I’ve eaten A LOT of cookies in my life. Aside from all the cookies I’ve encountered and devoured in regular life and while working in various restaurants over the years, I worked part-time in a fantastic gourmet bakery for eight years. Even though I never worked in the cookie department, I found plenty of cookies to snitch! We decorated over thirty THOUSAND cut-out cookies every holiday season. Sometimes…the cookies broke and could not be sold. Imagine a pile of cut-out cookies glued together by frosting. It’s about a foot across and six inches tall. Then imagine me taking one home and eating it. At least once a week, for several weeks every year…
And that was just the cut-outs. I also had a weakness for the lemon-pistachio drops…and the orange ricotta cookies. However, they never broke, and they were quite labor intensive, so I rarely swiped them. But the cookie I miss the most is the apricot almond thumbprint. It makes me remember my friend Ned, who was one of the major cookie elves and must have made a zillion of the suckers every year. It’s a pretty cookie, not too sweet, with interesting bits of almond to savor. Of course you can make it with any jam you like, but I have a weakness for apricot. This is not the original recipe, but it’s just as satisfying!
Cookies are comforting…at least to me…and Jack, the hero of INTO THE FIRE, the first book in my Hot Nights series with Entangled Publishing. When the heroine gets the scoop on Jack, she learns he has a thing for cookies…
The older woman nodded. “Long enough to know he’d make a great boss. My husband and I worked together at Breeze, Drew Calabrese’s flagship restaurant. He’s still there, but I was thrilled to follow Jack to Inferno. Jack used to come into the Breeze bakeshop all the time, hiding from his father, not that he ever said that. He would have said it was for the cookies.”
“But you knew better?”
“Honey, everyone knows better. Those two fight like cats and dogs. Well, Drew fights. Jack walls up and turns his fury into food. He’s a tornado on the line. I don’t think he even needs the rest of the guys. When he gets going, he could probably work every station himself. But cover your head and batten down the hatches if you see his father in the kitchen. One of these days, Jack’s going to blow. That’s why I keep the bakeshop well stocked with cookies.” The other woman’s grin turned sly. “Maybe you should give him a different kind of cookie.”
She looked so hopeful, Lila couldn’t help but laugh. Only in my dreams…
Jack has a thing for chocolate chip, and I never turn those down. However, at holiday time I crave these apricot almonds thumbprints. After you taste one, you’ll know why. Enjoy!
Apricot Almond Thumbprints (3 dozen-ish)
2 ¼ Cups Flour
½ teaspoon Baking Soda
¼ teaspoon Baking Powder
2 Sticks Butter, slightly softened
1 Cup Powdered Sugar
3 Ounces Cream Cheese, cut in chunks, room temperature
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 teaspoon Almond Extract
2/3 Cup Almonds, chopped
Apricot Jam for the centers (or any jam!)
1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Cover cookie sheets with parchment paper.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk dry ingredients.
4. In the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Slowly add egg.
5. Beat in cream cheese, vanilla, and almond extract. Incorporate dry ingredients.
6. Shape the dough into one-inch balls with lightly greased hands.
7. Dip the tops in nuts.
8. Place, nut side up, on the baking sheet about 1 ½ inches apart. Using your thumb, press a deep well into the center of each cookie.
9. Place ¼ teaspoon of jam in each cookie.
10. Bake the cookies about nine minutes, reversing the trays front to back, top to bottom, halfway through the baking time. Bake until they just begin to brown around the edges. Transfer cookie to a wire rack to cool before sampling because that jam gets HOT!
Why yes, I did make a batch just to take a picture for this blog post. Why yes, I did eat quite a few of them myself. Why yes, I have been thinking about my old job at that bakery all week. Isn’t it amazing how food evokes memories? That bakery was plumb crazy at Christmas time. We worked around the clock to get all those darn cut-outs frosted, all those Christmas cakes decorated, and those spectacular one-of-a-kind gingerbread houses finished. And don’t get me started on the wedding cakes. Or the employee cookie exchange, dubbed “The Joy Experience” by the evil elf cracking the cookie whip over those of us holiday-drunk enough to sign up.