Baker Bettie

Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies

These buttery shortbread thumbprint cookies are flavored with almond, filled with cherry jam, and drizzled with a simple icing. Add these festive cookies into your holiday cookie tin! 

Plate of finished shortbread thumbprint cookies with a cooling rack in the background with cookies on top

Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies Overview

Classic shortbread cookies are one of my favorite cookies ever. It always amazes me how a few simple ingredients can make something so delicious. 

But I do have to say that shortbread cookies are elevated when made into a thumbprint cookie. A touch of jam and a bit of almond extract really makes this simple cookie extra special. 

You can use any flavor of jam that you want for these cookies. Raspberry is pretty classic, but I prefer cherry. I think cherry and almond are a flavor match made in heaven! But use your favorite flavor! 

How to make Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies

Step 1: Make the Shortbread Cookie Dough

The cookie dough for these thumbprint cookies is a shortbread cookie dough. This means that it is very buttery and slightly crumbly, and that it doesn’t include any chemical leavening or eggs. 

I decided to add a bit of cornstarch into my cookie dough because It helps prevent the cookies from spreading and also gives the cookies a more “melt in your mouth” flavor. 

This particular dough will be quite thick and almost a bit crumbly. This is normal. It will hold together when you scoop and roll. 

Step 2: Scoop the Cookies and Make Thumbprints

Scoop dough into about 1 tablespoon portions. I use a small cookie scoop to do this, but a measuring spoon works as well. 

Roll the dough balls between your palms to smooth out and then press your thumb into each to create a little thumbprint. I press only about 1/2″ into each cookie. 

Step 3: Fill with Jam and Bake

Spooning cherry jam into shaped thumbprint cookies

Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of jam into each thumbprint. I really love cherry jam in these, but any flavor will work! Make sure you don’t overfill the cookies or the jam will spill out when baking. 

Bake until the cookies are set and just very slightly browned. They will stay pretty pale. 

Step 4: Glaze

Plate of finished shortbread thumbprint cookies with a cooling rack in the background with cookies on top

Once the cookies are completely cooled you can drizzle a simple powdered sugar glaze over them. This is optional but I think makes them look really pretty. 

Thumbprint FAQ

  • Do you need to refrigerate thumbprint cookies?: Thumbprint cookies do not need to be refrigerated. They can be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 3-4 days. 
  • Can you freeze thumbprint cookies?: I personally don’t think thumbprint cookies freeze very well. See notes in the recipe for how to freeze the raw dough and bake when you’re ready to serve them. 
  • How do I keep my thumbprints from spreading?: This dough shouldn’t spread too much, but will spread a little. To prevent the cookies from spreading even more, place them in the freezer for about 15 minutes before baking. This will firm up the butter and help the outside to set before it melts and spreads the cookie out. 
Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies

Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies

Yield: 22-24 Cookies
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Chilling Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 42 minutes

These buttery shortbread thumbprint cookies are flavored with almond, filled with cherry jam, and drizzled with a simple icing. Add these festive cookies into your holiday cookie tin! 

Ingredients

  • NOTE: A few have commented that the dough is too dry and won't hold together. It is EXTREMELY important that you either weigh your flour or measure by fluffing it up, lightly spooning it into the measuring cups without packing it down, and level it off. This dough is slightly dry and crumbly but will hold together as you roll into balls.

For the Cookies

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick, 113 gr) unsalted butter, room temp
  • 6 TBSP (75 gr) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/8 tsp (1 gr) kosher salt
  • 2 TBSP (10 gr) cornstarch
  • 1 1/4 cups (150 gr) all-purpose flour (measured by fluffing up the flour, lightly spooning into measuring cups without packing down, and leveling off)
  • 1/4 cup jam of choice (I think cherry jam works really well)

For the Glaze

  • 1/2 cup (60 gr) powdered sugar
  • 1-2 TBSP (15-30 ml) milk
  • 1/8 tsp almond extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the paddle attachment, or a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and almond extract together until light and fluffy- about 2-3 minutes on medium-high speed.
  3. Add the salt and cornstarch into the bowl and mix until evenly distributed. Add the flour into the bowl and mix until incorporated. The dough will be crumbly and will not completely come together. But it will hold together as you scoop and roll them into balls.
  4. Scoop the dough into 1 tbsp portions (I use this cookie scoop), roll into smooth balls and place on the parchment lined baking sheets. The warmth of your hand and light pressure will help the dough come together. Press your thumb into each ball about 1/2" deep.
  5. Spoon about 1/2 tsp of jam into each thumbprint.
  6. As an optional step, place the tray into the freezer for about 15 minutes before baking. This helps them really not spread out in the oven, but is optional.
  7. Bake at 375 F (190 C) for 9-12 minutes until very lightly browned and set. They will stay very pale.
  8. Cool for about 5 minutes before moving to a cooling rack to cool completely before drizzling with the glaze.
  9. For the Glaze: Whisk the powdered sugar together with the almond extract and enough milk to make a glaze that can be drizzled. Drizzle over each cookie. You can place the glaze in a ziplock back and cut the tip off to create a tidy drizzle.
  10. Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

Notes

*If you would like to prep the dough ahead and bake later, make the cookies all the way up to step 4. Place the raw shaped cookie dough balls in the freezer until solid. Transfer to a freezer ziplock bag for up to 3 months. When you are ready to bake, transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet and let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Spoon the jam into the thumbprints and then bake as directed.

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4 comments on “Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies”

  1. I measured or weighed all the ingredients, and everything looked good until I added the flour. Then it became crumbly but not at all thick. Rolling is impossible. Any idea what I did wrong? Thanks, JoJo

    • Hi Jojo, I’m so sorry the hear this didn’t work out for you. I’m not sure what you mean by crumbly but not at all thick? Meaning it doesn’t hold together? That’s correct. If you look at the images and/or video you can see the dough will stay crumbly. But as you scoop and roll it between your hands it will come together into a ball. I re-tested the recipe again after this comment and had the same results. Do you by chance live somewhere very dry?

  2. I followed the recipe exactly and even repeated it thinking I must have made a mistake the first time. It is impossible to shape the balls to create a thumbprint. There seems to be a problem with the measurements in the recipe. Too much flour or not enough butter and finally powdered sugar would be better than granulated sugar. 

    • Hi Dale, I’m so sorry to hear this didn’t work out for you. Do you by chance live somewhere very dry? I’m asking because I have tested this recipe quite a few times successfully. I would love to help troubleshoot. Are you by chance weighing your ingredients?

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