This year, as the cookie posts started going up on my favorite foodie sites, I noticed an abundance of variations on thumbprint cookies. I was never a huge fan of the fruity versions, so when these kids showed up on Macheesmo, I knew I had to give them a whirl. And I also would get to learn a new skill (something Nick at Macheesmo is quite keen on)–making ganache!
AND as fate would have it, MommaBear had some whole vanilla beans sitting in her cupboard yearning to be cut up and melted into chocolate and cream.
Makes 40 cookies (The original recipe says that this makes 90, but you’d have to make them very tiny to get 90 out of it.)
The cookie: (A Martha Recipe.)
- 2 Cups all-purpose flour
- 1 Cup plus 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (high quality)
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1 Cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
- 1 1/3 Cups sugar, plus more for rolling the cookies in
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 Teaspoons vanilla extract
Chocolate and Vanilla Bean Ganache: (Adapted from a different Martha recipe.)
This makes a perfect amount of ganache for the cookies (I disagree, Nick. I had a good 1.5 cups left over…which worked out perfectly for homemade hot chocolate!)
- 1/2 Cup honey
- 1/2 Cup heavy cream
- 1 whole vanilla bean, split and scraped
- 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp and cut into pieces
Making the cookies. Martha says to sift dry ingredients here and I think it’s important just because of the cocoa powder. It has a tendency to clump up if you don’t sift the stuff. So start by sifting your flour and cocoa powder. You can sift your salt too if you want, but that’s a bit OCD.
You should end up with a pretty little mound. Just by looking at it, it’s pretty easy to tell why sifting will make a better cookie.
In a stand mixer (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer), mix together your butter and sugar. Cream these two things together until they are light and fluffy – about 4 minutes. Then add your vanilla, egg yolks, and cream.
Turn the mixer down to low and slowly add your dry ingredients. Mix it just until everything is combined. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl, but don’t overmix it! We’re making cookies, not bread. Gluten is not your friend.
Your final dough will be pretty dry and sturdy.
This next step is where I veered from the original recipe a bit. I didn’t want tiny little cookies, although you can definitely go that route. I wanted a more normal-sized cookie. Also, I didn’t really feel like making 90 of anything so I went with a bigger version.
I used about 1 tablespoon-sized balls of dough for mine. Roll each ball of dough in sugar to give it some nice texture.
Then lay out these balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You should be able to fit about 18 or so on a baking sheet.
Next is making the thumbprint. You could actually use your thumb for this, but it’s a bit more uniform if you use the back of a spoon (I used a metal tablespoon.) If you are making the smaller version you can use the end of a wooden spoon to get the desired divet.
Bake these at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through for even baking, especially if you are like me and using an oven from the 40’s.
When you take the cookies out, they may have puffed a bit during baking. If that happens, take your divet-creating device and softly press back into the cookies, reforming the thumbprint. This is another reason why you wouldn’t want to use your actual thumb.
Making the Ganache. I’ve only made ganache a handful of times. Basically it’s just beating together warm cream and chopped chocolate until it’s smooth. This version has some bonus ingredients though that really kick it up a notch.
Start this recipe by combining your honey, cream and vanilla bean in a small saucepan. If you need some help with the vanilla bean, check out my post on homemade coffee liqueur. If you don’t have beans, you could use extract, but go light on it. I’d say maybe 1/2 Teaspoon of extract would be enough. I highly recommend the bean though.
Quick DTMS Aside: How to Split and Seed a Vanilla Bean
Ok back to it:
Bring these ingredients to a simmer in a pot and make sure to stir them to dissolve the honey. Once everything is dissolved, take the pan off the heat and let it sit for 20 minutes to let the vanilla get infused. No need to wait if you are using extract.
Meanwhile, roughly chop up your chocolate and add it to your mixing bowl.
If you left your cream mixture to rest for 20 minutes, bring it back to a simmer over medium heat (be careful not to burn the cream). Then pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate.
Let it sit for a minute to start melting the chocolate and then mix away on medium speed until everything is melted and combined.
While the mixer is running on medium, add in your butter, a few chunks at a time. Keep mixing for a few more minutes until the mixture is slightly cooled. It will be very silky and smooth and have the consistency of a loose frosting.
The next step should be obvious enough. Spoon that mixture into your thumbprint cookies!
Let them sit at room temperature and the ganache will firm up even more. It will end up getting pretty thick. You can definitely turn one of these cookies upside down and it won’t budge.
I took these cookies to a holiday party (I’ve been to possibly too many holiday parties this year) and they were pretty popular. They are really rich so it’s hard to have more than one, but the cookies are nice and flavorful and the ganache is freakin’ excellent.
My dryish dough produced a really light, delicate, chocolatey-but-not-too-sweet cookie that is dynamite with the decadent ganache. I think these will quickly become another holiday tradition.