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 want to get these Thumbprint Cookies on here for my daughter, who hopefully, has fond memories of making these with me. Then she’ll have the recipe next year to make with the “grands.”

Classic Tea or Thumbprint Cookies
Classic Tea or Thumbprint Cookies

These are absolutely simple and simply delish little shortbread Thumbprint cookies. So much fun to make, especially if you have little ones and an assortment of fillings. The recipe isn’t anything “special” at all, but like many simple things depends on the quality of ingredients and the technique.

Do not use anything but butter, and the absolute key to this recipe is to make certain the butter is at the proper temperature. Too warm and the cookies don’t keep shape, too cold and the flour will never mix in properly. The butter should be able to be bent without cracking and without losing it’s shape. I’m going to refer you to Haniela’s Blog where she’s detailed this out wonderfully!

As for the filling, these are the perfect way to use up left over cranberry sauce; the tart flavor offsets the sweet cookie. In my photo, above, I used Blackcurrant Jam, Cranberry Sauce and a little of my left over Winter Fruits in Spiced Wine compote. The beauty of this is you can use any filling you’d like. I always mean to make a few with Dulce de Leche dabbed on the top…

Classic Tea "Thumbprint" Cookies
Classic Tea “Thumbprint” Cookies

These cookies could be dressed with a little glaze over the fruit, just a simple one made with citrus and sugar, like you’ll find on my post for the Best Muffins. They could be “striped” with a little powdered sugar glaze (yes, it’s powdered sugar with a bit of water) and piped across the cookies. Try putting the glaze in a Ziploc and snipping the corner for an impromptu piping bag. These could also be sprinkled with a bit of powdered sugar.

A few nuts, complementary to the filling sprinkled over the top of the filling before baking are fantastic, and slivered almonds look beautiful. I often use almonds sprinkled on the cookies when I use raspberry jam, and 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract in the cookie itself takes this combo over the top. Thumbprint cookies are also sturdy enough to ship off to a loved one far away.

More 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 ducked his head behind my back! I think he thought he was going to be blamed for the mess that was the aftermath of present opening! Bless his heart!

Gibson seemed a bit relieved when the commotion was over!
Gibson seemed a bit relieved when the commotion was over!

I think he was stress eating, too, as a loaf of bread disappeared off the counter the night before and I don’t think it was Santa…Gibby is a notorious “counter-cruiser” and nearly got the left over ham at my brother’s house, too. Maybe he thought it would go good with the bread?

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 other 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.

from the kitchen of

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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