Tender Almond Shortbread Cookies with Peach Preserves
Tender little balls of buttery shortbread cookie dough rolled in roasted almonds, filled with a dollop of peach preserves, and adorned with a drizzle of almond glaze. These thumbprint cookies are melt-in-your-mouth tender and positively addicting.
(Recipe originally published in September of 2016. Updated and republished in August of 2019.)
My Grandma was the undisputed Queen of Homemade Cookies. All of us grandkids (and great grandkids) have eaten remarkable amounts of her cookies throughout the years. They were a staple of our childhood that I largely took for granted. She always had several different kinds in the freezer and rare was the visit when she didn’t pull some out for us to nibble on (ok… devour) while we talked.
Every Christmas, we all received a tin filled to bursting with several different kinds of small, bite-sized cookies. We all had our favorites. My Dad loved the pecan sandies. My brother was addicted to her gingersnaps. My kids loved her Pecan Sand Tarts with a chocolate kiss in the center.
I loved them all, but her jam thumbprint cookies were my favorites. They were tender and buttery and so pretty, with little dollops of jam in the center of each, glittering like jewels.
Several Christmases ago, my Grandparents gave us the best Christmas gift I’ve ever received – a large binder filled with printed pages of Grandma’s recipes.
Each recipe includes a few sentences about who loved that particular dish, memories about the occasions on which she served them, and notes about where the recipe came from or what she loved about it. My Grandma, as it turned out, was a food blogger too. She just printed her posts on paper.
The recipe binder was a team effort, with my Grandpa decorating the pages with clip art, formatting the recipes, printing the pages, and organizing them into sections. It’s a treasure trove of memories and one of my most prized possessions.
When my Grandparents passed away, they left a hole in our family that cannot be filled and made me more grateful than ever for that precious binder of recipes.
The Best Thumbprint Cookies are Made with Shortbread and Really Good Jam
Shortbread cookies should be soft, tender, and so buttery they practically melt in your mouth. To achieve such a consistency, it’s best to begin with a shortbread dough.
For this recipe, I really wanted the almond flavor to shine through, so in addition to all-purpose flour, the shortbread dough for these cookies includes a bit of finely ground almond flour. It’s really important to use almond flour that’s finely ground so as to add nutty flavor without interfering with the soft, tender texture.
To add even more almond flavor, I added a touch of almond extract to the dough and then rolled the balls of dough in chopped roasted almonds before baking. I love this for two reasons: The roasted almonds on the outside of the cookie give you an immediate burst of toasted nuttiness AND add a nice contrast in texture – crunch on the outside, tender buttery shortbread on the inside.
It’s Peach Season, Baby!
Depending on what time of year it is when you’re actually reading this and where you are in the world, this statement may, or may not, be true. Currently, as I write this, it’s August in Colorado, and that means Colorado peaches are in season. My apologies to all of you in Texas, California, South Carolina, Georgia, New Jersey, or anywhere else that happens to grow peaches – COLORADO PEACHES ARE THE BEST.
Every year, I purchase boxes and boxes of Colorado peaches. Many, many, many of them get eaten right from the box, preferably standing over the sink, juice dripping from our chins and fingers. But, it wouldn’t be summer without a peach pie (or three) and quart after quart of peach ice cream.
It also wouldn’t be summer without Peach Preserves.
The best of years, I manage to make enough successive batches of Peach Preserves to give generously as gifts throughout the year and last my little family all the way until peach season begins the following year. This doesn’t always happen. But I do usually manage to put up at least 8 jars or so.
Of course, making homemade preserves is not a requirement to bake these thumbprint cookies. There are plenty of high-quality brands at farmer’s markets and grocery stores everywhere. I’ve also made these cookies with all different kinds of jam and preserves. Most recently, I made a batch filled with Strawberry Rhubarb Jam and they were FABULOUS.
Use whatever jam or preserves you desire. Or, do what my Grandma always did, and bake an array of gorgeous jewell toned thumbprint cookies by using several different kinds of jam or preserves.
Regardless of they type of fruit jam or preserves you use, the shortbread in these thumbprint cookies practically melts in your mouth. As all good shortbread cookies should be, they are rich, tender, and not too sweet, providing the perfect background for the peaches, roasted almonds and almond glaze.
I’ll tell you right now, that as happy as I am with this thumbprint cookie recipe, they don’t hold a candle to my Grandma’s thumbprint cookies. How could they? They weren’t baked by her.
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Tender little balls of buttery shortbread cookie dough rolled in roasted almonds, filled with a dollop of peach preserves, and adorned with a drizzle of almond glaze.
- 1 cup whole almonds
- 1 1/2 cups butter (12 oz.), at room temperature
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 2 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup almond flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 8 oz. peach preserves (or any kind of fruit preserves or jam)
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1–2 tbsp half and half or milk
- 1 tsp almond extract
- Spread the almonds out onto a baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes in a 375 degree oven, until darkened and fragrant smelling. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
- Beat the butter and both sugars with an electric mixer on medium high speed for about 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl a couple of times, until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- In a small bowl, whisk the egg, egg yolk and both extracts to combine. Add to butter mixture, beating at medium speed for 1 minute, until well combined.
- Add all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, almond flour and salt to a bowl and stir with a wire whisk to combine. Add to the butter-egg mixture and mix on low speed just until the shortbread dough comes together. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Add the almonds to the the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until the consistency of corn meal – finely chopped, but before their oil starts releasing. Pour into a small bowl.
- Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper and remove the shortbread dough from the refrigerator. Shape tablespoon size pieces of dough into balls, make an indentation with your thumb in the center of each one, dip the tops in the ground almonds, and place on the baking sheets, sparking them about 2 inches apart. Fill the indentation in each cookie with 1/2 – 1 tsp of preserves.
- Bake for 14-16 minutes. When ready, the cookies will have small cracks in the tops and be set, but still soft. Let cool completely on the baking sheet.
- While they cool, make the glaze: Add the powdered sugar to a medium size bowl along with 1 tbsp milk or half and half and the almond extract. Stir until the powdered sugar is completely dissolved. If too thick to drizzle from a spoon, add up to 1 more tablespoon of milk or half and half. Drizzle over cooled cookies.
- The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
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