Say what you will about the Food Network, but a guilty pleasure of mine is to snuggle down on the sofa and watch an episode or four of the Barefoot Contessa. I am completely convinced that Ina Garten and I would be BFF if we knew each other in real life. We would get together to plan posh dinner parties and lazy afternoon picnics at the beach. And every year around the holidays, I would send Ina a box of her very own jam thumbprint cookies, which brings us to the subject of this post. I have baked these cookies countless times, and they have never failed me. I’ve even baked these in unfamiliar kitchens with foreign tools and unknown brands of flour. Still they prevail. And did I mention that they are delicious? Oh, and so beautiful you almost (just almost) don’t want to eat them?
The driving force — the engine, if you will — of these cookies is butter. Three sticks to be exact. That’s ¾ of a pound of butter . . . how can these cookies not be good? And to gild the lily even further, there’s a ruby center (raspberry preserves) and a toasted crown of coconut.
I’ll admit these aren’t the speediest cookies to whip up. There are several steps (a swim in the egg wash, a dunk in the coconut, a dollop of preserves), but none of the steps are difficult. It’s the kind of cookie you bake while listening to the Splendid Table and contemplate what to make for dinner. Before beginning, I recommend clearing off a wide swath of counter top – you’ll need it. The recipe makes a lot of cookies so you’ll also need at least a couple of cookie sheets.
Note that the recipe calls for each cookie ball to weigh 1 ounce. The first time I baked these, I did not have a scale and they turned out fine. The balls of cookie dough will be approximately the size of a golf ball. When we moved to Charlotte (and to a much smaller kitchen), we considered each piece of kitchen equipment, and I couldn’t bear to part with the scale. I consider it essential. You don’t have to run out and buy a scale to bake Ina’s cookies. But if you’re like me, and search for any excuse to add to the kitchen collection, this would be the perfect time to make the purchase. Your cookies will all be the same size, and they’ll emerge from the oven evenly baked.
Ina Garten’s Jam Thumbprint Cookies
¾ pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
7 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
Raspberry and/or apricot jam
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until they are just combined and then add the vanilla. Separately, sift together the flour and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Mix until the dough starts to come together. Dump on a floured surface and roll together into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
Roll the dough into 1 ¼ inch balls. (If you have a scale they should each weigh 1 ounce). Dip each ball into the egg wash and then roll it in coconut. Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet and press a light indentation into the top of each with your finger. Drop ¼ teaspoon of jam into each indentation. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the coconut is golden brown. Cool and serve.