Classic Tea Thumbprint Cookies

Classic Tea “Thumbprint” Cookies & Holiday Fall Out

I have more than a few posts that should have been gotten out before the holidays, but better late than never? It feels a bit like post-Holidayliptic Fall Out to share them now! I mean when a holiday is over, it’s over and few people want to continue to indulge (or bake) after Christmas. But I just had to share my Classic Tea Thumbprint Cookies. Make them now (leftover cranberry sauce is great in the middle) or pin them for next year.

Classic Tea Thumbprint Cookies

Classic Tea “Thumbprint” Cookies


But the Classic Tea Thumbprint Cookies aren’t the only Christmas “fall-out.” Gibson seemed a bit unsure of Christmas morning at my daughter’s house! I’ve never seen him “shy” from anything, but he was on the couch next to me, safe from the commotion (read this as out of the way!) and he actually ducked his head behind my back! I think he thought he was going to be blamed for the mess that was the aftermath of the present opening! Bless his heart!

About Classic Tea Thumbprint Cookies:

I love to make Classic Tea Thumbprint Cookies. They’ve got all the flavor of your favorite shortbread or Linzer cookie but they’re easy to make. No rolling required, no fussy decorating to speak of, although there are a few things you can do to “fancy” them up.  Classic Tea Thumbprint Cookies are just absolutely beautiful little cookies (despite my photos – they are due for a new photoshoot!) Kids love to make the indentations or “thumbprints” and maybe fill if they’re old enough.

I like that Classic Tea Thumbprint Cookies are easily customized to your taste or what you have on hand. Fill them with any jam or jelly or get creative and try, like I mentioned above, cranberry sauce or even some kind of chutney or conserve. Even mincemeat is a wonderful filling. I’ve even made these cookies with my leftover compote of Winter Fruits in Spiced Wine. You can go with plain old raspberry jam, always a classic, or really go high end with a fancy jam enhanced with all kinds of flavors or maybe even a touch of alcohol.

Now, as far as decorating, it’s really not necessary, but a little powdered sugar can never be wrong. A few stripes of a powdered sugar icing is always fun. Or you can put little smidges of various things in the jam, to complement the filling. A few slivered almonds or another nut, little bits of citrus zest, candied ginger or other fruit.

Gibson seemed a bit relieved when the commotion was over!

Making Classic Tea Thumbprint Cookies:

I’ve been using this recipe for these absolutely simple and simply delish little shortbread cookies for decades, and it’s not the recipe that makes them so good. Well, it is partially, but keys to really good Classic Tea Thumbprint Cookies great is quality and technique. That’s going to make or break these classic cookies.

As far as ingredients, only use real butter and make certain the butter is at the proper temperature. Too warm and the cookies don’t keep shape and can bake up heavier, even a bit greasy. Too cold and the flour will never mix in quite right. You’ll have to really beat to soften the butter so it will accept the flour and that’s not going to make the most tender, melt in your mouth cookie. The butter, when it is at just the right temperature, should be able to be bent without cracking and without losing its shape. I’m going to refer you to Haniela’s Blog where she’s detailed this out wonderfully!

When I make Classic Tea Thumbprint Cookies, I think it’s easiest to use a scoop for uniform size, scoop all the dough or at least a good portion of it at a time and place the cookies on a clean counter or parchment paper. Then I pick up each cookie in turn, roll it into a ball and place it on the cookie sheet. Then I like to use the back side of a small, round measuring spoon to press in the indentations, especially if my fingernails are at all long. Any imperfection in the little balls of cookie will show up in the final baked cookie because there is no leavening. Take a little care when rolling them.

Saving Money on Classic Tea Thumbprint Cookies:

As far as the most bang for your buck, this is THE time of the year to stock up on baking goods and specials. Anywhere from pre-Thanksgiving all the way to Christmas, there will be specials and plenty of coupons, if you use them on baking items. See my list of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Savings. There may be some minor sales around Thanksgiving, but the next big sale will be Easter.

Whenever I bring anything into the house that contains flour, it goes right into my freezer for three days; that eliminates the possibility of any little peskies coming into the house along with the bag of flour or the flour related item.

It’s worth mentioning if you have one nearby to check your buyer’s club or Aldi for the butter. Their everyday prices are usually less than the grocery store sale prices in my area.

Classic Tea Thumbprint Cookies

Classic Tea “Thumbprint” Cookies

Classic Tea Thumbprint Cookies

  • Servings: abt 30
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2 sticks butter, 8 ounces, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (sift if there are lumps)
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla (a little orange, almond or another extract may be used to complement the filling although the amount may need to be cut back)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup or so of filling, jam, jelly, etc.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Cream butter until light and fluffy and pale in color, several minutes. Beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn mixer down and slowly incorporate the flour and salt, beating until just mixed, scraping the bowl now and then.

Scoop the dough into 1-inch balls with a cookie or ice cream scoop. Roll into a ball shape (flour hands if necessary) place on cookie sheet about two inches apart and gently and very slightly flatten just a little. Press a thumbprint into the center of each ball or use the back of a measuring spoon to make an indentation about 3/8 inch or so deep. Fill each indentation with about 1/2 teaspoon jam.

Bake cookies until set and only until a slight bit of coloration is visible on the bottom edges, about 15 to 20 minutes. Rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back about halfway through baking. Cool cookies on the baking sheets. Serve.

Store cookies in a tightly sealed container for several days.


  • I find it easiest to scoop all the cookies onto a sheet or clean counter first, then pick each up to roll and put on the cookie sheet. Then I press them, indent them and fill them.
  • Because these are a shortbread and have no leavening, any imperfection in the cookie shows when they are done, so it’s best to take a bit of care to try to keep them smooth.


15 thoughts on “Classic Tea “Thumbprint” Cookies & Holiday Fall Out

  1. Indeed, these look like the perfect tea cookie! And man, Gibson is adorable! A cookie (or two) and some snuggle time with Gibson and my day would be complete! 🙂

  2. These look so pretty! I love shortbread, and just realized that I have never made any sort of thumbprint cookie before…it seems that it’s about time that I fill that gap in my baking repertoire, so thank you for sharing the recipe!

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