Christmas Thumbprint Cookies are traditional shortbread-like party cookies formed into balls, rolled in pecans and then add an indentation. Fill the cavity with marbleized frosting instead of the more traditional jelly for a festive touch.
This post re-photographed, polished up, questions answered and republished December 2019.
When I started this blog ten years ago, my husband of 43 years asked when I was going to post the recipe for thumbprint cookies. He kept asking again and again. I think he was just wanting to eat some.
Christmas is almost here. So are Christmas Thumbprint Cookies. My husband is happy.
The original recipe is simple–straight out of the Betty Crocker Cooky Book, copyright 1963.
This book was obviously my mom’s. I was too young to be cooking anything this fancy in 1963. Wasn’t I???
Questions about making Christmas Thumbprints:
How many cookies does this recipe yield?
That depends. If you like larger cookies (a tablespoon or more of dough), you won’t even get 2 dozen.
I think most people prefer smaller cookies when they’re looking at a cookie tray as is usually the case on Christmas. Using a 2-teaspoon spring-loaded cookie scoop will give you exactly 28 bite-sized cookies.
Another reason to make these cookies smaller is that they can be a little crumbly. One bite is much neater to eat.
Need lots of cookies? Double the recipe. I’ve done it many times.
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What can I substitute for the frosting?
- A teaspoon of jelly (placed in the indentation before baking)
- Chocolate ganache
- Chocolate frosting
- If you have a different idea, please leave it in the comments.
What can I substitute for the pecans?
If you have someone with a nut allergy in the family, try rolling the cookies in sugar. It will be a completely different cookie but still delicious.
Can I freeze these cookies?
Yes. Wrap well (double-wrap) and keep in the freezer for up to three months. They will stay fresh on the counter in a sealed container for three to four days.
How do you keep the cookies from cracking?
- Use a small cork instead of your finger for the neatest indentation.
- Make your indentation before baking the cookies.
- Press your finger or cork into the cookie gently so as not to crack the dough. If it cracks, push it back together.
- Don’t chill the dough or allow it to dry out before you make the balls.
- Measure your flour carefully. Too much flour will make the dough dry.
Don’t worry too much is you get some cracks or drip icing over the side. The pecans camouflage the cracks much better than sugar does when making traditional thumbprints. Also, perfect cookies look like they came from the store. Imperfect homemade cookies = love!
How to form Christmas Thumbprint Cookies :
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How to make marbleized icing:
Instead of using a solid color icing, drop the tiniest amount of liquid food coloring into a bowl of icing. (Don’t miss the video to see this in action.)
Without stirring, carefully use a spoon to pick up a little of the color. Try to get mostly white icing. Then use a second spoon to push the icing on to the cookie.
This process will slightly mix and swirl the color. It doesn’t take much extra effort.
Alternative Method for the Frosting:
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If you make this recipe and enjoy it, consider helping other readers and me by returning to this post. Leave a rating on the recipe card itself underneath the picture. Although always appreciated, comments aren’t required. Thank you for visiting! Paula
- 1/4 cup shortening
- 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg, separated
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup (120 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
- 1/2 tablespoon butter, melted
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1-2 tablespoons milk
- Food Coloring
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cream shortening, butter, brown sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla. Add flour and salt. Combine well.
- Roll dough into balls. Using a small ice cream dipper will aid in uniformity.
- Beat egg white slightly with a fork. Dip balls in egg white, then roll in chopped pecans.
- Place balls on an ungreased baking sheet, (I use a silicone baking mat) about 1 inch apart.
- Remove and use a small cork or your finger to gently press an indentation into the center of each cookie. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the cookies are set. Remove from the oven and immediately use a cork or your finger to repress the indentation into the middle of the cookies.
- Make the icing while cookies bake. Add color using the process described above. Or leave the icing uncolored. Or stir in food coloring to make a uniform color. It's your preference. Many people do jelly--but not at my house.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 14 Serving Size: 2
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 186Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 25mgSodium: 75mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 1gSugar: 11gProtein: 2g