Ina’s Jam Thumbprints…with a twist

As you know, I like to vary my holiday baking from year to year.  Each year there are the “they’d kill me if I didn’t make these.”  These are your rum butter nuts, schweddy balls (chocolate peanut butter bon bons) and sugar cookies.  Then there are the newbies–always at least one or two.  The newbies aspire to be tried and true.  Sometimes they advance, like the World Peace addition from a couple of years ago.  Sometimes they see a single season and then are never heard from again–like last year’s white chocolate and pink peppercorn sables.  Finally, there are the rotators.  These guys come in an out every few years depending on the whim of the baker and which way the wind happens to be blowing.  Or something like that.   Baklava, toffee and jam thumbprints among others fall into this category.

Always a personal favorite of mine, jam thumbprints were asked back to the dance this year after a three or four year absence.  They’re festive looking and a nice fruity and nutty balance to the chocolate goodies.  They can also be a pain to make.

In recalling where this recipe came from, I realized that jam thumbprints might just be my introduction to Ina Garten.  I was home from college for the holidays and while polishing the silver or making name cards (tasks which I’ve only recently realized were designed to keep me out of trouble), my mom turned on a show hosted by a lady with nicely manicured hands and a ridiculous house in the Hamptons.  In the episode she made a batch of jam thumbprints, wrapped them up in little glassine bags tied with ribbons then hopped in her Mercedes, hand delivering to friends along the way.

The whole thing seemed so contrived.  And yet.  I wanted to wrap up cookies in cute bags, jump in my German luxury vehicle and drive among the mid-winter dunes delivering cookies like a WASPy socialite santa.

But back to the fact that jam thumbprints are tedious.

The original recipe asks the baker to make the dough, chill it, shape individual balls, roll them in egg wash, roll them in coconut, make thumb indentations, fill with jam and then, finally, bake.  Not awful, but I found that since these are a fairly crumbly shortbread cookie, the rolling and printing after the dough was cold could be problematic.  Often, the dough would crack…and a cracked vessel will not hold its treasure.  And, the egg wash was messy.

So I played with the process a bit in the name of mass production and came up with a technique that streamlines the rolling and dipping and such.

In this little twist, the dough is made and then immediately shaped, rolled in coconut (no need for egg wash), indented and then chilled.  Then, when it’s time to bake all that needs to be done is to fill with jam and into the oven.  No cracks and because the dough is still cold when it goes in, they keep their shape a little better.

Did I take pictures of this?  Of course not.  Why would I do that?  It isn’t like all of this was going to go in a visually driven blog.

You’re just going to have to take my word for it.

Ina’s Jam Thumbprint Cookies

methodological twist provided by TMH

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
  • 7 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
  • Raspberry and/or apricot jam


Directions

  1. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until they are just combined and then add the vanilla.
  2. Separately, sift together the flour and salt.
  3. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Mix until the dough starts to come together.
  4. Roll the dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. (If you have a scale they should each weigh 1 ounce.)
  5. Once balls are rolled, roll each in coconut.  Then, go back through and press a light indentation into the top of each with you finger.
  6. Arrange closely on a cookie sheet, wrap loosely and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  7. Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet with at least 1 inch in between. Drop 1/4 teaspoon of jam into each indentation.
  8. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the coconut is a golden brown.

 

 

Sweet and salty

You didn’t think I’d do a month of Halloween treats and forget the caramel did you?  And, this isn’t just any caramel, this is Ina Garten’s fleur de sel caramel.  These little treats are very rich, just slightly chewy and have enough salt that they border on savory (think kettle corn).

While the sugar and water get to boiling, prepare the pan.  Cut the parchment so that it sits neatly along two sides and overhangs on the other two (enough to use the extra parchment to lift the finished caramel out of the pan).

This is a two-pan caramel recipe.  Sugar and water come together in one while heavy cream and butter are warmed in another.

Once the sugar and water reach a pale sunny blond…

In goes the dairy (be prepared for a little angry caramel for a few minutes).

Bring the whole mess up to 248 degrees.

And then into the prepared pan and into the fridge until completely cooled.

Now it’s time to really get to work.  This is a soft caramel and as such, imprints easily.  Like fingerprint easy.  To avoid mucking up the beautiful shiny caramel with my grubby fingers, I put on plastic gloves for this next part.

Tightly roll the caramel to halfway.

Cut into eight pieces.

Srinkle with fleur de sel.

Then repeat with the other half.  I wrapped each little piece in parchment (I cut a couple of 10X14 inch pieces into eight equal-sized parchment rectangles giving me 16 pieces total).  You could also use waxed paper or cellophane.  A few years ago I used this really cute waxed paper from The Container Store.

Over the years I’ve made these on-and-off for the holidays.  Something tells me they’ll making a comeback this year.

If you like this, you might like these

Salted Caramel Squares

Scratch Twix

Soundtrack

MJ in the house.

Fleur de Sel Caramels

Ina Garten

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon fleur de sel, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Line the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan (or loaf pan) with parchment paper, then brush the paper lightly with oil, allowing the paper to drape over 2 sides.
  2.  In a deep saucepan (6 inches diameter by 4 1/2 inches deep) combine the sugar, corn syrup, and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue to boil until the caramel is a warm golden brown color. Don’t stir – just swirl the pan to mix. Watch carefully, as it will burn quickly at the end!
  3. In the meantime, bring the cream, butter, and 1 teaspoon fleur de sel to a simmer in a small pan over medium heat. Remove from the heat, set aside and keep warm.
  4. When the caramelized sugar is the right color, slowly add the cream mixture to the caramel – it will boil up violently. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon and cook over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture reaches 248 degrees F (firm ball) on a candy thermometer. Very carefully (it’s hot!) pour the caramel into the prepared pan and refrigerate until firm.
  5. When the caramels are cool, use the parchment paper to pry the sheet from the pan onto a cutting board. Starting at 1 end, roll the caramel up tightly until you’ve rolled up half of the sheet. Cut the sheet across and then roll the second half tightly. You will have 2 (1 by 8-inch) logs. Sprinkle both logs lightly with fleur de sel, cut each log in 8 pieces. Cut parchment papers in 6 by 4 1/2-inch squares and wrap each caramel in a paper, twisting the ends. Store in the refrigerator or at room temperature.