07 April 2013

Poppy Seed Thumbprint Cookies

Spring has finally sprung.  For the first time this year, we had a week with no snow, three consecutive days of sun and temperatures over 40 degrees.  After a the bleak cold of winter, I am wild with delight about wearing lightweight jackets, eating lunch outdoors and rollerblading with the hubs and pup (don't worry, we're spandex-free).  So naturally, it's time to bring the Springy-ness into our cooking as well.  With their bright, lemony flavor and sweet crumbly texture, Poppy Seed Thumbprints are a perfect way to welcome back the sunshine.

This week, hubs dusted off the barbecue and began grilling again, much to the annoyance of the doves who have taken over our hanging flower pot.  I don't think they much appreciate the heat, not to mention the smell of grilling fish and pork (we're abstaining from grilled chicken for the moment out of respect to the mother).  Per usual in our home, he grills and I bake.

Now we both love poppy seed.  The hubs loves them in bagels and savory sandwiches, while I always opt for lightly sweet almond poppy muffins or tarts.  But we both go crazy for poppy seed with citrus.  The seedy, earthy flavor of these little black specks is absolutely divine with grapefruit, orange or lemon.

When I was growing up, we made thumbprint cookies every year with our mom for Christmas.  They were her absolute favorite, which was fortunate because she was the only one eating them.  Now these cookies are delicious...lightly sweet, crumbly yet moist, and rolled in chopped nuts....what's not to love?!  Nothing at all, and I would always snag a few to eat plain while they were cooling.  Because once they were cooled, they were filled with....*gulp*....mint jelly.  The bane of my five year old existence, ruining a perfectly good cookie!  For a the first day I could get away with scooping out the jelly and eating the cookie underneath, but a few more the mint flavor would permeate into the cookie itself, thus rendering my "fix" futile.  To this day, I still do not like mint jelly (bane of my twenty-something existence).

Fortunately, I'm a big kid now and have earned the right to fill cookies with jellies of my choice.  Just one of the perks of aging.  One of my absolute favorite spreads is lemon curd.  Sugary, lemony, creamy lemon curd.  If you've never tried it, it's kind of a hybrid between a jam and a glaze.  It is wonderful on toast, crepes, cookies, pancakes, waffles and of course cookies!  And as mentioned above, delicious when paired with poppy.  With this cookie, I swap out the chopped walnuts their traditionally rolled in and substituted the seeds.  The balls may look a little black and daunting, but when they bake and crack they look really cute.  The subtle nutty flavor of the seeds is perfect with the sweet curd and crumbly cookie, for a truly terrific cookie.   They literally taste like spring.  Finally!

Poppy Seed Thumbprint Cookies (about 2 dozen cookies)
Recipe adapted from the Betty Crocker Cooky Book
  • 1/2 c unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 c flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 - 3/4 c poppy seeds
  • 1/2 c lemon curd (depending on how lemony you want your cookies)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with a baking mat or parchment paper.  In a large mixing bowl (or your stand mixer), cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high until they are smooth.  Add the egg yolk and vanilla, then mix until thoroughly blended.  Add the flour and salt, then mix on low until just combined.  

Roll the dough into balls a bit smaller than a golf ball, about an inch and a quarter in diameter, and set on a plate.  You want to roll out all the dough prior to coating with the poppy seeds to prevent the seeds from getting into the cookie dough itself.  Once all your dough is rolled, set out two shallow bowls to the side of your plate.  Pour the poppy seeds into one bowl and the egg white into the other, whisking the egg white lightly with a fork.  Roll the dough ball in the egg whites and then in the poppy seeds, shaking off any extra, before setting on the prepared baking sheets.  Repeat with remaining dough balls, placing about an inch apart on the sheet. 

Once all the dough is rolled, gently press your thumb into the center of each ball to create a divot.  Place the pan in the oven and bake for 8-9 minutes, until cookies are set.  Remove the pan from the oven and let the cookies cool for 2-3 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. You may need to re-press the divots that rise too much before they cool.  

To fill the cookies, scoop a half teaspoon (or more if you love lemon!) into the center of each cookie.  Enjoy on a sunny day, or on a day that you just wish was sunny.  Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for several weeks.  Be sure to either stagger the cookies when you stack or place a layer of parchment paper between each level to help each cookie keep its lemon center.  

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