Thursday, March 19, 2009
Tonight we're going to a birthday dinner for a friend. It's not a particularly special number but, a birthday none the less and certainly a good reason to gather around the table for a meal. So, what to bring as a gift? "Grown-ups" don't want Legos, puzzles, Star Wars gear, or super-hero costumes so, taking a cue from my son wasn't going to help. Gifts for grown-ups should be more personal. Wine is always good but, who doesn't bring wine? Everyone knows I am cookie-crazy and any excuse to be baking in the kitchen is good. So I had my answer! I did a little fact finding and discovered our friend's favorite cookie-a jam filled thumbprint.
I shot to the Container Store for a great class cookie jar. Filled it with a sheet of multi-colored waxed tissue (perfect for packing cookies) and topped the lid with a big orange decal and a 'happy birthday'.
The cookies were a breeze. I adapted a recipe from Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten. The girl makes a mean shortbread cookie so I knew her thumbprints would work. She coats hers in coconut, which looks fantastic. I wanted a nutty cookie so I 86'd the coconut and put a huge handful of toasted, chopped pecans in the dough. The dough is crumbly so be patient when you're making the dent in the center-they need a little love. I filled half of them with apricot jam (my fave) and the other half with raspberry. They look great (don't you think?) and taste even better. I'm waiting for them to cool then I'll pack that jar full and hand it off, along with a pound of our new favorite coffee from Four Barrel.
So next time you know a grown up with a birthday, turn on the oven and get to work. Every time he has coffee and cookie this week, I hope he'll remember that we are wishing him well.
Jam Filled Pecan Thumbprints (adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten).
3/4 cup butter, room temp
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups flour
pinch kosher salt
3/4 cup toasted and coarsely chopped pecans
your favorite jam
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes (or use a hand mixer). Add the vanilla and mix to combine. Add the flour, salt, and pecans and mix until the dough begins to form large clumps and holds together when you gently squeeze it in your hand. Transfer the dough to a piece of plastic wrap, form it into a ball, flatten it into a disc, and wrap it tightly. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silpats.
Roll the dough into balls about 1 1/2-inches in diameter. Using your finger, gently poke a dent in the center and to make a cavity about 1/2-inches wide and deep. Place the cookies about 1-inch apart on the baking sheets. Fill each one with a small spoonful of jam, filling them just under the top of each cookie. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until lightly golden on the bottom. Transfer to a rack and cool completely (or the molten hot jam will burn your tongue off!)
Makes about 28 cookies