalted butter, 2 sticks
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 tsp vanilla extract, I used vanilla paste because I love the little specks
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup currant jelly, use any jam or jelly you like
- Set oven to 375F
- Cream butter and sugar until very light in color.
- Add the egg yolks and continue beating until mixture is fluffy.
- Stir in vanilla; gradually add the flour.
- To form cookies, pat 1 tablespoon dough at a time into a 1-inch diameter ball and place on lightly greased baking sheet. (I used a 1 inch diameter scoop to portion out the dough) With fingertip, make an indentation in the top of each cookie. Spoon currant jelly into each indentation.
- Bake cookies on middle rack of oven for about 8 minutes, or until edges turn a light golden brown.
Don’t forget to pin Evelyn’s Christmas Cookies!