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The Ultimate Thumbprint Shortbread Cookies

Updated on March 13, 2017
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Jean has been a cooking instructor and creative self-taught cook with a passion for helping people develop their cooking skills .

The Ultimate Thimble (Thumbprint) Cookies

If you like shortbread cookies, you will also like thumbprint cookies.These cookies are also known as thimble cookies. Most of the recipes are basically the same type of dough with a similar taste but they are dressed up a bit more. The dough is a little softer and is rolled into a ball. Sometimes the cookies are rolled in nuts, coconut, icing sugar or what have you. A hole is pushed into the end with a thimble, the end of a wooden spoon or other cylindrical object like your thumb or finger. When the cookies come out of the oven the hole is filled with jam, jelly, icing, ganache, fudge and any number of other fillings.

These cookies are very easy to make and can be dressed up in so many ways as you can see by the following recipes. Bake up a storm and enjoy, but...be prepared to become addicted!

Types of Thumbprint Cookie Fillings

  • jams, jellies, marmalade or preserves
  • nut butter
  • white or dark chocolate ganache
  • citrus or other fruit curd
  • marshmallow
  • coconut manna
  • hershey kisses
  • mini peanut butter cups
  • mini mars bar bites
  • custard
  • nutella

To Coat the Outside of the Cookies or Not?

The cookies by themselves have a wonderful melt in your mouth consistency that is pure heaven. That alone, along with the filling takes the cookies over the top. But, by dipping the cookie balls in beaten egg white and rolled in something crunchy, it gives the cookies another flavor and texture experience. It depends on your preference.

Rolling and Filling Suggestions

Roll in
Fill With:
 
graham wafer crumbs
marshshmallow and chocolate sprinkles
 
finely chopped peanuts
mini peanut butter cups
 
grated coconut
custard
 
finely chopped hazelnuts
nutella
 
finely chopped walnuts
raspberry jelly
 
lemon sugar
coconut manna
 
colored sprinkles
chocolate ganache
 
chocolate sprinkles
caramel
 
chocolate sprinkles
peanut butter
 
finely chopped peanuts
Hershey kiss
 
hemp hearts
marmalade
 
black sesame seeds
white chocolate ganache
 
poppy or chia seeds
lemon curd
 

Tips of Filling the Thumbprint

  • Filling with indent with any kind of fruit preserves can be done before the cookies go into the oven to give the filling a more gummy texture. If you fill the indent just as the cookies come out of the oven, the jams and jellies etc., melt into the hole without that gummy texture.
  • Roll the cookie dough into a ball with your hands. One inch is a good size but if you are using Hershey kisses, you may need a slightly larger cookie with a slightly larger hole.
  • Push your thumb, finger or an object into the center of the cookie ball before the cookies go into the oven.
  • If you want the cookie coated in something, then that also needs to be done before the cookies go into the oven and just before you indent them.
  • Filling the cookies is easier if you use a small coffee spoon, a zip lock bag with a small hole cut in the corner or an icing bag with a #8 tip.
  • Most of the fillings listed above give a better texture result if they are put into the thumbprint just after the cookies come out of the oven or when they are cold.
  • You can also make most of these cookies in a plastic bag and squish the ingredients together. This way, you can bake a few cookies and store the rest of the dough in the plastic bag in the fridge to be baked within the week.


Making Savory Thumbprint Cookies

Your appetizer trays will never be the same again! You can create some really delicious flavor combinations mixed into the dough before you roll it into balls.

  • sage with blackberry jam filling
  • lemon thyme with raspberry jelly filling
  • bacon with cheddar cheese sauce filling
  • lemon balm with a lemon cream cheese filling
  • dill with a smoked salmon filling
  • sesame with a teriyaki minced chicken filling
  • ginger with a minced beef filling
  • rosemary with a Parmesan cheese sauce filling
  • garlic with a spinach tofu filling

Favorite Thumbprint Cookie Flavors

If you had an absolute favorite flavor combination, what would it be?

See results

Almond Thumbprint Cookies

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups sifted all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup very finely chopped unblanched almonds (food processor works best)
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a cookie sheet and set aside.

Sift flour, sugar and salt into a bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Blend in almonds and vanilla.

Get your hands in the bowl and work the dough until it comes together into a ball. Shape the cookies into 1 inch balls and place on greased cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Make a depression in the center of each cookie with a thimble or the round handle of a wooden spoon.

Bake about 8 minutes then remove from the oven. Dent the cookies again then put them back in the over for another 8 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes then remove to a rack to cool completely. When cold fill depression with the following frosting.

Frosting

  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream or half and half
  • 2/3 cup packed light or medium brown sugar
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • finely chopped pistachio nuts

Mix all frosting ingredients except icing sugar, vanilla and pistachio nuts in a heavy bottom saucepan. Bring to boil stirring constantly to prevent sticking. Boil for 2 minutes stirring constantly then remove from heat. Stir in icing sugar and vanilla. Beat it until smooth and thick.

Fill each cookie depression with the butterscotch frosting and sprinkle with finely chopped pistachio nuts.

When cold, store between layers of waxed paper in airtight container.

Brownie Thumbprint Cookies

  • 1 pkg brownie mix
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp soft butter
  • 1 tbsp cream
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease baking sheet and set aside.

Make up brownie mix according to package directions. Drop batter by teaspoonfuls into the chopped nuts. Roll into balls (dough will be very soft). Place 1 inch apart on lightly greased baking sheet.

Bake in 350 F oven for 12 minutes. Remove from oven; quickly press thumb gently into top of each cookie. Cool.

Blend the icing sugar, butter together. Stir in cream and vanilla until smooth. Drop a spoonful of mixture into the thumbprint of each brownie.

Chocolate No Bake Thumbprint Cookies

  • 1 (16-ounce) container dark chocolate frosting
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond or vanilla extract
  • 1 cup very finely ground almonds
  • 48 chocolate kisses, unwrapped

Beat chocolate frosting and butter in large bowl until well blended. Mix in graham cracker crumbs and almond or vanilla extract.

Place almonds in a pie pan or other shallow bowl.

Shape chocolate mixture into 1-inch balls. Roll each ball in very finely ground almonds to coat. Place balls on cookie sheet.

Using a finger, make deep indentation in center of each ball. Push chocolate kisses into indentations. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until cold.

Blackberry and Sage Thumbprint Cookies

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter -- room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large egg YOLKS
  • 2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel -- (or 1/8 teas. lemon oil)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 5 teaspoons fresh minced sage -- (or 1 1/2 tsp dried, crushed)
  • 2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup blackberry preserves at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 convection).

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter on medium-high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar and beat until combined, scraping sides of the bowl to fully incorporate.

Beat in the egg yolks, lemon peel (or lemon oil), vanilla, and minced sage until combined. Add the flour in 3 increments, beating until all is incorporated. Cover and refrigerate batter for 1 hour.

Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls, roll them in the cornmeal and place them 2-inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using the end of a wooden spoon , press an indent into the center of each ball of dough. Bake cookies for 5 minutes, remove from oven and re-indent the cookies. Bake for 4-5 more minutes or until slightly brown on the bottom.

Remove from oven and fill indentation with blackberry preserves. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing to rack to cool completely.

Candy Cane Thumbprint Cookies

Make 6 dozen (72)

  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup crushed candy canes
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 cups white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract or to taste
  • 4-5 drops green food coloring

Beat butter with an electric mixer at medium speed until creamy. Add sugar sugar, vanilla and flour, blending well. Add more flour, if necessary to make a dough that holds its shape. Chill dough 2 to 4 hours.

Roll dough into small balls, then roll in the crushed candy canes; place on lightly greased cookie sheets.

Make an indention in the middle of each cookie with the end of a wooden spoon or your thumb. Bake at 300° F for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and re-indent cookie middles. Bake another 10 to 15 minutes, or until firm and lightly browned on the bottom. Remove from oven.

While cookies are cooling on cookie sheets, heat sweetened condensed milk and white chocolate over low-medium heat, stirring often until chocolate melts and combines well. Add food coloring and peppermint flavoring. When thoroughly combined, let cool for about 10 minutes.

Spoon mixture into the indentations in the cookies, mounding slightly. Let cool and store between sheets of waxed paper.

Marmalade Thumbprint Cookies

Makes 36

  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 2/3 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups plus 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup orange marmalade
  • 1 recipe white chocolate ganache

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar until well blended, light and fluffy. Add vanilla, flour and salt. Mix well.

Form rounded teaspoonfuls into small balls and place them about 2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets. Press an indent in the middle of each ball with your thumb. Fill centers with half a teaspoon of orange marmalade.

Bake 12 - 14 minutes. Let cool ten minutes before removing to racks to cool completely. Spread White Chocolate ganache over the top of the jam to cover. Store between layers of waxed paper.

White Chocolate Ganache

  • 6 ounces of chopped white chocolate or chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 3 tbsp butter

Bring cream and butter to a simmer in a small heavy bottom saucepan. When cream starts to steam, remove from heat and add chocolate and stir until it is melted and no lumps remain. Let cool slightly then beat with a portable mixer until light, fluffy and thick. Spread over the marmalade centers of each cookie.

Peanut Butter and Jam Thumbprint Cookies

Makes 40

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs separated
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsalted peanuts, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup jelly or jam

Beat peanut butter, butter and sugar in a large bowl with electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour until well blended.

Scrape onto a piece of plastic wrap and wrap dough. Place in fridge for at least 1 hour until dough is firm.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Whisk egg whites in a small bowl until foamy. Put nuts on waxed paper or a foil pie plate. Shape tablespoons of dough into balls about 1inch. Dip in egg whites, then roll in nuts to cover. Place 1" apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Make an indentation with your thumb taking care not to crack cookies too much.

Bake 12-15 minutes until cookies look dry and firm. Remove to rack, cool completely. Spoon jelly into center of each. Store in airtight container at room temperature.

Lime Curd Thumbprint Cookies

Makes 24

  • 1/3 cup strained fresh lime juice
  • 1-2 tsp finely grated lime zest
  • 5 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

In a small sauce pan, over medium heat, dissolve sugar into lime juice. Add zest.

Lightly beat egg in a small/medium bowl. Whisking constantly, slowly pour lime/sugar syrup into the egg. Beat for 2 minutes (only 1 if you're using a mixer), then transfer back into the saucepan. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until it just starts to bubble at the edges. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla

Transfer to a small container and store covered in the fridge. Makes 2/3 cup.

Thumbprint Cookies

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • coarse sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Cream together butter, sugar and salt. Beat in vanilla, milk and cornstarch. Stir in flour until just combined.

Roll into 1 inch balls and roll in coarse sugar. Place on baking sheet and make a shallow indentation with your thumb. Bake for 12-13 minutes, until cookies just start to brown.

Cool on a wire rack. Fill indentation with a bit of lime curd.

Poppy Seed Thumbprint Cookies

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup poppy seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg plus one large yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • plum jelly or your choice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix the flour, salt, baking powder and poppy seeds together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs and the vanilla, beating until light and fluffy. Add the dry ingredients and mix well until combined.

Form round balls about 1 inch wide. Place them on an un-greased baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Make an depression in each cookie with your thumb.

Bake for 10 minutes, Remove the cookies from the oven. Re-make the indentation in the cookies. Fill the hole with enough plum jelly to fill the hole. Return the cookies to the oven for another 4 minutes or until starting to change color. Remove the cookies from the oven and let cool several minutes before moving to racks to cool completely. Store between sheets of waxed paper in covered container.

Strawberry Thumbprint Cookies

Makes 36

1 cup butter softened

2/3 cups white sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups plus 2 tbsp all purpose flour

pinch of salt

1/2 cup strawberry jam or jelly

1 recipe white chocolate ganache

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside

Cream butter and sugar until well blended, light and fluffy. Add vanilla, flour and salt. Mix well.

Form rounded teaspoonfuls into small balls and place them about 2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets. Press an indent in the middle of each ball with your thumb. Fill centers with half a teaspoon of strawberry jam or jelly.

Bake 12 - 14 minutes. Let cool ten minutes before removing to racks to cool completely. Spread White Chocolate ganache over the top of the jelly to cover. Store between layers of waxed paper.

White Chocolate Ganache

  • 6 ounces of chopped white chocolate or chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 3 tbsp butter

Bring cream and butter to a simmer in a small heavy bottom saucepan. When cream starts to steam, remove from heat and add chocolate and stir until it is melted and no lumps remain.

Let cool slightly then beat with a portable mixer until light, fluffy and thick. Spread over the jelly centers of each cookie.

Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies

  • 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam or jelly
  • 1 tbsp Chambord or Kirsch
  • 2 14 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter 2 large baking sheets and set aside

In a small bowl, combine the jam and Chambord. Stir to combine and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt and stir to blend.

In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in the egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla. Add the flour mixture in 2 additions and beat just until moist clumps form. Gather the dough together into a ball.

Pinch off the dough to form 1-inch balls. Place on the prepared baking sheets, spacing 1-inch apart. Use your floured index finger or 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon to create depressions in the center of each ball. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and fill each indentation with nearly 1/2 teaspoon of the jam mixture.

Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Store between sheets of waxed paper in covered container.

How to Make Thumbprint Cookies

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