I’m continuing through my list of classic Christmas cookies/treats of which I have previously been deprived My latest observation in this multi-year endeavor is that a lot of popular holiday desserts are just variations on sugar cookie dough. If you need proof, see here, here, and here (and then make all of those recipes and invite me over). You’d think this would somehow make Christmas cookie trays boring, but how could anyone *possibly* be bored when there are Holiday Icing Thumbprints to be had?!You are probably familiar with the more traditional jam thumbprints—usually a sugar or shortbread cookie with a little well of jam (the titular “thumbprint”) baked into the middle. Those are great and all, but these are their more fun cousins. I mean, these are basically just a socially acceptable vehicle for eating icing. And they have sprinkles. Yesssssss.Holiday Icing Thumbprints are super easy to make. Mix the dough and then chill, scoop, and roll it into balls. Press the back of a small spoon into each dough ball before baking for 12-13 minutes. You could, of course, make the “thumbprints” with your thumb, but I vastly prefer the consistent shape that comes from using a 1/2 teaspoon.Since these thumbprints are baked without a filling, their centers will puff dramatically while they’re in the oven. The pre-baking press is less for the sake of the wells and more because it means the cookies won’t be as prone to unsightly cracking when you press wells into them again after baking. It’s the most tedious part of this recipe, but it makes for really aesthetically pleasing results. (Also, it’s really satisfying.)After that, there’s nothing left to do but squeeze red and green icing into the wells and scatter holiday sprinkles over the tops!Oh, and to admire them for their undeniable cuteness and holiday cheer. And to eat like four of them while nobody’s looking.
Holiday Icing Thumbprints
makes about 3.5 dozen cookies
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
4 oz (1/2 brick) full-fat brick-style cream cheese, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
Icing & Garnish:
1 1/3 cups confectioners sugar, divided
2-3 tablespoons (6-9 teaspoons) milk
red food coloring (gel or liquid)
green food coloring (gel or liquid)
holiday sprinkles, optional
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a separate large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Cream in granulated and light brown sugars, followed by the egg, vanilla, and peppermint extract. Add dry ingredients in 3 installments, combining completely after each. Cover dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours or up to 3 days.
Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Set aside.
Remove dough from the refrigerator. Scoop dough by the tablespoon and roll each int a ball. Place dough balls at least 2 inches apart on prepared pans. Use the back of a very small spoon (like a 1/2 teaspoon) to slowly press a well into each dough ball. They may crack a bit—just smooth them with your fingers. If dough gets too warm and sticky, freeze for 10 minutes.
Bake cookies 12-13 minutes. Cookies are done when puffed and no longer wet-looking. When you remove the cookies from the oven, press the back of the small spoon into the centers again. Let cookies cool on the pans for 10 minutes before carefully removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat rolling and baking process with all remaining dough, letting the cookie sheets come back to room temperature between batches.
Make the icing. Place 2/3 cup of confectioners sugar in each of two small bowls. Stir 1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) of milk into each bowl. Add some red food coloring to one bowl and green to the other. Whisk each with a fork until combined. Add more milk by the 1/2 teaspoon until icings are very thick, but pourable.
Transfer icings to piping bags (or ziptop sandwich bags) twist them tight and snip off very small corners. Fill wells in cookies as desired and decorate with holiday sprinkles, if using.
Icing will set after a few hours. Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days. Place wax paper between layers for easiest storage.