My pantry is chock-full of beautiful canning jars full of creative and interesting flavors of jam. Jam is a classic canning staple that a lot of folks start off with, which is wonderful! Canning jam at home is simple, easy, and fun. But then the question comes: what in the world do you do with all of that jam? A person can only eat so many PB&Js!
Well, one of my favorite ways to use up a surplus of homemade jam is in classic Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies! With the buttery chew of shortbread and the delicate flavor of sweet, fruity jam, thumbprint cookies are a Christmas tradition for a lot of folks. I love the flavor, I love how simple they are to make (we’re talking only 7 ingredients!), and I love that they can showcase my jam creations. Let’s make some cookies!
What kind of cookies are thumbprint cookies?
Some folks use a basic sugar cookie dough for the base of thumbprint cookies, but we prefer a simple shortbread dough—which is one of the simplest cookie doughs around.
Shortbread dough contains no leaveners (like baking soda or baking powder), and typically includes just three ingredients—flour, butter, and sugar. We modify the shortbread dough here slightly by adding an egg, which softens the finished cookie ever-so-slightly to give it a satisfying chew.
Rolling thumbprint cookies in sugar before baking gives them a satisfying crunch and a beautiful snow-kissed appearance!
How do you make thumbprint cookies?
One of the best parts of thumbprint cookies is just how darn simple they are to make! Here are the basic steps:
- Make the shortbread base by creaming together butter and sugar. Add in an egg and vanilla extract for flavor.
- Then add the dry ingredients—flour and salt—to the butter mixture until combined.
- Form the dough into 1 tablespoon balls, roll in sugar, and place on a baking sheet.
- Press into the dough balls with your thumb (hence the name!) or the end of a wooden spoon.
- Chill for a few minutes in the freezer.
- Fill each indentation with your favorite jam!
- Bake until just very slightly golden on the bottom.
What’s the best jam to fill Thumbprint Cookies?
ANY! Yup, any kind of jam or jelly will be delicious in your cookies. You often see raspberry thumbprint cookies and apricot thumbprint cookies, but really any jam that you find delicious will do the trick. In these photos, we’ve used jam recipes from Ball® Canning: Mixed Berry Agave Jam and Peach Jam. Apple Jelly and Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam would also be wonderful options!
We obviously prefer homemade jam, but you could also use store-bought jam and get similar results.
What’s the best way to keep thumbprint cookies from spreading in the oven?
With so much fat in shortbread cookies (2 whole sticks of butter!), spreading can be a bit of a problem. We prevent spreading by chilling the dough before filling the cookies with jam. This helps the cookies bake properly before all the butter melts into a puddle.
When baking cookies, you want to use softened, room temperature butter. Do not melt or warm your butter to soften it—this can lead to cookies that spread!
How do you make thumbprint cookies with icing instead of jam?
This is a breeze! Simply bake the cookies without jam (but still with an indentation), and then when the cookies have fully cooled, fill each indentation with our fan-favorite Sugar Cookie Icing.
Do these cookies need to be refrigerated?
No—in fact, it’s pretty widely thought that the flavor of shortbread cookies improves after a day or two in an airtight container at room temperature.
How do you store thumbprint cookies?
We recommend stashing them in an airtight container at room temperature. If your jam puddles are still quite sticky after cooling, you might want to separate the layers with parchment paper before storing to keep the cookies from sticking to each other.
How do you freeze thumbprint cookies?
Thumbprints freeze wonderfully! Once they are fully cooled and filled, place them on a baking sheet and freeze them solid. Then transfer them to a zip-top freezer bag or other food storage container.
We love storing frozen cookies in Ball® Canning’s Pint and a Half Jars! They stack beautifully in these tall, narrow jars. They also also make a wonderful gifting container. The jar looks beautiful, and it protects the cookies so they are completely intact, no matter how far they have to travel!
How long do thumbprint cookies last?
We recommend eating them within a week, but if you can’t get through them in that time, pop them in the freezer, where they’ll last up to 6 months before losing any quality.