Valentine’s Day is a deeply divisive holiday. It’s either a celebration of something that’s going well for you or a flashing neon sign pointing to something that isn’t. While the rest of us are either ignoring the day or bitterly muttering about Hallmark conspiracies, happy couples retreat into their own world of loving glances and mushy pronouncements. How can we balance such an equation, you ask? By employing the great equalizer: baked goods.
If you don’t do a lot of baking, thumbprint cookies are a great place to start. This recipe is modified from Ina Garten’s “Jam Thumbprint Cookies,” but every cookbook will have a variation of them. They don’t require many specialized baking ingredients and they come together fairly quickly. Just make sure you budget enough time to let the dough chill before forming your cookies, because this mostly-butter recipe needs to be cool to keep its shape in the oven.
With winter only halfway over and spring break still a long way off, we could all use an opportunity to be festive, and Valentine’s Day is all February has to offer. So whether you’re hoping that cookies will pass as a grand romantic gesture or just eating away your feelings, these cookies are a pretty foolproof option. Why not break the mold and spend an afternoon baking with friends? Or stay home and eat them all yourself. We don’t judge.
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature*
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
A pinch of salt*
Raspberry, strawberry or apricot jam (or whatever your favorite is)
*Alternatively, you can use salted butter and not add any salt. This is a standard shortcut in our households, although it may make more serious bakers flinch.
Makes 18-20 cookies.
1 Preheat the oven to 350° F.
2 When your butter is at room temperature, mix in the sugar until it forms a smooth, uniform paste (this is called “creaming” in most recipes). Then add the vanilla extract. Using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment is fast and easy, but mixing it by hand is also fairly quick.
3 In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and pinch of salt.
4 Begin to add dry ingredients to your butter and sugar. Adding a bit at a time makes things go easier. If you are using a mixer, keep it at low speed or you’ll end up covered in flour.
5 Mix just until incorporated. It will be pretty stiff and dry.
6 Pat the dough out into a thick disk, cover it up with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
7 Once chilled, make the dough into 1 inch balls, roll them in the coconut flakes and place them on an ungreased baking sheet.
8 Here’s the fun part! Use your thumb to squish the dough down, leaving a crater in the middle. Then plop about a 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of jam into the hollow.
9 Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the coconut and the cookie edges are golden brown. Let them cool before you start snacking.
10 Final suggestion: enjoy with a either a tall glass of milk or a hot cup of tea.