Well the holiday season is underway and Christmas looms around the corner. I have a few traditions that I do each year. I watch holiday movies (Miracle on 34th Street, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Christmas Eve on Sesame Street and It’s a Wonderful Life), decorate my apartment (even if I forgo tree-trimming and it’s just displaying Christmas cards artfully on my bookcase…hey that counts!) and wait until the last minute to run around like a maniac shopping for presents. Oh yeah and bake cookies of course!
It’s often said that people in the kitchen inhabit one of two camps, either cooks or bakers. I definitely prefer the freedom and improvisational skill of cooking. But I do have a few tried and true dessert recipes up my culinary sleeve. These yummy cookies, which come from chef Robin Asbell in the September ’08 issue of Vegetarian Times, are one of them.
Cookie-baking often puts you in the holiday spirit but these will definitely bring out your inner kid as you get to roll the dough into balls and stick your thumb into the dough. Pungent and bitter almond extract co-mingles with aromatic and sweet vanilla extract to create a balanced treat that is not too sweet, not too savory. I’ll let you in on one of the secrets to making these so fab. While you don’t always need to be picky regarding expensive ingredients, I will say that you should splurge and purchase the best quality jam you can buy for this dessert. Favorit Swiss is the absolute best with its smooth texture and high fruit content. Trust me, it will make all the difference. The fresh fruit of the preserves brings the golden chewy cookies to life.
I baked these for Christmas a couple of years ago, bringing them to my friend John’s family’s house. While we all enjoyed munching them, his dad devoured them! That’s the best compliment a cook or a baker can receive. I must admit I had to restrain myself from stuffing fistfuls of these addictive treats into my mouth over and over, finally succumbing to slumber from a self-induced food coma. So be sure to bake a batch of these…and leave some for Santa too.
Vegan Thumbprint Cookies with Strawberry Jam
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegan butter, room temperature (Earth Balance)
1/3 cup vanilla soymilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup strawberry jam or preserves (Favorit Strwaberry Swiss Preserves are THE best)
1. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Set aside
2. Beat sugar and margarine with electric hand mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in soymilk, vanilla extract and almond extract until combined. Then beat in flour mixture until soft dough forms.
3. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes or overnight.
4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and place balls 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets.
5. Then press indentation in center of each ball with thumb. Don’t press too hard; you want a dent for the jam to rest in but you don’t want to make the bottom part of the cookie dough ball too thin.
6. Scoop a tiny dollop of jam into the dent of each cookie dough. You may also put the jam on after the cookies have baked.
7. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until cookies are light brown. Transfer cookies with a spatula to a wire rack to cool.