When it comes to thumbprint cookies, the possibilities are endless. There are so many types of dough, nuts, and jellies. Over the years, I have tried dozen of combinations; some are great, some are good, and some are just boring.
But one kind of thumbprint cookie I hadn’t tried yet was a Brazilian version. It’s not that I didn’t think it about before, it’s just that I am usually kind of attached to some specific recipes from bakers I trust (likeDorie Greenspan and Nick Malgieri among a few) and end up repeating them over and over.
It was just a while ago, during a visit to a street market in Brazil, that I came across the most beautiful guava paste I had ever seen. It was also one of the most delicious I had ever tasted.
I always worry when bringing foods from Brazil into the US, especially when I see those mean old officers with their dogs sniffing luggage at the airport. But still, why not take the risk? I thought. The worst that could happen is for my guava paste to be confiscated. Lucky for me, it wasn’t.
Since I had walnuts in the pantry and those are fairly common in Brazil, that’s what I used to create this Brazilian version of thumbprint cookies.
Guava paste has a thicker consistency than most jams, so I added a little bit of water, and melted the paste to a pourable stage over very low heat. The only thing it lacked was brightness, so I added a few drops of lemon juice. It is important to pour the paste while it is still warm, so that it hardens inside the cookie.
I have also made this recipe using guava paste from local Brazilian stores here in the US, and it came out just as wonderful.
I always find the baking part of thumbprint cookies a little challenging, because as hard as I try to create the perfect indention— the thump part— it tends to lose its shape while baking. So during baking time, make sure to rotate the pan, and re-enforce that indention by using a teaspoon. When the cookies are done, I even scrape a tiny little crumb off to make room for paste.
After just a few minutes of baking, my cookies were done. It was crunchy, buttery, rich, and fresh. A perfect way to apply Brazilian flair into a traditional cookie.
Guava Paste Thumbprint Cookies
Makes about 60 cookies
2 cups (210g) lightly toasted walnuts
1¾ cup (250g) cups flour
2 sticks (227g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup (112g) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
1 cup guava paste
few drops of lemon juice (optional)
1- Pre-heat the oven to 350˚F. Line two baking sheets with silicone mats.
2- Place the walnuts in the food processor and whir until finely ground, being careful not to turn into a paste. Add the flour and process until well combined.
3- Working with an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the extracts and beat to blend. Reduce the speed to low, and add the nut-flour mixture, scraping the sides of the bowl, mixing only until it is incorporated into the dough.
4- Working with a teaspoon of dough at a time, roll between the palms of your hand to form small balls and place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Secure each cookie with one hand down at the sheet pan, and use the pinkie of your other hand, or the end of a wooden spoon to poke a whole in the center of each cookie. Be careful not to go all the way down to the baking sheet. Bake until slightly colored, about 15-18 minutes, rotating the sheet at the mid time point.
5- Remove the baking sheets from the oven, and let them cool for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. When it’s cool, sprinkle confection sugar. Repeat baking procedure with all the dough.
6- Place the guava paste in a sauce pan and add just a few drops of water to melt the paste to the consistency of jam. Add a few drops of lemon juice to balance the sweetness (optional). You want to fill the cookies while the jam is still warm, so that it hardens inside the cookie. Fill the indentations of all cookies with enough warm guava jam to come to the level with the tops. Cool at room temperature.