Thumbprint Jam Cookies

A friend and budding jam magnate, Bonnie Shershow, recently asked me for some editorial advice, which I was happy to give, and then rewarded me with a half-dozen jars of her preserves.  We never have six unopened jams in my house.  For awhile I can hold the line, the spirit being willing, but the flesh… well, we know the flesh, don’t we?

Maybe I open just one jar, anticipating the deferred pleasure of twisting the lid off  a second in a few weeks’ or a month’s time.  After all, you’re reading a man who’s successfully kept a resolution to postpone reading Conrad until he’s eighty, just so he has a few unscaled literary peaks left for his dotage.

But then the insidious, greedy side of my brain cuts in:  Discipline, resolutions?  It’s not discipline, it’s hoarding!  A chemical toilet, my friend, that’s the only thing separating you from the guy in the basement with his FEMA MRE’s and cans of irradiated water waiting for the avian flu apocalypse.  Besides, remember what happened to everyone in Poe’s The Masque of Red Death. 

In other words, just eat the goddamned jam.  

In the interests of many things – simplicity, the inauguration of the holiday season, and  because jam shouldn’t sit on your shelf, this week’s recipe is Thumbprint Jam Cookies.

The recipe is adapted from an old JOY OF COOKING favorite of Jody’s called – believe it or not – “Pits of Love.”  Pits of Love?  Really?  Why stop there?  Why not “Pits o’ Love?”  And what, exactly, is a pit of love?  Best say no more.

Hence, the birth of the wholesomely titled Thumbprint Jam Cookie.  You’ll notice that the cookies in the photographs are brimming with jam.  We used too much.  It happens.  No one around here has complained.

The recipe itself is blindingly easy.  The original didn’t involve any of Jody’s fancy shenanigans like poppy seeds or chopped walnuts.  If you’re really lazy you can skip all that and just use one flavor of jam, instead of opting for three like us. Your cookies won’t be as groovy, but that’s your problem.

You could even take those extra jars of jam and head down to the basement.  By yourself.

Everyone else will be upstairs eating cookies.


Note: You can find out more about Bonnie’s Jams by clicking on the link.

Thumbprint Jam Cookies

 Adapted from THE JOY OF COOKING

Makes 2 dozen cookies


  • ¼ pound unsalted butter
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 whole large egg yolk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon grated orange zest
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose unbleached flour
  • Optional coatings: chopped nuts, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, shredded coconut, crushed coca nibs, spiced sugar, etc.
  • 2-3 tablespoons jam


  1. Beat the butter with the sugar until light and creamy. Beat in the egg yolk, vanilla, zests, salt and pepper and continue beating until well mixed. Initially it will look like it won’t come together, but scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue beating until it’s light and fluffy and homogenized.  Add the flour and mix until blended, no more than 1 minute. Over beating will make the cookies tough.
  2. Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover and chill for 30 minutes.  The dough can chill for up to 36 hours, but after that, it will start to oxidize and turn gray.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  4. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and set directly on a sheet pan covered with parchment.  Roll them in any of the optional coatings, if using, and place back on the sheet pan.
  5. Bake for 5 minutes and then remove from the oven.  Make a depression in the center of the dough with your thumb, and return the pan to the oven for 7 minutes.  Remove the sheet from the oven, fill the thumbprints with about ¼ teaspoon jam and bake a final minute. Cool.

Jody notes:

When it comes to cookies, I don’t have a wooden box filled with note cards from my childhood.  THE JOY OF COOKING is my wooden box.  I’ve been making some of its recipes since childhood, including this one – yes, Pits of Love.  With my own wrinkles added, of course.  This time citrus zests, walnuts and poppy seeds went into the recipe.  I’m always surprised by how reluctant people are to mess with a recipe – it’s like I’m suggesting they have an affair or take up shoplifting. 


This is a very soft dough.  Resist the urge to add more flour.  Chilling will make the dough firm enough to form into balls.  As written, this recipe produces tender, buttery cookies.  Adding more flour will only make them tough and dry.

Blogging has allowed me to do more cooking at home than I might have otherwise.  This morning was a good example.  Sometimes Ken can take FOREVER to get a picture.  I tend to start to  bug him, “Can we move on now?  No?  How about now?”  Not a terribly productive strategy.  These day I just start in on something else, in addition to whatever  I’m making for the blog.  Case in point, while Ken took cookie recipe photos, I  squeezed in a couple of pumpkin pies.  Oliver’s birthday was yesterday and pumpkin pie is his preferred birthday “cake” and I knew Roxanne would pester him so I baked a second for her.  I’m writing this on Wednesday afternoon–we’ll dig into the pies tonight.  Tomorrow, Thanksgiving, is a work day for me, by the time you read this it will all be in the past and I (I hope) will be out riding my bike. 

Update:  It’s Friday morning and we still have half a pie in the fridge.  My guess it will be gone by noon, if they ever get up before then.

19 thoughts

  1. My neighbor used to make these when I was a kid. She made zucchini jam from all the leftover zucchini in her garden. Then the jam went into the cookies. Have you ever come across a recipe for zucchini jam? I’m enjoying the blog! Jodi, I have to come visit Boston to check out the new restaurant. best, Chandra

    • Chandra,
      i have never made zucchini jam, but my guess is that you make it the way you make any jam… fruit and sugar with some pectin. if you add a few apples that might do it for the pectin.
      let me know if you find out anything else. best, Jody

  2. I plan to use the tagline “Just eat the goddamn jam” the next time I over think something.

    Just seeing this post and the previous one after a busy Thanksgiving weekend filled with houseguests, including some Boston cousins who recently dined happily at Rialto. Looking forward to trying these recipes (and wishing we had some extra pumpkin pie kicking around the house).

  3. The cookies look and sound so delicious … I can hardly wait to try making some … got LOTS of homemade jam in MY fridge too … :P … now I know what to do with it! P.S: I’m GF so I’ll try to let you know how the tweaking of the recipe to make GF cookies goes …

  4. Just in time for Christmas cookie baking! The jam, er, “pits’ are all jewel-toned and right for holidays. And, I love the labels on those jars–I love the simple black and white with beautiful lettering. I am off to check it out!

  5. He-heh… our batch lasted about a day and a half. We probably could have stretched it out for a few days but our son came home from college for the weekend with a couple of friends. Goodbye cookies! Make a double batch! Ken

  6. Blindingly simple is my middle name, so I guess I was born to make these bad boys. There is no such thing as too much jam in a cookie IMHO, especially when you’re trying to use it up before the plague hits.

  7. Pingback: It’s Raining. Let’s Bake « Sweetness, Warmth, and Plenty

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