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Thanksgiving Thumbprint Cookies

Thanksgiving Thumbprint Cookies, a simple rustic, vegan shortbread cookie, rolled in sugar and filled with store-bought pumpkin butter or apple pie jam, frees up your cooking time this holiday. (photos from Deborah Brooks)

If you love homemade pumpkin and apple pie but not all of the work involved, these thumbprint cookies reinvented with Thanksgiving flavors, from the usual raspberry filling, might be the solution. A simple rustic, vegan shortbread cookie, rolled in sugar, and then filled with store bought pumpkin butter or apple pie jam frees up your cooking time for other menu items as they are best made a day ahead. You can even make them well in advance and freeze them until TG day.

I got the idea to create these cookies when I was contemplating making individual mini pies instead of two large pies for my Thanksgiving dinner. That seemed like even more work so I scrapped that plan. I still wanted a hand pie kind of dessert and so decided on trying a personal favorite cookie with these warm fall flavors. They turned out fantastic! Craggy and barely crisp on the outside with a good interior chew, the fruit fillings complement but don’t overwhelm the buttery vanilla flavor of the shortbread. Plus they passed the friends and family test with yums and aahs!

As with traditional pies the pumpkin vs. apple flavor camps were battling which cookie was best. I suggest making both!

Here are some chef’s tips:

It’s important that these cookies don’t spread during baking or the jam will run out. Here are three important rules to follow:
1) Chill the dough before baking after they are filled with the jam.
2) Use the cornstarch in the dough. It’s magic in that way. It also helps them be chewy inside with a crisp exterior. You can use cornstarch in other cookies as well.
3) Never put unbaked cookies on a hot pan. They must be on a room temp or cool pan before going in the oven.

  • The pumpkin butter and apple pie jam pictured below were purchased at Monsieur Marcel Gourmet Market at the Original Farmer’s Market. They are delicious. We like to support our local small businesses whenever we can, but you can also search online for fall jams.
  • Bake the cookies one pan at a time. You want a pale top and golden bottom and being on the middle rack is ideal for that. If you have a double oven then you can bake 2 pans at a time.
  • I chose to roll the pumpkin cookie in plain sugar as it was already well spiced. I rolled the apple cookie in a cinnamon/sugar mixture to add a bit more spice to the sweetness of the jam. Feel free to decide which sugar combos to use.
  • Let the cookies cool completely on the pan. Then move to a baking rack or plate. Make sure they’re cool throughout before putting in a covered container.
  • If serving within a day or two you can plate them and lightly cover with foil. For longer storage put in a sealed container. They freeze well.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Thumbprint Cookies
Makes about 22 cookies*

2 1/4 cups (280g) All Purpose flour
2 tsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup (8 oz.) vegan salted butter (cool room temperature – not too soft)
2/3 cup organic sugar
2 tsp vanilla paste or extract
1 jar pumpkin butter
1 jar apple pie or spiced apple jam
Organic sugar for rolling cookies
Organic sugar/cinnamon mix** for rolling cookies

Put flour in a medium-sized bowl. Sift the cornstarch and salt into the flour. Mix it well. Set aside.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment cream the butter for 30 seconds. Add the sugar and cream until light and fluffy. About 2-3 minutes. Scraping down sides of the bowl.

Add the vanilla paste/extract and mix in well. Scraping down sides.

Add the flour mixture in 3 batches just mixing in the flour each time. Again, scrape down the sides as needed. When the dough just comes together it’s ready.

Remove any dough from the paddle and remove the bowl from the stand.

Use your hands to form the dough into a large ball. Wrap in plastic and chill 10-15 minutes. Not too long or it will be hard to make the thumbprints.

In the meantime line a large sheet pan with parchment paper.

Mound several T of the additional sugar on a small flat plate

Mound several T of the sugar/ cinnamon mix (if using) on a small flat plate.

Remove the cookie dough from the fridge. Make tablespoon-sized balls by shaping the dough with your hands. Decide how many of each cookie flavor you are going to make. Roll the pumpkin-filled cookies in the plain sugar. Roll the apple pie-filled cookies in the sugar/cinnamon mix.

Put the cookie balls on the sheet pan and either press with your thumb or use a small measuring spoon to make the indentation for the jam. Make sure not to press too deep. You can put the cookies close together as this pan is just for chilling the cookies. Fill the sugar-rolled cookies with the pumpkin jam to the top but don’t overfill. Fill the cinnamon/sugar rolled cookies with the apple jam.

Chill in the fridge at least 30 minutes up to overnight. I chilled them for several hours.
When ready to bake preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the center of the oven. Make sure to allow the oven to be at 350 degrees for at least 15 minutes for best baking results.

In the meantime, carefully separate the cookies by flavor onto 2 parchment lined sheet pans, assuming you are doing an even amount of each. They should be spaced about 2 inches apart.

Bake one pan at a time for 14-18 minutes, depending on your oven calibration, rotating the pan halfway through. They are done when the bottoms are light golden brown. The tops should be barely colored. (Harder to tell with the cinnamon cookies). I like to check at 12 minutes.

*How many cookies you get will depend on how much dough you grab for each cookie. Mine were not all evenly sized. In a perfect world I would have weighed the dough then done some math and figured out how to get an exact amount of cookies by weight. I wasn’t going to do that to you (or me) Thanksgiving week! Just eyeball it and all will be fine!

**For a mild cinnamon/sugar blend (which I prefer for this cookie) the mix ratio is 1 tsp cinnamon for each 1/2 cup of sugar. As you won’t need that much it’s easy to halve this recipe.

The pumpkin butter and apple pie jam pictured were purchased at Monsieur Marcel Gourmet Market at the Original Farmer’s Market. They are delicious. We like to support our local small businesses whenever we can, but you can also search online for fall jams.
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Deborah Brooks
Deborah Brooks
Deborah is currently a documentary film producer. She is also a former certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition coach. The shutdown of business due to Covid-19 and the implication of an animal wet market connection caused her to rethink her high animal protein food lifestyle. She has spent the last year exploring the world of plant based eating for her own health as well as the health of the planet and all of its sentient beings. Her recipes can be found on Instagram. She would love you to follow along on her journey.

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