I’ve always had a soft spot for thumbprint cookies. There is just something so quaint about them – so sweetly rustic and so homey – that you just can’t help but be charmed. I guess we all have certain foods that for one reason or another get mixed up with the sensations of our childhood. For me, thumbprints are it. Just looking at one makes me feel like life is a little less complicated than I thought before. What other sort of cookie, after all, do you get to squash down with your thumb and then fill up that said thumbprint with jam? As if your thumbprint were magical, as if wherever you pressed down your thumb, wonderful sweet things materialized out of thin air.
I hadn’t made thumbprints in quite a while, I’d forgotten all about them actually. It was Sunday afternoon, as I was stirring a pot of lemon curd on the stove top, that they came into my mind. Inhaling sticky sweet lemon fumes will do that I think – make you think of things you loved as a child. I’d been more focused on that lemon curd really – on all the citrus I lugged home from the store earlier that day – blood oranges, clementines, ruby-red grapefruits and Meyer lemons – and the way all that citrusy brightness and sharpness seemed to clear out the winter gloom just as sure as a warm spring breeze. I had been thinking about what I might do with that lemon curd, having never made it before. Perhaps spooned onto some warm bread, perhaps baked into little tarts. Then I thought of the thumbprints, and it was clear what I had to do.
It just so happened that on Sunday, there was also a tiny bit of cornbread left over from Saturday’s dinner. And so, lacking any bread and wanting to sample a little lemon curd on something warm spread with a slab of butter, I grabbed a hunk of this cornbread for that purpose and discovered something else. Cornmeal and lemons are made for each other. So then, my wheels turning now, I set out to break new ground, to explore a new frontier. Not just lemon curd thumbprints, but cornmeal lemon curd thumbprints. Somehow, it possibly even makes thumbprints more quaint and filled with down-home sweetness than they even were before.
Cornmeal thumbprints with Meyer Lemon Curd
To make the curd:
- 6 tablespoons organic, unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup organic unrefined cane sugar
- 3 Meyer lemons (or regular lemons)
- 2 whole free range organic eggs, plus one yolk
Cut the butter into small pieces and place in a saucepan with the sugar.
Zest the lemons into the saucepan along with the sugar and butter, and then squeeze the juice into the saucepan through a strainer (or your hand) to catch any seeds.
Whisk the eggs and the extra egg yolk with a fork and then add to the saucepan as well.
Place the pan on low heat and stir occasionally until the butter has melted. Then, with the heat still on the lowest setting, stir constantly until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of a spoon so that you can leave a clear line when you swipe your finger down it. This takes about 10-12 minutes. Once the sauce reaches the right consistency, immediately remove from heat, and pour through a fine mesh sieve into a pint mason jar, and place in the fridge to cool while you prepare your cookies.
Makes about 1 pint.
For the thumbprints:
- 3/4 cup fine ground yellow cornmeal
- 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/4 cup ground almond meal
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1/4 cup melted butter (unsalted and organic)
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside, making a little well in the center. Combine the wet ingredients in a separate bowl, and then add to the dry ingredients, pouring into the well. Mix well and then form tablespoons of the dough into little balls, flattening them to make circles. Place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Using your thumb, place an indent into the center of each cookie and then put about 1/2 teaspoon of the curd into the thumbprint. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the edges are golden. Let cool for a minute on the tray, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Makes 12 cookies.
P.S. Save your lemon peels from the curd and use them for making a delicious tea (lemon peel is full of anti-inflammatory flavanoids, has anti-depressant properties, stimulates the liver and is great for digestion – so don’t waste those extremely valuable peels!!). Combine 2 or 3 thinly sliced strips with a few tablespoons of black tea and a good pinch of cardamom and enjoy with your cookies.