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.
MAKES ABOUT 42 COOKIES
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.
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.