When I was in my teens I worked the counter at a small bakery. They made some amazingly delicious things, one of which were birdnest cookies: a sturdy yet crumbly shortbread cookie covered in toasted coconut and a deep red jewel of raspberry jam in the center. As much as I am a fan of coconut in all sorts of dishes and sweets I always felt like those “nests” were too rich. This version is less sweet, more petite and still jam-jewel studded with raspberry and for a different twist: marmalade. The vanilla bean freckles add to the flavor and charm and they disappear as quickly as you can make them ie: FAST!
Vanilla Bean Thumbprint Cookies
makes 6 dozen 1″ cookies
1 lb salted butter at room temperature
1 Cup (packed) light brown sugar
1Tbsp vanilla bean paste
4-5 Cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup jam(s) of your choosing (I used raspberry and marmalade)
Note before you begin: you can mix this dough by hand or with a stand mixer but I would not recommend hand mixers. This dough is very sturdy and requires kneading that handheld mixers can’t manage.
Combine the butter and sugar and cream together. If you’re using a stand mixer, use the lower settings – the objective here is to specifically NOT incorporate air. Once the sugar is dissolved into the butter, add the flour one cup at a time. You will need slightly more than 4 cups and possibly as much as 5 of its a humid day. The dough should crack slightly when you press your finger into it but still be soft and pliable, not chalky. Once the flour is mixed in, knead the dough on a lightly floured board until it’s cohesive and smooth (about 3 mins with the dough hook on a stand mixer).
Scoop the dough with a 1Tbsp scoop and place flat side down on ungreased cookie sheets. I find I can get 2 dozen little scoops on each sheet. Using the end of a wooden spoon, press a divet into each lump of dough.
Load up a pastry bag with jam (or a zip top bag with a snipped off corner) and squirt jam to fill each divet.
Bake at 350 degrees for 18 minutes or until the bottoms are tinged gold and the surface of the cookie looks matte.
Allow to cool on the pan.
Then, drizzle a glaze of 4 heaped Tbsp and 2 tsp lemon juice over top.