Zabar’s leg­endary cheese counter,” Juan C. Lopez Espan­ta­le­on, Pho­tos cour­tesy of the publisher

Eli Zabar’s Thumbprint Cookies

Inspired by Lil­ly Zabar’s recipe

Edit­ed and test­ed by Moni­ta Buchwald

Thumbprint cook­ies prob­a­bly orig­i­nat­ed in East­ern Europe. They are ver­sa­tile in that they can accom­mo­date a vari­ety of fruit fill­ings, but my grand­moth­er chose to exper­i­ment with the pas­try por­tion, often leav­ing out one essen­tial ingre­di­ent or anoth­er in her hap­less quest to cre­ate a nutri­tious” cook­ie. She so enjoyed watch­ing us eat them that I forced myself to con­sume many a taste­less cook­ie after Shab­bat din­ner because I knew they were made with love. For­tu­nate­ly, my uncle Eli is a tal­ent­ed bak­er and has cre­at­ed a deli­cious ver­sion based on Grand­ma Lilly’s recipe— but with all the nec­es­sary ingre­di­ents present and account­ed for.



8 table­spoons (1 stick) salted

but­ter, at room tem­per­a­ture ¹∕3 cup sugar

1 large egg yolk

1 cup all- pur­pose flour

½ cup good- qual­i­ty jam, such as rasp­ber­ry jam with seeds, or apricot


1. Using an elec­tric mix­er, cream the but­ter and sug­ar until pale and fluffy. Add the egg yolk, mix again, and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour last and mix until combined.

2. Form the dough into a round disk and refrig­er­ate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

3. Pre­heat the oven to 350°F.

4. Remove the dough from the refrig­er­a­tor, let stand for a few min­utes to soft­en, and place on a light­ly floured sur­face. Roll out the dough until it’s about ½ inch thick. Use a 1- inch cook­ie cut­ter to cut the dough into rounds. Reroll the scraps. Alter­na­tive­ly, you can form 1- inch balls.

5. Arrange the rounds or balls on two parch­ment- lined cook­ie sheets. Press a fin­ger into the cen­ter of each cook­ie. It doesn’t actu­al­ly have to be your thumb: Grand­ma Lil­ly used her point­er. That inden­ta­tion is for the jam.

6. Put the jam in a seal­able plas­tic bag and cut off one bot­tom cor­ner. Use it as you would a pas­try bag to pipe a drop (about ½ tea­spoon) of jam into the cen­ter of each cookie.

7. Bake for about 12 min­utes, until the edges are gold­en— you do not want them to become too dark.

8. Cool on a rack, then store in an air­tight con­tain­er. These cook­ies keep well for about a week.

Zabar’s: A Fam­i­ly Sto­ry, with Recipes by Lori Zabar out on May 3 2022

From Zabar’s: A Fam­i­ly Sto­ry, with Recipes by Lori Zabar. Copy­right © 2022 by Lori Zabar. Excerpt­ed by per­mis­sion of Schock­en, a divi­sion of Pen­guin Ran­dom House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be repro­duced or reprint­ed with­out per­mis­sion in writ­ing from the publisher.

Lori Zabar was an art, dec­o­ra­tive arts, and archi­tec­tur­al his­to­ri­an; a his­toric preser­va­tion­ist; and an attor­ney. She was for many years a researcher in the Amer­i­can Wing and the Mod­ern and Con­tem­po­rary Art depart­ment of The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art, as well as an inde­pen­dent cura­tor and con­sul­tant. She passed away in Feb­ru­ary 2022.